Monday, April 2, 2012

Leah Bobet Author Interview

Photo Content from Leah Bobet

Leah Bobet is a writer and editor of fantasy, literary fiction, horror, and the spaces in between.

Her novels have won the Aurora Award, the Sunburst Award, and the Copper Cylinder Award and have been recognized by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, the Ontario Library Association’s Best Bets list, the Canadian Library Association, and the Kirkus Reviews Best of the Year.

Her short fiction has been reprinted in multiple Year’s Best anthologies, transformed into choral work by American composer Timothy C. Takach (“The Wings of Our Children”), included in junior high-level textbooks in Australia and New Zealand, and taught at Toronto’s York University and Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

She has given talks, panel discussions, readings, and keynotes at literary festivals, professional conferences, schools, libraries, and bookstore events across North America–including guest lectures at the University of Guelph’s creative writing program, Humber College’s media arts program, Houston Writefest, and the Canadian Authors Association’s CanWrite! conference. She has also participated in panel discussions on creative writing at CANSCAIP’s Packaging Your Imagination conference, the Tucson Festival of Books, and Toronto’s Word on the Street festival.

She was a founding editor of Abyss & Apex Magazine, editor and publisher of Ideomancer Speculative Fiction from 2008 to 2015, and a staff writer with Shadow Unit from 2008 to 2014, and spent ten years on staff as a specialty bookseller at Toronto’s Bakka Phoenix Books.

She lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she makes jam, climbs mulberry trees, plants gardens in back alleys, and contributes to access-to-democracy initiatives.


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I don't think I ever had any moment where I sat up and went, "I want to be a writer." I wrote as a kid (my parents have a box of the kind of crayoned stories four-year-olds write hidden somewhere in their house, saved for a special blackmail moment) and I picked it back up after high school.

Mostly, though, I just wanted to write. I wanted to be myself, who wrote. Being a writer -- the whole selling stuff to magazines to be published thing -- mostly happened because spending so much time writing things and not doing anything with them seemed a bit anticlimactic. Also, I was pretty poor at the time. Things I could get grocery money for were not to be sneezed at. And selling fiction, well. It's addictive.

Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in a suburb about half an hour north of Toronto; the kind that used to be subdivisions with no fences between the backyards and fields you could toboggan in, and is now subdivisions with fences and strip malls and condos. I moved into the city when I was 18, and these days I live in the west end of Toronto, in a hundred-year-old house that has nice creaky wood floors and a fireplace in my room that doesn't work.

How do books get published? a very, very big question with about as many answers are there are books on the shelf. First, though, you write the book and revise it until it's as good as you can get it. Then you might query literary agents, or you might submit to a publisher directly if you think they're a good fit and take unsolicited submissions, or you might enter a contest, or you might study up on self-publishing, or you might just look at the thing six months later, say, "Not good enough," and go write a different book. I know people who have done all these things, sometimes in combination.

Each one of these approaches may work out or fail at any given time.
The point I'm trying to make here is that there is no One Way that books are published. The best thing to do, if you have one and want to see it in print? Research the benefits and drawbacks of each of the ways it might happen, think carefully about them, and decide which way fits best with how you want to spend your time.

What about the YA genre interests you?
One of the nicest things about working in YA is that there aren't strong genre marketing categories like there are in adult fiction. You can write books that are a mix of literary and fantasy and horror, or historical and science fiction, or anything you want, and they're all still shelved in YA.

What was your inspiration for Above?
The idea came together out of three things. The first was an essay in Eli Clare's Exile and Pride, which I was reading for a philosophy course: the author standing, as a kid, in his underwear in an examination room under bright lights for what felt like hours because the doctors were using the diagnosis of his disability to teach student doctors. That passage hit me right between the eyes: the way it was worded, and all the emotions leaking through. That feeling of being Other.

The second thing was an argument with, of all things, the 1980s Beauty and the Beast TV series and the trope it best embodies: the whole Secret Society of Mutants Living Underground thing. I felt like nobody really thinks about that: the logistics of living underground and hidden, and how you're getting your power and water, and how you're not just going to die of scurvy or pneumonia in the first three months. So I started thinking about how it would really go, and who would really live in that kind of society, and, before I realized it, started building Safe in my head.

The third thing was the right kind of music. I'm built that way anyway -- I make soundtracks for everything I write -- but the music gave Above, and Matthew, a voice. And then I had enough to start writing..

Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
Because it was there, ghosting around my head and knocking on the walls. That's really the only reason you need.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Matthew?
It doesn't come out much, because the events of Above are, in some ways, Matthew's Very Worst Week Ever, but he has a very dry, understated, kind of snarky sense of humour. Occasionally he is hilarious.

If you could introduce Ariel to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
...I was about to say "A good therapist," which is kind of inappropriately smartassed, but then it occurs to me it'd be Lea Tillim from Eliot Fintushel's Breakfast With the Ones You Love. They have so much in common in certain ways. They'd either hate each other or hold each other up until the end of the world.

What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 30 or less words, what would you say?

Above's my most recent (and, well, only so far!) but I'm working on something tentatively titled On Roadstead Farm; and that's a title that'll change. It's a post-apocalyptic, post-epic fantasy novel about a girl and her farm and the war veteran who comes to stay on it, and all the trouble that gets everyone into.

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
This might sound horribly pretentious, and I promise it's not, but I actually try not to lie whenever I can dodge it. Lying means having to keep your story straight forever, and having to keep track of what you told to who, and that's really a lot of work when you get right down to it. Telling the truth's just easier.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
There was a blogger who wrote a review of the book the other day, and among other things, she said, "I took this as a commentary on how we treat the homeless and the mentally ill – or just anyone who doesn't fit into our idea of what a good society should look like. This story really moved me and it really made me want to do something!"

Saying something that motivates another person to get out there and do something? I could pack it in right now if I had to. That's the most amazing thing on Earth, right there.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your teen readers. What would it be?
Oh, this feels not a little like being put on the spot! Hmm.

Well, how's this; here's the thing I'm figuring out in the past month or two, because, you see, I'm still growing up too here: Lots of people are going to have opinions as to what you should be doing with your time and your life and so forth. Do the things that fill you up inside. Ignore the things that suck your joy away.

Not always easy, but...rewarding, y'know?
Which author would you love to co-author a book with?

Oh, I wouldn't. I tried co-writing twice, and I'm terrible at it. I'm much too married to the picture in my head and would need to learn to play well with others.

What is your favorite Quote?
"I don't say we all ought to misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could." -- Orson Welles

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
At my desk at home, or in one of a few coffeeshops in the Annex or on Queen West. I just found a place in Chinatown that has beanbag chairs, nice wood communal tables, wifi, and awesome little noodle bowls (noodles!), so I bet I'll be lurking around there until the weather gets warm enough to take my laptop out to Kensington Market and my favourite bar, and its nice shady patio.

As for when, it's pretty much whenever I can get the time at this point. For the next little while, at least, I still work full-time, so writing happens around that, house chores, and the rest of my life.

Favorite DC or Marvel comic character?
Batman. Every time. I will fight anyone who denigrates Batman.

Do you have any fun Halloween experiences you can tell us?
Not really? 

When I was a kid it was, well, the 'burbs, and so you'd trick-or-treat until people gave you the dirty eye for being fifteen and still trick-or-treating, and then you'd loiter about and set fires in garbage cans (hey, it was the burbs), and then I got old enough and moved downtown, and you'd just go to parties, mostly. 

Last year I'd just got home from a ten-day trip out to the west coast, and I was jetlagged and exhausted, and I don't think I did anything. 

Very boring. Sorry.

An extraordinary debut urban fantasy about dangers outside and in.

"Above pulls off that rare trick of being convincing and utterly magical at the same time."
- Emma Donoghue, NYT bestselling author of ROOM

"Leah Bobet's ABOVE is that rarest of creatures, combining the outspoken honesty of a good first novel with the craft of a seasoned professional." - Elizabeth Bear, Hugo Award-winning author of DUST

Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee's wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above--like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.

But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe's history and the shadows' attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home--not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.

ABOVE is the debut of an amazing new voice.

Praise for ABOVE

“A dark, dazzling tale… Bobet effortlessly blends reality and fantasy, her characters are both gifted and broken – hers is a world that is simultaneously fantastic and painfully real. Heartbreaking, romantic, complex, and magical, this fantasy lingers on the senses.” 
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[T]hose willing to go along with this captivating exploration of both individual and collective identity will find themselves pondering its implications long after the last page." Kirkus Reviews

"Bobet has crafted a genre-defying story that is as dark and twisting as the underground tunnels in which it is set. Themes of sanctuary, justice, and storytelling help tie the plot threads together and lend richness to the story… [A] multilayered tale that speaks to universal needs and desires." Voice of Youth Advocates
“Richly nuanced, this complicated tale touches on notions of security, truth, and autonomy with just a hint of romantic love.” Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

In Above, Leah Bobet describes a world where imprisoned monsters with extraordinary powers escape and find sanctuary within our sewer system. The underworld is called “Safe” where Matthew the Teller was born. He is assigned to collect the history of Safe so future generations will have knowledge of their home. In his course of gathering tales, Matthew finds himself exiled with a group of refugees from Safe and now he must help them return to their home.

The writing is superb that looking through the eyes of Matthew that this outrageous underworld seemed to come alive and you start to believe that Safe is an actual place. The style is beautiful and vibrantly brilliant. Bobet has a way of turning words into life.

The relationships between the characters felt real. Ariel, the winged girl that Matthew has rescued is the center piece of the story. She is a girl with a very disturbing past and Matthew slowly learns how to comfort her. This urban fantasy has a lot to offer. From heartaches, pain, and a grand adventure, it surely can’t be missed.

You can purchase Above at these following Retailers: 

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LEAH BOBET for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive one copy of Above by Leah Bobet.


  1. A Dancer. To this day I still can't dance lol

  2. I had soooo many things I wanted to do. When I was really young I wanted to be a vet but then I got to high school and I wanted to dance. Dance became my love.
    Though I still love my animals :)

  3. I wanted to be a Doctor sadly Iam not but dang what a dream it was!!;)) Thanks for this book looks SOOOO GOOD!~:))

  4. I wanted to be a doctor, writer, lawyer, and dancer.

  5. I wanted to be a race car driver, an astronaut, an artichect, I could never make up my mind

  6. I had phases, a nurse, an artist and in 4th grade: a writer. Then I was like, "nevermind, too hard." so I went towards being an editor...THEN I decided I wanted to be one of those police officers who posed as 13yr olds to lure out pedophiles. I still think I am made for the job. =)

    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

  7. Believe it or not, as a child I really wanted to be an archeologist. i had this thing for old stuff, rocks, history and memories of the past. I was really attracted to everything with history, with a story to tell. And I used to play in the backyard, digging stuff up - which now I know for sure weren't treasures from ancient times, but simply pieces of junk that my grandpa threw away or misplaced xD Well, the passion for history and mythology is still with me, I love historical fiction and everything that tells something about the past and how people used to live back then.

    Great question!!
    And amazing contest! Thank you so much for hosting it!!! <3
    Evie @Bookish
    Stop by my blog sometime! I have a couple of international giveaways, including Prize pack with Goddess Test and Goddess Interrupted! <3

  8. I was pretty predictable. I wanted to be a vet. But in all fairness I'm still a huge animal lover and find myself rescuing and returning sprays or lost dogs on a regular basis. Even though I'm an author now I still make time for the furry critters of the world! <3

    Thanks for the great giveaway!
    Happy Reading,

  9. i wanted to be a nurse :)
    thanks for the giveaway

  10. Hi! I wanted to be a pathologist or more like Scully in the X-Files!!! Yeah I know I'm kind of creepy!!!!

  11. I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. Did not make it for various reasons, but that's okay.

  12. I used to wanna be an archaeologist

  13. I dreamed of being a Dancer. I used to dance around my loungeroom with my bro and sis, even learn the dances from film clips. Haha those were the days! ;)

  14. I wanted to be a vet. I loved animals, especially cats - still do!

    Thanks for the giveaway! :)

  15. Iwanted to be a professional cheerleader when I was 5

  16. When I was a child I really wanted to be an artist or a writer. I write for a blog now so I guess im part way there!

  17. I wanted to be a doctor!
    Little did I know that I was going to be completely scared of blood on another person's body T_________T

  18. The one that stuck with me my whole life and came true. I always wanted to be a mommy <3 among a ton of other things. Haha. I wanted to be a firefighter. But my brother ended up going that route instead of me :)

  19. Sooo many things: an olympic gymnast, a marine biologist, a crime scene investigator, a pharmacist and then a physical thearpist. :)

  20. I wanted to be a singer, or an actor.

  21. I'd want to be a Pediatrician. :)

  22. A lawyer! After watching all those lawyer shows, I wanted to be just like them minus the betrayals.


  23. Oh when I was younger, I wanted to be an archaeologist ^_^

  24. I wanted to be a teacher!! Its still a dream for me :)

  25. When I was in preschool, I told my teacher I wanted to either be a rainbow or a jack-in-the-box. I've achieved neither, but there's still time.

  26. As a child I wanted to be famous when I grew up. I was thinking movie star, singer, etc. But I am well known, (not famous I guess) for having nine boys and one girl.

  27. as a child, I don't think I had a plan... as an adult, I'm still trying to figure it out LOL... I do like where I am in life though, so that's a plus. :D

  28. I wanted to be Wonder Women; I was a skinny, dorky, blonde and wanted to be a built, bubbly, brunette! The kickass part helped as well :-)
    Yet another fabulous giveaway Jean!!

  29. When I was little I wanted to be a vet. Im not completely into that anymore but I would still love to help animals in some way :)

  30. Hi! I wanted to be a teacher when I was little. I loved being in school and being the boss and teaching little children (:


  31. I wanted to be theater actress. ^^
    And singer. And archaeologist, egyptologist... :D

  32. I wanted to be a teacher, then a writer, then a teacher, then an astronaut....but think I'll just stick with writing. ^.^

  33. Thank you for taking the time to do this giveaway :)

    When I was a child I wanted to be a vet :)

  34. When I was really young, I wanted to be a vet or a doctor. The funny thing is, I was the child that was dragged screaming into the doctors office, and I was the one that howled when I had to get a shot. xD But despite all that, I wanted to be a doctor. I don't have that desire anymore, but I've also overcome my awful fear of needles. =) Thanks for the giveaway!

  35. Amazing giveaway.
    I always new I wanted to be a writer and although I haven't published anything yet I hope I will do someday

  36. when i was kid i wanted to work in morgue and then be a reporter for the paper none of it came but the cover is great and i love to read and blog on them for you

    desi the blonde at msn com

  37. First of all, I LOVE the cover! Secondly thanks for the giveaway!! As a child I wanted to be either a princess or a showgirl, you know dance, sing and act on stage :)

  38. I wanted to be veterinarian when i was younger.

  39. I wanted to be a model, singer, doctor, actress, writer and a witch. At once.

  40. As a child I was either full of ambition to be an alien hunter or more practically I wanted to be a wife and mother. In time I became the later with a wonderful husband and five wonderful children :D

    felinewyvern at googlemail dot com

  41. I want to be a vet or a clinical psychologist

  42. dentist...but not anymore lol :P

    thanks again for ur giveaways

  43. I think I remember wanting to be a pro tennis player at one point! I can't even hit a good serve:)

  44. I wanted to be a veterinarian. I grew up and went to school to be a graphic designer. No I work in the medical field.

    Awesome giveaway

  45. I wanted to be a fashion designer

  46. as a child, i always wanted to be a writer, and i still do
    i'm trying to write a book called "Tears of Ice" right now

  47. I had so many things i wanted to do. They ranged from a school teacher, a forensic scientist, to a paleontologist, and a zoologist. Basically I wanted to try everything :P

  48. I wanted to be a teacher and wound up being a CNA!! Awesome author interview and giveaway, Jean!! Thank you!!

  49. An undercover CIA agent/spy. Congrats on the book Leah. We share the same view on lying. I would want to remember many useful things instead of lies told to who/what/when. Good to see I am not alone.

    your1chef at aol dot com

  50. I wanted to be a dirt track race car driver like me dad. When I'm able it's something I get to do now. Thanks for the interview!

  51. I wanted to be a doctor... predictable...

  52. I wanted to be an archeologist when I grew up :-)

  53. I wanted to be nurse, and then a pharmacist. Now, I want to be an environmental engineer and redesign cities to make them more ecofriendly. Like Curitiba, Brazil. Big dreams...
    Alyssa Susanna

  54. I wanted to be everything but mainly I wanted to be a reader, professionally. LOL.

  55. Above is an important book for these reasons alone and shouldn't be missed because of some of the complaints by reviewers. It's NOT that difficult to understand the narrator, especially if you've spent more than a minute deciphering online posts or text messages from young people.

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