This week we get to pull up a chair and chat with the always lovely A.E. Cannon. Ann first charmed me with Charlotte's Rose, a perfect book about a pioneer girl crossing the Great Plains on her way to Utah. When a woman dies in childbirth and the grieving father can't take responsibility for the baby, young Charlotte volunteers, carrying and caring for Rose for the long journey. It's a beautiful, insightful, hopeful historical novel. Her newest book, The Loser's Guide to Love and Life, is a fast and funny romp based loosely on A Midsummer Night's Dream. I love all the characters in this book, I love how unique they are and yet real. I love how Ann can do comedy and yet never sacrifice depth of character and experience. And even more, I love Ann. Here is wisdom, young writers--you can be a fabulous writer (like Ann), you can start your career with a bang winning a major first-novel award (like Ann), but if you're not a genuinely kind, good-hearted person (like Ann), what does it all matter? To me, Ann Cannon represents what's best in this business--a skilled storyteller and a wise and loving person. Now to the interview. (And by the way, in the photo, Ann is the one on the left.)
Me: I loved the way you played with A Midsummer Night's Dream in this story. What is it about Shakespeare that inspired you? What was helpful as a writer in using his play as an inspiration?
AC: You know what I love about Shakespeare? I love his energy--all that verbal magic! And I love how he stirs things up with witches in the woods, ghosts in the castle, jealous husbands, love struck teenagers, cold-blooded queens. He embraces all of experience. I've always liked A Midsummer Night's Dream because it's funny and light-hearted. I adore how everyone in that play is in love with the wrong person (or donkey) and yet by the end, everything is sorted out. I aimed for that kind of happy confusion in my book.
Scout (cool name) has an obsession with reading Regency romances that she keeps secret. Do you have any similar secret obsessions? Obsessions?
Well, yes. Reading Regency romances, for instance. I went through a long, long period where I was really addicted to them (just like Scout). I have to say I still love the novels of Georgette Heyer. Listening to them on tape while I'm in the car running errands is a real pleasure. I also like trashy tabloid magazines and finding websites about plastic surgery gone wrong. And my pajama drawer is still filled with leftover bags of malted milk Easter eggs. I'm pretty much obsessed with those.
Why do you write?
Sometimes I wonder that myself--especially when the writing part isn't going well. Like today, for instance! But generally speaking I write because writing makes me feel more alive, more connected to the world. When I'm writing I pay more attention to what's happening around me--and when that happens I am struck over and over again I am by the awful beauty of life.
A Loser's Guide is told from the points-of-view of four different characters. Did you have a favorite one to write for?
I loved doing all the voices. I had the most fun with Ed, though How has being a mother of five boys affected your writing? I find male voices easier to write than female voices. That's probably a result of having lived with so many guys (I also don't have sisters--just brothers). Teenage boys, when they're not getting arrested, are loads of fun to be around.
Thank you, Ann! My local bookshop, The King's English in Salt Lake City, is hosting a midsummer's night party for the book, July 2 at 7pm. I'll be there as Ann has promised to reveal the secret of cold fusion and/or talk about The Loser's Guide. This really is such a perfect summer book. Note that if your local library doesn't have it, you can always request the library purchase it. Most libraries' online catalogs allow you to do this right over the web. This is a great way to get to read a book you want if you don't have the money to buy it and also support those hard working authors out there.