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Catherine Leroux: ‘I love semicolons’

Catherine Leroux

Julie Artacho

Catherine Leroux is the Montreal-based author of three books, including the novel The Party Wall, which was published in Quebec in 2013 and won the Prix France-Québec the following year. The novel recently earned a Governor-General's Literary Award for Lazer Lederhendler's English translation, and is a finalist for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, the winner of which will be announced Monday.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

On a couple of different occasions, I've had trouble defining characters, making them more believable, or simply understanding them. I was advised to approach them not through their psychology, but through their physicality. Approaching them through their sensations, their movements, their appearance allowed me to get closer to these characters, to make them more present.

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Would you rather have the ability to be invisible or time travel?I'd like to be both! I'm mainly interested in time travelling, but I think very few eras were safe and pleasant for women, so I'd like to visit them as an invisible observer. It would also help to avoid all these "changing-the-course-of-history" issues.

What scares you as a writer?

I think every writer fears running out of inspiration, or losing the ability to execute their ideas adequately. What I fear the most is that I might keep writing after this has happened.

What's the best sentence you've ever written?

J'aime l'odeur du sang; elle me rappelle ma mère. "I like the smell of blood; it reminds me of my mother." It is simple, powerful and strange, the three main qualities I thrive to give to my writing. Also, it has a semicolon. I love semicolons.

What's more important: The beginning of a book or the end?

I took classes that were entirely based on the premise that the first sentence of the book deserved many hours of attention. But to me, the last words are the most important. A single sentence at the end of a novel, a chapter or even a paragraph can make everything tip, change the whole spirit of the novel. They are the last notes that will resonate, stick with you, allow you to revisit the whole book under a different light, open new doors and even allow the story to continue its trajectory without its creator.

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