Best of 2019 Q&A: Suzannah Showler

Suzannah Showler appears on our Best of 2019 list for her piece “Céline Dion is Everywhere.” You can read it at The Walrus.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Suzannah’s answers:

1. How did you start working on this story?

Daniel Viola at The Walrus was the one who approached me about it, actually. He thought (presciently/rightly) that the end of Céline’s Vegas residency would be the good moment for a profile. We started kicking ideas around, and I got excited about the idea of focusing on impersonators, and things took off from there.

2. How long did it take to write this piece?

Oh man. Like a thousand years? No, OK: it was about a month from when I went to Vegas to delivering a draft. But Danny and I started talking about Céline in November 2018, and the piece was finalized July 2019. So I lived with Céline/the Célines in my mind for a good while.

3. What was the most challenging part of writing it?

Finding a structure, probably. And balancing my inclination to write loftily about the uncanny and dream logic and coincidences against the need to just, like, actually convey information. That’s what editors are for.

4. What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

How emotional impersonation is.

5. What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

I always find that kind of thing hard to tell. Like, is Twitter real? With a piece like this it isn’t really about an issue people are inclined to have hissy fits about. When someone doesn’t like your story, they probably just don’t finish reading it and go on with their lives. This wasn’t really a ‘yell at the author on the internet’ kind of thing. So I think I only saw the nice reactions.

My favourite part was that Céline’s official account tweeted it out. I like to imagine that maybe someone on her PR team read some of the more flattering lines to her.

6. For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

Go for a walk.

7. What writing projects are you working on currently?

Mostly just pitching, trying find my way into Some Big Thing I can donate all my time to. I had a book proposal more or less universally rejected last year, and nothing so far has entered to fill that space. Currently accepting suggestions for book-length projects. Please tell me what to do with myself.

Also, I just started a small, weird side project where I write about books and create workouts that pair with them. This is purely for fun, and it is filling me with joy!

8. There’s been some discussion recently on the outlook for Canadian non-fiction. How does its future look to you going into 2020?

Yeah, that Ken Whyte thing in the Globe? If people want to wring their hands about the state of non-fiction and the production/distribution of journalistic truth in this country, I’d start here: The Globe & Mail is owned by the richest people in Canada. David Thomson and his family are worth about $43 billion and rank 27th on the list of the wealthiest people on the planet. No one should be a billionaire. Wealth hoarding is immoral.

Find Suzannah on Twitter: @ZanShow

 

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

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