Interview & Giveaway: Nine Birds Signing by Edythe Anstey Hanen

Hey everyone! It's a busy day here at Passages to the Past and I am super excited to be hosting an interview with Edythe Anstey Hanen & giveaway of Nine Birds Singing!

Hello Edythe and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Nine Birds Singing!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and Nine Birds Singing?

When I began writing Nine Birds Singing I eventually came to realize that I want to tell more than just a story. I want the reader to come away from this book with some sense of connection. So what I focus on is telling ‘the story under the story’. This is – for me – the deeper story that connects the writer to the reader at a heart level. I want the reading journey to be bigger than just the telling of a simple story. I want the story to be inclusive and I want the reader to be engaged in an emotional experience. My greatest hope is that the reader of Nine Birds Singing will discover something compelling along the way, some small treasure that they can keep for themselves.

What inspired you to write Nine Birds Singing?

This book began with me wanting to tell Thea’s story. I knew someone like Thea and I wanted to explore the inner life of a complex person like her. In creating Thea and her life, I hoped I could find the elusive ‘something’ that would help me understand the choices that Thea ultimately made. Through the writing of Thea’s story I found both Maddie and Carmelita who had also made big life decisions, but ones that that were markedly different from Thea’s and with profoundly different consequences.

What type of research did you do for the book?

Most of my research came directly from the life and times I grew up in. As a “child of the sixties”, I grew up in Vancouver, BC which at that time in Canada was on the front lines of the hippie movement. Old letters, photographs, journals, conversations with friends, and memories were the key connections to my story.

What would you like readers to take away from Nine Birds Singing?

In Nine Birds Singing, Maddie’s journey toward freedom from the demons of her past is a road that ultimately leads her to revelations that are hidden behind closed doors. But she knows that true freedom can only be found in her willingness to open those doors and face those old ghosts of fear and shame.

If we choose it, we can all be explorers in our own lives and who knows what we will find in opening doors as we search for a life of authenticity and truth?

What was the hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene by far was Maddie’s visit to Thea’s room after Thea had gone. It was painful creating a scene that had to be the only truth – Maddie’s realization that the emptiness of the room exposed Thea in a way nothing else could. As someone who kept herself emotionally hidden, Thea was ultimately revealed in all her sadness and complexity.

What was your favorite scene to write?

Ironically – although it was difficult – writing the scene of Maddie’s mother visiting Maddie’s father when he was incarcerated for being a conscientious objector was enjoyable. I loved discovering Ruth’s profound loyalty and the deep bond they shared. It was emotionally challenging moving into the heart of imagining who Maddie’s mother truly might have been as a young woman and what her secrets were. And it was painful wondering about her dreams and who she may have hoped to become before life intervened.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I was writing stories as a young child and it was the best thing in my life – but I never imagined it was even possible to be ‘a writer’. That was unimaginable to me. In the time I grew up, girls graduated from high school, then became nurses, teachers or secretaries.

I was not able to truly believe I was a writer until I published my first short story. It wasn’t so much about being published that made me feel authentic – it was more about recognizing that my writing was good and getting better and that after all the years of writing and learning and never giving up, even in the face of all those rejection slips, I had arrived at some level of accomplishment.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

My greatest challenge for sure is keeping the faith. Staying with the writing, never giving up and always being positive. It requires a lot of trust, but more than anything else it requires hard work. For the most part I think I have overcome it but the challenges of keeping the faith are – and must be – ever-present.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Michael Ondaatje for the beauty of his writing, for the way her chooses to structure his work and for the sheer poetry of his words. I love all his books but Coming through Slaughter is my go-to book when I want inspiration.

Toni Morrison for the fierce truths that shine out in all of her writing.

Alice Munro whose writing magic turns simple events and ordinary lives into fields of gold.

What was the first literary fiction novel you read?

Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners back in the 1970s.

What is the last literary fiction novel you read?

Michael’s Ondaatje’s Warlight.

What are three things people may not know about you?

I begin all my writing in bed with an 8 ½ x 11 yellow lined pad on my knees and a rolling ball pen. No, I am not an invalid.

I once had six cats who loved to go out for walks. They would follow my daughter through an empty field near our house, all in a line. She looked just like the Pied Piper.

When I was 24, a girlfriend and I hitchhiked all the way from Vancouver, through Washington, Oregon, California, across Arizona and into Mexico all the way to Puerto Vallarta and home again. It was a life-changing journey for me and miraculously, nothing bad ever happened.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I like the freedom that comes with writing literary fiction in terms of language and structure and I choose to write character-driven stories which suit this genre.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I’m open to anything that looks engaging and is well-written but I usually enjoy books that are set anywhere from the twenties to present time.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I am never actually not writing. I carry words with me everywhere I go (whether I want them to be stuck inside my head or not). I always have a notebook with me, ready for any inspiration. I frequently use public transportation so ideas often come to me in snippets of conversation. There is always a person somewhere telling their story to someone else. And I listen. Whether I’m riding in buses, subways or taxis, thoughts and ideas never leave me. I fall asleep and wake up with stories in my head.

However, I do have a life, and when I’m not living in my island paradise, I’m travelling through Mexico with my partner, usually for three months in the winter.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

My next book is called Borderlands and it is again set in the sixties, beginning in Vancouver, but then shifting from San Francisco, Los Angeles to Montreal and upstate New York.

That sounds wonderful, I look forward to that! Thank you so much for stopping by Passages to the Past today!

Nine Birds Singing by Edythe Anstey Hanen

Publication Date: December 5, 2017
New Arcadia Publishing
Paperback; 276 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-0981024158

Genre: Literary Fiction

Maddie is a writer of local history but wants to use her words to unlock the hidden truths that lay just below the surface of her life. But it’s magnetic words on a refrigerator door – Have dreams. Must travel – that push Maddie into the journey she must take: the search for what she has yearned for all her life: independence and freedom from the abusive fanaticism of her parents’ religious beliefs. From Vancouver in the sixties to present day Mexico and a small island on the Canadian west coast, Nine Birds Singing is a love affair with words. It weaves through past glories and youthful hubris in a search for understanding and acceptance. Profound friendship, skewed love and loss all play a role in Maddie’s search for redemption.

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Praise for Nine Birds Singing

"In Nine Birds Singing, Edyth Anstey Hanen’s appealing narrator Maddie recalls and examines her own search for independence from her parents’ restrictive values. The writer and Maddie, together, gather the reader in to share an intimate, wise, and moving tale." -Jack Hodgins, Author of Spit Delaney’s Island

"Nine Birds Singing is a finely written book, lovingly crafted, poignant and perceptive. A tale of gradual self-understanding, awakening and ultimate release." -Nick Bantock, Author of the The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy

"If, like me, you despair for the collapse of the English language take comfort. In Nine Birds Singing you will discover a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of delights. Edythe Anstey Hanen not only uses the basic blocks of language, words, to propel her characters and her story, each word has been selected with meticulous care with attention to its meaning and its ability to resonate. The work is a symphony for the logophile. Don’t miss it." -Patrick Taylor. USA Today, New York Times and Globe and Mail best-selling author of the Irish Country Doctor series

"Readers will enjoy the unique views and poetic pacing of Nine Birds Singing by Edythe Anstey Hanen. She savours and survives landscapes and relationships in teasing but tasty quick episodes. Her novel takes readers via circular time travelling through decades of Mattie’s life in Canada and Mexico. Enjoy this new voice!" -Bernice Lever, Small Acts, Black Moss Press, 2016

About the Author

Edythe Anstey Hanen has published prize-winning short stories and poetry in literary magazines including Room Magazine and anthologies across Canada, in addition to articles in the Globe & Mail, National Post and the Hamilton Bay Observer and is a regular contributor to Mexconnect, an online travel magazine. She lives on Bowen Island in British Columbia, Canada, where for many years she was the editor of the Bowen Island Undercurrent.

Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, May 17
Review at Peppermint Ph.D.

Monday, May 21
Review at Books and Glamour

Wednesday, May 23
Feature at A Holland Reads

Friday, May 25
Excerpt at Teaser Addicts Book Blog

Tuesday, May 29
Feature at Donna's Book Blog

Friday, June 1
Interview at Passages to the Past

Monday, June 4
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, June 6
Review at SJ2B House of Books


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away three copies of Nine Birds Signing! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on June 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US and Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Nine Birds Signing

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