On Pomeranians and A Love of Poetry OR Author Yona McDonough Takes the BD Spotlight

December 16, 2014

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Yona McDonough is the fiction editor of Lilith magazine and the author of several novels and essays. In her latest book, You Were Meant for Me, McDonough explores a different angle of motherhood: when single and successful 35-year-old Miranda Berenzweig discovers an abandoned baby girl in a subway station in NYC, her life changes dramatically.

Read below to learn about McDonogh’s love of memorizing poetry, her respect for childhood heroines, and why Laura Jacobs needs more love.

Describe a teacher who had an impact on you.

I had a high school French teacher who made us memorize poetry as part of our final exam.  We all groused at the time but I actually found I loved having this poem at my disposal whenever I needed or I wanted it, and so, I began to memorize poems just for myself.

I’ve memorized about 50-60 by now and they are such a source of comfort, delight and pleasure to me—like prayers that I can draw upon at will. And I have this teacher to thank for it.

Which writer inspired you to become a writer yourself?

It was not one single writer but, rather, the glorious act of reading itself.

What would you like Book Dumpling readers to know about you?

That I am obsessed with Pomeranians (I presently have two) and try to include at least one in every novel I write!

Do you have any funny stories regarding writing your past book?

When working on You Were Meant for Me, there was a plot point concerning DNA testing: I looked up a lab online but, in order to get the information that I needed, I felt I had to invent a story to tell the counsellor who answered the phone there. I got rather carried away about it but he was very nice and told me all I needed to know.

What is the last, great book that you read and to which type of readers would you recommend it?

I read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and I flat-out adored it. Big, ambitious and sprawling, it is a novel in the mold of Dickens.  It’s got a great premise, a complex plot and marvellous characters. It’s filled with twists, turns and several surprises.  The evocation of grief over a dead parent is as perfect as anything I have ever read.  Readers who love an old-fashioned story that sweeps you up and draws you in—this is the book for you!

Which one book would you recommend that almost everyone try to read at least once?

Of Mice and Men.  It’s the perfect demonstration of how plot develops organically from character.

What types of books would you suggest your protagonists read? (Thanks to Jennifer Warren at CBC for this awesome idea).

I would urge them to read my faves: novels, short stories, collections of poetry and essays.

Do you have a favourite bookstore?

My two favourite indie bookstores are in Brooklyn: Book Court and The BookMark Shoppe.  Both are as welcoming to writers as they are to readers.

E-reader or the real thing?

No e-reader for me right now, but maybe in the future.

Tell us a little bit about the book (written by anyone) that has a soft spot in your heart.

The books I loved as a girl:  Anne of Green Gables, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Little Princess.  All have strong, memorable heroines, and all are concerned with the longing for family and home.  These are books I read over and over; they shaped me.

Which contemporary book will become a classic in 50 years?

Atonement and Saturday, both by Ian McEwan.  Two very different books but each equally as masterful.

Which book is criminally underrated?

The Birdcatcher, by Laura Jacobs. I had the honour of reviewing this book and I could not stop marvelling.  Yet it seemed to have disappeared without a trace.

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