Thursday, September 25, 2008

Karen X. Tulchinsky interview

My new interview with Karen X. Tulchinsky appears in this week's WE.

By Andrea Warner

She’s got a reputation for playing fast and loose with the conventional rules of what a writer’s career should look like, with origins in short queer fiction, and editing a series of racy lesbian erotica, Hot & Bothered. Despite stints in screenwriting for television and film, as well as three full-length novels, Karen X. Tulchinsky is only now fully reaping the rewards of mainstream success with The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, recently named the recipient of the One Book, One Vancouver award. Tulchinsky, who will be reading at The Word on the Street National Book and Magazine Festival this Saturday, Sept. 28, spoke with WE about her latest novel, the trials of being a Canadian author and her next creative venture.

The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky is a big departure from your previous books, which have largely had a more queer focus. How did Five Books come about?
The seeds were stories from my grandfather, who was a Russian Jewish Immigrant. I have great memories of sitting on the crinkly plastic of my grandparent’s living room sofa, while my grandfather would tell me stories of his heroic escape across the Dneister River, from Russia to Romania, at a time when the Soviet authorities did not want Jews to leave the country, and the Romanians did not want Jews to enter.

What are some of the challenges you have faced and overcome in becoming a successful author?
The hardest challenge in becoming a successful Canadian writer is balancing time and money. It’s difficult to have the focused creative time necessary to write a novel if you are working a full time job. It’s a Catch-22 situation, because generally speaking, an author does not get paid until they sell their novel to a publisher, which is usually after writing many drafts, which takes time. So as an author, you are always juggling — taking on paid work to pay the bills, then trying to squeeze in writing time. Things are only going to get harder if Canadians vote in a majority government with Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. He recently cut 45 million dollars in arts funding, and there is every indication that he intends to cut more. Frankly, it’s hard enough for writers to create books in this country, which worries me, not so much as a writer, but as a Canadian—without our own stories being told, how will we know our own culture?

You’re a novelist and you work in television as well. Is the transition seamless? How did you cross over originally?
The transition from publishing to working in television was a five year process. After Love Ruins Everything, my first novel, was published, I adapted it into a screenplay. I wrote a couple more screenplays, then applied to and was accepted into the Professional Screenwriting Program at the Canadian Film centre in Toronto. When I returned, I began to work as a writer and story editor on locally produced television shows. It’s a very different world. Fortunately for me, I adapt well to new environments.

What are you working on now? Do you have big plans for your next book or TV project?
Yes. I have more ideas than I know what to do with. I’m working on a new historical novel, called The Shoemaker’s Daughter, set between 1941 and 1977 in Russia, Vancouver, and Jerusalem. I have a screenplay adaptation of The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky in development. I’m creating several new original TV series with a writing partner, while also working as a creative consultant for a documentary television series.

Karen X. Tulchinsky will read at The Word on the Street from The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, backed by a Klezmer Band, on Sunday September 28, at 3 p.m. in the Author’s Tent.

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