Five-plus Questions for Giller award-winning author Johanna Skibsrud

Johanna Skibsrud may now only be getting questions about the controversial limited-availability of her Giller award-winning novel, but here’s what she talked about with Zoomer in the heady hours after her win for The Sentimentalists, the novel inspired by her late father, a veteran of the Vietnam war.

Athena McKenzie: Has anyone given you any counsel about what the next little while is going to hold?

Johanna Skibsrud: Well, Linden MacIntyre told me to just remember that if you win, it’s also a curse. I don’t think he even said, “also,” he said, “It is a curse.” But he said it with a big smile on his face, so it can’t be that bad.

AM: Did he give you any advice on how to deal with this curse?

JS: No, I going to have to catch up with him now and ask him.

AM: Why do you think prizes like the Giller are so important?

JS: I think they are so important in terms of just raising, not only awareness, but a level of excitement, about Canadian literature. I’ve just been so surprised since the longlist about the excitement around the Giller. I’ve talked to so many people that aren’t usually interested in, or tuned in to the book world, and who are now because of the Giller Prize.

AM: Other than the announcement of your win, is there another moment that really stands out since the announcement of the shortlist?

JS: So many. Mostly just talking to family and friends and just trying to make sense of it all. Writing is such a private endeavor, a private occupation and there is so much work that goes in to it. Just trying to process that and what it means and just having wonderful moments realizing what it does mean with family and friends.

AM: Are you just going to let yourself focus on this for awhile or do you have any projects in mind?

JS: I’m working on two things right now. One is my PhD dissertation, which is on the poetry of Wallace Stevens, but I’m also working on a novel, so this will be tremendously helpful to me to be able to continue both projects.

AM: Can we hear a little bit about your next novel?
JS: Well, it also deals with themes of war, guilt, responsibility and it takes place in between the First World War and the Second World War in the United States.