1. What is your theory of writing?
I am a fiction writer, a story teller. My mission has always been to give voice to underrepresented voices. I am a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community. When I first started writing, queer voices were just starting to be heard and published. I wanted to give voice to the stories of my community. I am also Jewish. My grandfather, who was an immigrant from Russia, used to tell me stories of his escape from Russia, and his early years as a new Canadian in Toronto. My novel, The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, was based on stories from my grandfather.
2. What memorable or formative experience around learning to write springs to mind?
One of my early mentors, Coast Salish author Lee Maracle, taught me many valuable lessons. The first lesson: Keep the hand moving. That’s all there really is to writing. Oh, and if you want to be a published writer, you need discipline and tenacity. Writing is hard work. If it wasn’t, everyone would do it. If you are willing to put in the hard work, you will succeed. To get published you need tenacity. You cannot take no for an answer. When you first start sending your work out, you may get rejected many times. The trick is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
3. What specific incident incited/inspired your last piece of work (of any form or length)?
I am working on a new novel, set in Berlin in the 1930’s. I was researching the Holocaust and I realized that many Canadians think of the Holocaust as starting in 1939 at the start of World War II, when in fact, persecution of Jews in Germany began the minute Hitler was named Chancellor. This new novel follows several Jewish characters in Berlin in 1933 to 1943, as their civil rights are stripped away, then their livelihoods, then their very lives are threatened. When Donald Trump was elected U.S president in 2016, I was already deep in my research for this novel and I realized that Trump was following Hitler’s playbook. I think it is important to point out the parallels.
4. What writing rituals or behavioral patterns do you follow in where, when, or how you write?
When I am working on a novel, I start writing in the morning. I have a page goal in mind. I keep my hand moving and bash out a first draft as quickly as I can. I don’t do any rewriting until I have a first draft finished, no matter how messy the first draft might be. Once I have a first draft, I go back to page one and put on my editor’s hat and edit my own work. Then I go back to page one and start a rewrite. I repeat this process for as many rewrites as I need to get to a polished novel.
5. Have you ever collaborated on a writing project with another writer? Or maybe you’ve collaborated with an artist/dancer/musician/actor? Can you share your experience?
I am a novelist and I am also a screen and television writer. I have collaborated numerous times in this capacity. With a co-writer, I have created a half hour television series that we are now pitching to broadcasters. Several years ago, I directed a short film, Ms. Thing, which screened in over 50 film festivals internationally. This was very much a team effort. It takes a village to make a film.
6. What emotions do you associate with writing? Or, differently put, how does writing impact your emotional state?
I am most happy when I am writing fiction. I love immersing myself in specific worlds populated by interesting characters and getting lost in the details of their stories and the people around them. It is easy to forget about current day problems or struggles when I am inside my character’s worlds. When I have periods of time when I have to put my fiction writing aside to deal with other aspects of my life, I am not as happy. Like most people, I need to express myself and for me, that is through writing.
7. What elements/aspects of writing give you pleasure?
I am a storyteller. I love getting into characters and their worlds. When I am deep into it, it is like the characters are telling me where they want to go and what they want to say and all I have to do is type and try to keep up with them. When I was first working on my novel, The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, the main character, Sonny Lapinsky, decided he was a boxer. At the time, I knew nothing about boxing and I resisted. But the character was determined to be a boxer. So, I had to learn everything I could about boxers in the 1940’s so I could write about this character authentically. This is the magic of writing. When a character takes over and leads the way.
8. What are you writing against or towards?
Most of my writing has been set in the LGBTQ2S+ and Jewish community. I have always been interested in writing about hard truths, sometimes harsh circumstances, but always with an element of hope. As one of the first elected gay officials, Harvey Milk, who was a San Francisco City Supervisor in the late 1970’s said, “You gotta give ‘em hope. Without hope there is nothing.” So, I write about hard things, like dealing with homophobia or transphobia and I am now writing about the Holocaust, so my fictional characters are going through a lot of hardship and tragedy, but there is also always hope.
9. How do you deal with aspects of writing that might provoke frustration, doubt, disappointment, etc.? How do you talk to yourself when things are hard?
Writing a novel is hard. It just is. It takes a lot of energy and focus. When I am on a tenth draft, sometimes it feels tedious and boring and it is hard to keep your head above water. But you have to persevere. You have to keep the hand moving and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, you just have to stop writing and take a walk around the block. Move your body and your mind starts working again.
Aren X. Tulchinsky (he/him or they/them), the writer formerly known as Karen X. Tulchinsky, is a novelist, screenwriter, video editor and film director. Aren is the author of the award-winning novel, The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, which won the One Book One Vancouver Prize, was a Toronto Book Award finalist and was recently honoured with a permanent plaque in Christie Pits Park in Toronto by Project Bookmark Canada. Aren’s first novel, Love Ruins Everything was named a Top Ten Book by the San Francisco Bay Area Reporter. His first book, In Her Nature won the Vancity Book Prize. Aren also works as a video editor and writer on television series, including the critically acclaimed documentary series, Queen of the Oil Patch which airs on APTN (Aboriginal People’s Network). Tulchinsky is the director of Ms. Thing, a short film which has screened in over 50 film festivals internationally and won Audience Choice Award at QueerFruits Australia. Aren is a writing mentor with Vancouver Manuscript Intensive and also works independently as a writing mentor and coach. Tulchinsky lives and works in Vancouver and respectfully acknowledges that the land is the traditional, unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ / sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Coast Salish peoples.