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      Un Momento with Elizabeth Renzetti

      Jan. 9, 2015

      Elizabeth RenzettiElizabeth Renzetti is an exceptional columnist for The Globe and Mail. She is able to draw attention to, as well as give voice to, powerful issues without being heavy handed. Her articles are witty, often humorous and always thought provoking. She applies her craft like a master in her debut novel, Based on a True Story. It is an exciting and entertaining tale about a woman who is struggling with her past, her present, and with her desperate desire to seek revenge.

      You write for your day job. Did you find it hard to write a novel in your free time? What was your writing process like?

      I once described the difference between writing fiction and writing journalism as the difference between wearing a muumuu and wearing a corset – one gives you more liberty but is a challenging garment, the other gives you structure and a certain discipline. They both are appealing, in different ways. In journalism you know where a story is going, but in fiction the peril and wonder is that you don’t.

      I’m always fascinated by how writers “make it work” so I’ll say upfront that for the four years I wrote the novel I worked part time at The Globe and Mail (three days a week). That gave me the space and freedom I needed. Of course there were late nights and weekends too!

      Elizabeth Renzetti Based on a True StoryWhere did the idea for your debut novel come from?

      I’ve always loved memoirs, and I’ve interviewed a lot of memoirists, and it always struck me that no matter how “truthful” you’re being, there’s only so much truth you can tell about your own life. We are all limited in our perspective – we may think we know ourselves but we also wear masks and disguises, which are difficult to shed when you’re telling your life story. The heroine of my novel (if she can be called that) isn’t just lacking in self-knowledge, she’s deliberately mendacious, creating a memoir of her life that’s a patchwork of lies in order to present a more favorable picture to the world. And she finds there are consequences to that!

      The National Post called your novel “a seriously funny book.”  Was it hard to write humor or did it come easily?

      That was a very great compliment. I like to think my writing is amusing someone (if only me). The columns I write contain humor, too. It’s just my way of dealing with this crazy old world. I don’t deliberately try to write one way or another, I just write the only way I can. The greatest compliment I’ve heard from readers is, “you made me snort tea out my nose.” Everyone has one skill, and perhaps making tea magically appear from noses is mine.

      If you could pick any song to be on the soundtrack for the film adaptation of your novel, what song would you choose and why?

      That is a very good question! Maybe Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good. It’s a great song and it sums up how the heroine, Augusta Price, views herself and the man whose heart she broke.

      Do you think that your Italian Canadian background influenced your writing in any way?

      Augusta is actually the grandchild of Italian immigrants, as I am. In the first draft of the novel, there was much more about how she anglicized her name, and the influence her nonna had on her. Even though that material didn’t make it to the final draft, it helped me create her back story, and to understand where she’d come from.

      What advice do you have to young writers who are trying to be journalists or novelists?

      Those are two different crafts, though practicing journalism is a good stepping stone for novel writing. It allows you to meet a wide spectrum of people, to understand how speech patterns vary from person to person, and it gives you a professional perch from which to observe. My advice is boring, and the same that you’ll hear from many people: Treat writing like a job. Sit down and do it, even when you don’t want to. Push through rejection (which is an occupational hazard.) Finally I’d say Hilary Mantel had the best advice: Write a book that you’d like to read.

      What are you working on now?

      I’m trying to decide whether the next book is fiction or non-fiction! And I’m working on dinner.

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