Scotiabank Giller Prize Spotlight: Sheila Heti

September 24, 2022

Sheila Heti

Sheila Heti’s novel Pure Colour has been longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Sheila Heti is the author of ten books of fiction and non-fiction, including Motherhood and How Should a Person Be?, which New York magazine deemed one of the “New Classics of the 21st century.” She was named one of “the New Vanguard” by the New York Times book critics, who, along with a dozen other magazines and newspapers, chose Motherhood as a Best Book of 2018. Her novels have been translated into twenty-four languages. She is the former Interviews Editor of The Believer magazine. She lives in Toronto.

What/who inspires you to write?

I don’t think inspiration comes from a person or a thing. Inspiration is a feeling of being invigorated by life itself. The feeling of wanting to write comes out of nowhere, and it’s always sort of with you, too.

Do you have a favourite passage/quote from a book?

I don’t have a favourite passage or quote. I like literature and books as a whole, as voices in conversation with each other, not as favourites.

Where is your favourite place to write?

I like to write in bed, sitting up but under the covers. I write on my laptop.

Is there an activity you do to help inspire your writing?

It has never occurred to me to do an activity before writing to inspire my writing. I just think that it’s time to start writing, or that I want to write, and then I begin.

Do you have a tradition for every time you finish a book?

I have no tradition, mostly because I always think I am finished my book. I think I am finished my book three years before I’m finished, and two years before, and one year before, and six months before, and then when I’m truly and finally finished, there are still so many stages: the cover, copy-editing, working on the back copy with the editor. So the “being finished” feeling either happens too early or too late to actually celebrate or mark or create a tradition around. There really is not one day.

What are you reading now?

I just finished reading The Choice by Edith Eger, about her experience as a young girl in Auschwitz and how she moved through her life after that experience.

What is your favorite CanLit book?

I don’t like the word CanLit, but my most recent favourite book written by a Canadian is Welfare by Steve Anwyll, which I read this summer. I loved it. I immediately made my brother read it.

What is your favourite book from childhood?

That Scatterbrain Booky by Bernice Thurman Hunter, which is about a girl growing up in Toronto during the Great Depression. I know suppose it is about the author’s childhood, but I didn’t know that at the time. I felt the protagonist was me, and I loved all the details.

Is there a book that you find yourself reading over and over again?


How did you know you wanted to be an author?

I had that in my diary in grade five. It was a Ramona Quimby fill-in-the-blanks Diary. What do you want to be when you grow up? I wrote, “Author.”

What inspired you to write your Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated book?

The feeling of wanting to write a new book. That’s always where it starts: wanting to make something. And then it takes some time to figure out what you’re making, even after you’ve begun.

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

A love of life and death.

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