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Roberta Rich (Nicole Thullner)
Roberta Rich (Nicole Thullner)

Roberta Rich: ‘Does writing make you fat? The answer is yes’ Add to ...

A lawyer-turned-writer, Roberta Rich is the bestselling author of two previous novels: 2011’s The Midwife of Venice and 2013’s The Harem Midwife, both of which were published around the world. Her latest novel, A Trial in Venice, was recently published by Doubleday Canada. She divides her time between Vancouver and Colima, Mexico.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I ever received was from my husband. In my first book, The Midwife of Venice, I was planning to kill baby Matteo, the heir to a vast fortune. The villain was going to flay the baby and nail his corpse to the door of the San Michele Church in Venice. My husband, when I told him of my ‘plot twist,’ said, ‘Oh, honey, it took you three chapters to get that baby born. Let him be.’

What agreed-upon classic do you despise?

Despise is a strong word. It assumes the type of ongoing contempt and intimate hatred you would lavish on a formerly close friend or member of your immediate family. But if I had to pick a book I disliked, and, for the life of me can’t figure out what everyone makes such a fuss was about, I would choose On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It always struck me as a long-winded account of a couple of losers with no place to go, nothing to do, no apparent means of support and a really bad attitude toward women.

What question do you wish people would ask about your work (that they don’t ask)?

Does writing make you fat? The answer is yes. Imagine the following scenario: You have been staring at a blank screen for a half an hour. You can’t think of how to describe a character: Maybe a doughnut would help. Can’t make the dialogue flow smoothly: How about a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia? Can’t get the plot to move convincingly? Munch a Toblerone bar. In the old days of clipper ships, sailors used to have a motto: ‘A tooth for every voyage.’ To scurvy, I suspect. With each book, I gain five pounds.

Which book do you think is underappreciated?

A Man in Uniform by Kate Taylor. I adored the main character, François Dubon, a Walter Mitty-type Parisian solicitor. He was so exquisitely, painfully French from his cravat to his rendezvous with his mistress for le cinq à sept.

What’s your favourite bookstore in the world?

Helping Hands Bookstore, in the little fishing village of La Manzanilla, Mexico, is totally staffed by volunteers and stocked with second-hand donated books. For the past two years, I have done fundraisers to raise money for children’s scholarships and roofs destroyed by Hurricane Patricia when she slammed through town in October, 2015.

Editor's Note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly suggested Costco was the largest book seller in Canada.

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