Winston interviews Susan Juby
Susan Juby is the best-selling author of the internationally popular Alice MacLeod books, recently made into a television series, and the critically acclaimed novels Getting the Girl and Another Kind of Cowboy. Her work has won such awards as the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize, and been selected as a Children’s Book Sense 76 Pick, A Kirkus Editors’ Choice and an ALA Best Book. As she prepares for the Toronto launch of her widely acclaimed new memoir, Nice Recovery, Juby took a few minutes to talk about drinking, dancing and dramatic arcs with Winston.
W: Most people go to great lengths to hide their mistakes. What prompted you to sit down and write a memoir about your troubled teen years?
S: A year and a half long bout of insanity? On a more serious note, I thought it might be instructive or at least give people a sense that there’s life after addiction. Or maybe I was just hoping to scare people straight through my excessive lameness.
W: You never gloss over the seriousness of your drinking problem. And yet Nice Recovery is a lighthearted, frequently laugh-out loud funny book. Was that tone a deliberate choice?
S: The experience of being an alcoholic teen and being a newly sober person was brutal and funny, often all at the same time. Also, my personal motto is that if can laugh about it, you can survive it.
W: Why did you chose to counterbalance the first two thirds of the book about, in your words, “The Susan Juby Drinky Pants Chronicles” with a final section devoted to other young people’s experiences with recovery?
S: I wanted to show that there are many paths into recovery and that the people who end up staying clean and sober have some excellent advice for people who are after the same thing. I also interviewed many, many other people and their experiences influenced what I wrote about in the final chapters.
W: Where do you stand on that perpetual conundrum: rock, paper or scissors?
S: I’m all scissors, all the way. Except for those days on which I’m paper.
W: Is it fair to say that you consider sobriety to be inherently dramatic? Whereas most memoirs about drug or alcohol abuse (or both) tend to end when the narrator cleans up, the narrative arc in Nice Recovery seems to pick up steam at that point.
S: Sobriety is dramatic in the way that a coming of age novel is dramatic: people change and grow and it gets very interesting. It might seem like substance abuse is dramatic, what with all the “Dude, I totally ended up in Reno after someone stole my kidney when I was passed out!” but underneath the theatrics, it tends to be the same thing, over and over. Get loaded. Screw up. Get loaded. Screw up worse. I like more of an arc to my stories!
W: Who’s your favourite Sesame Street character? Why?
S: Frazzle for obvious reasons, including a “child-like personality and desperate desire to be included.” Also, according to all-knowing Wiki, Frazzle was limited to a background character in the late-1980s to early-1990s “due to his creepy annoying appearance.” The late 80s and early 90s were like that for me, too.
W: What does the title, “Nice Recovery” refer to?
S: The fact that you can fall and get up. In my case, multiple times. If you keep trying, one of these times you’ll stay up. It also refers to the people whose interviews I featured in the last section of the book.
W: Which trend in the field of Young Adult literature would you like to put on ice for five years?
S: The trend of me not getting huge Hollywood film deals like certain other authors who shall remain nameless but rich.
W: What books are currently on your bedside table?
S: Dream Life by Lauren Mechling
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Something Wicked by Lesley Anne Cowan
W: You write about how going dancing when you were newly sober provided you with the same sense of release you once associated with drinking. What five songs would you put on a mix tape for someone reading Nice Recovery?
S: Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top
Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode
What Are You Going To Do With Your Life by Echo & the Bunnymen
Pump up the Jam by Technotronic
I Found Love by Tonéx
For the Toronto launch of Nice Recovery, Susan Juby will talk with fellow novelist Ibi Kaslik. An extended Q&A will follow the interview. – A Small Print event presented with Penguin Group (Canada), Renascent House, This Is Not A Reading Series (TINARS), Gladstone Hotel, The Little Paper, and Torontoist.com
Wednesday April 28; 7:30pm (Doors 7pm)
Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St West