I want to welcome Cassie to the blog, and hope you enjoy her answers to the questions I posed to her recently via email, I enjoyed her answers immensely!
What was it that made you want to become a writer after having so many adventures yourself?
When I was about seven, I wrote a couple of sentences on a scrap of paper about two people I was having trouble with. I folded up the piece of paper, put it in my pocket, and carried it around all day. Somehow, I knew I’d done something both powerful and comforting. As preteen I wrote poetry illustrated by feminine hygiene advertisements from Reader’s Digests (you know – women in billowy gowns walking on beaches). I wrote a gang novel on the back of my worksheets in elementary school and I kept journals for years. I wrote throughout my adventures in later life as well but it wasn’t until I settled down a little that I had both the time and the brain space to tackle a larger project.
How much of yourself or have you added parts of yourself into your book?
I think there is something of myself in all the characters in Dance, Gladys, Dance. The details in the novel are a mixture of pure fantasy and real life. I did have a deaf cat called Beethoven that walked across the piano. I didn’t ever sleep with any of my professors or instructors. Like the main character Frieda, I did have a feeling of displacement in the ‘real world’ from trying to live as and have a career as an artist. I have both painted and made papier-mache projects but I’ve never crocheted. I did travel in a bus with a bar band (for a very short while). I’ve never been a Goth or a ghost.
You are a fellow Canadian. What would be your most favorite “Canadian” thing to do?
I’m not sure, I’ve never skied, climbed a mountain, or played hockey. I was in a canoe once. I’ve drank a lot of Tim Horton’s coffee and spent my share of Canadian Tire money.
What gave you the idea for this novel?
About fifteen years ago, I saw an ad for a stereo. The ad actually said “Gladys doesn’t dance anymore, she needs the room to bake.” I clipped the ad and kept it for years. It might have been a joke, but I wondered who Gladys was and why she would ever give up dancing for baking. In the novel, I changed the stereo in the ad to a phonograph, but it ultimately led to Gladys’ story.
The stories of Frieda and the other women are a combination of my own sentiments, research I’ve done on women and creativity, composites of people I’ve met, and the results of a caffeine saturated imagination.
Besides writing, what other talents would you like to have?
I’d like to be able to do psychic grocery shopping and cleaning by telekinesis (when I’m in the middle of a project, I buy paper plates and plastic cups and cutlery. Bad for the environment, but if anyone wants to start a Save the World – Get Cassie a Cleaning Woman Fund, I’m up for it).
If you died and were able to come back as anything you wanted, what would it be and why?
If I could come back in the past, I’d come back in the roaring twenties. I want to be at a literary salon, as the woman writer wearing tweed pants, paisley silk scarves, and leather ballet slippers (no matter the weather), sitting cross-legged in an over stuffed armchair with a martini, making bitter pronouncements about poodles and the world economy.
Do you have any favorite writers? Who are they and why?
Off the top of my head, I love Kurt Vonnegut (Bluebeard), Nick Hornby (A Long Way Down), Roddy Doyle (Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha), George Orwell (Keep The Aspidistra Flying), Charles Dicken’s (Oliver Twist), Miriam Toews (A Complicated Kindness), Paul Quarrington (Whale Music), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Cannery Row), Stephen Leacock (Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town), Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe), John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany) and Mark Childress (Crazy in Alabama). I enjoy a good story simply told, both intelligent and accessible. I like the sense of a story being about itself, but also about something bigger, with a sense of political or social awareness.
Are you working on anything new? When can we expect it to come out?
I’m working on my second novel called The Amazing Adventures of Mattress Boy. I’m not sure when it might be out. Stay tuned.
Do you have any heroes in real life? Who are they? Why?
My English Spaniel Frieda (named after the main character in Dance, Gladys, Dance to remind myself to write every time I called the dog — sad I know). I got Frieda from the humane society. She was terrified of the world and literally crawled everywhere. With time she overcame her nervousness and decided to befriend the entire world. Two years later she jumped off a second story porch, got tangled in a wrought iron railing on the way down and had to have one of her back legs amputated. Within a week, she was up and around and still runs around now like mad and approaches the world with endless enthusiasm.
What is the one trait that you most deplore in others? Yourself?
Judging others seems to be a recreational sport for some people. I think we need to choose not to evaluate people based on their skin colour, gender, social standing, monetary worth, religious beliefs, shoe size, or whatever the heck people choose to judge others by. Compassion, not criticism should be our beginning point. I work on this myself; it’s easy to get caught up in gossip and nit-picking.