MAGIC MO­MENTS

Emma Hooper’s de­but novel proves she’s the real deal.

Elle (Canada) - - Radar - NOREEN FLANA­GAN

emma Hooper ded­i­cated her first novel to her grand­par­ents, but it’s also a love letter to her home­land: the Cana­dian Prairies. The Al­berta-raised au­thor of Etta and Otto and Rus­sell and James lives in Eng­land, where she teaches com­mer­cial mu­sic at Bath Spa Univer­sity. She also plays in a num­ber of bands and has her own solo act: Wait­ress for the Bees. Her novel, which tells the tale of an el­derly woman’s pil­grim­age from Saskatchewan to the At­lantic Ocean, is a charm­ing and mag­i­cal story about ful­fill­ing lifelong prom­ises. Oh, and there’s a talk­ing coy­ote too. Re­leased in Jan­uary, the book sparked a five-way pub­lisher bid­ding war and even­tu­ally landed Hooper a six-fig­ure deal. Not bad for a first-timer.

You earned a doc­tor­ate in mu­si­co­l­it­er­ary stud­ies and toured with Peter Gabriel and Toni Brax­ton. Why did you tran­si­tion to writ­ing? “Be­cause I had this wealth of fam­ily sto­ries I wanted to share. This book is very

loosely based on my ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents, from David­son, Sask. My grand­mother was a teacher in a one-room school­house, and my grand­fa­ther came from a big farm­ing fam­ily. I also had a great-aunt who was burned at the stake in New Eng­land for be­ing a witch, but that’s another story.” Why did you choose a coy­ote to be your talk­ing an­i­mal? “They’re not wolves or bears or cougars, which can be very scary. But they’re not squir­rels or bunnies, which are not scary. So they’re a lit­tle bit scary.” Did the mag­i­cal re­al­ism of Gabríel Gar­cia Márquez

in­flu­ence you? “Yes, I like Márquez and that whole lin­eage. I’m a lit­tle bit weary of hard-core re­al­ism. I mean, it’s well writ­ten and ter­ri­bly evoca­tive, but I just love a guy like film­maker Wes An­der­son. I want to live in his world.”

Will your book make it to the big screen? “Oh, my God, that would be amaz­ing!” Who would play the main char­ac­ter? “It’s hard not to say my grand­fa­ther, but ei­ther Gor­don Pin­sent or Christo­pher Plum­mer would be per­fect.” If your grand­mother were alive and read this book, what would she think? “It’s a love song about Saskatchewan, so she would en­joy that.” Your book is pub­lished in more than 15 lan­guages. Did any­thing get lost in trans­la­tion? “A He­brew trans­la­tor con­tacted me and asked about the ded­i­ca­tion to my grand­par­ents, ‘C and T.’ He asked ‘Is it a “CH” sound or a “K” sound?’ And a Ger­man trans­la­tor wanted to know what kind of gun one char­ac­ter was car­ry­ing be­cause there’s no Ger­man word for ‘gun,’ only spe­cific makes.”

What has pro­mot­ing the book been like for you? “For so many writ­ers, as you can imag­ine, this is their only gig. They are alone in their base­ment, writ­ing for eight years, and then their book comes out and they are told ‘Smile and be funny’ and they freeze up. Not me! I get sad liv­ing all by my­self. I am def­i­nitely a high­func­tion­ing ex­tro­vert.” When you’re not writ­ing nov­els, you’re pen­ning songs about di­nosaurs and in­sects. What are you work­ing on now? “I love so­cial bugs, like bees and ants. They are fas­ci­nat­ing. They are one or­gan­ism, with a dom­i­nant fe­male in the cen­tre of it all. Is she empowered or is she en­slaved?”

A quirky, thought­ful must-read

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