Tuesday, June 25, 2019

TBR: Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe! 

Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?

Dual Citizens is a love story about the complicated, lifelong bond between two half-sisters, Lark and Robin.  It’s about art, ambition, sisterhood, and redefining what a family can be.

Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why? And, which character gave you the most trouble, and why?

Lark and Robin are vastly different characters: Lark, the narrator, is shy and studious, deeply observant, and most comfortable when she feels invisible.  She becomes a film editor because she’s happiest working alone, stitching together footage to make sense of a story.  Robin, on the other hand, is wild and unconventional, determined to forge her own path through the world, and she walks away from a promising career as a classical pianist because it feels too confining for her.  I’m closer in temperament in Lark, so I could channel her with ease.  Writing Robin was harder, but also fun because she’s a character who isn’t afraid of anything, and who disregards all the rules.

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

Most of my writing process involves wrong turns that seem comical after the fact.  Did I really have a subplot involving a 1970s Quebecois terrorist organization?  Did I really spend months researching artificial intelligence only to disregard the material entirely?  Yes I did.  Looking back it seems absurd that I ever thought these things were going to be part of the book.  But all those detours were necessary for the book to become itself in the final version.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

When I was in graduate school I kept going around to my various teachers asking them for tips on how to write a novel.  I think what I really wanted was permission, a green light, someone to tell me I was capable of it.  None of what I heard was particularly helpful in that regard, except for the Scottish writer James Kelman, who told me “Be bold, make art.  Don’t wait another second.” It’s the best advice I can think of.

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

Both the sisters in my book wind up choosing unconventional paths towards artistic fulfillment.  Robin ditches her musical career to work as a waitress and start a wolf preserve in the Laurentian mountains in Quebec.  Lark becomes an editor for reality TV shows and discovers that she finds great satisfaction and artistic fulfillment there.  I didn’t plan for either of them to make these choices but they both seemed right to me, and interesting to write about too.

How did you find the title of your book?

I’m a dual citizen of the US and Canada, and so are Robin and Lark, who have a (shared) Canadian mother and (different) American fathers.   As soon as I hit on Dual Citizens as the title, I thought it had so much resonance, political and personal; ideas about citizenship, belonging, and the complexities of home thread through the book.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)

My narrator Lark is a terrible cook and self-declared “food agnostic.”  Literally everything she makes in the book is awful.  In lieu of a recipe I will therefore provide a list of my favorite Canadian snack foods:

1.     Coffee Crisp chocolate bars
2.     Miss Vickie’s Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar potato chips
3.     Kraft Dinner (Americans would call this Mac & Cheese, but it’s KD in Canada, always and forever)
4.     Dare Maple Leaf cookies
5.     Mackintosh’s Toffee

All classics, strongly recommended.


READ MORE ABOUT THIS AUTHOR & BOOK: www.alixohlinauthor.com



DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.