November 23, 2007

Do Authors A-u-t-o-B-i-o-G-r-a-p-h in Fiction?

You know, I kind of believe that writers, if not all, have written something about themselves in their books without giving themselves credit for it. From my research, I've seen a link between the past of some authors and their works and as a writer, I wouldn't be surprising myself if I write something about my past in one of my books.

For an author whose works often examine the link between past and present, it's hardly surprising that Elizabeth Hay, author of
the novel Late Nights on Air, had a flashback to her childhood when she won The Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada's premier prize for fiction.

When she was about 5, she won a doll as a prize at a movie theater and the next day wrote her name in big, ballpoint letters around the doll's neck. Now, 51 years later, Hay took to the Giller stage to sign an enlarged copy of her book cover and reminded herself of the time she signed her doll. If only that prize-winning doll knew that her owner now has an award-winning "doll".

A former radio broadcaster, Elizabeth Hay describes the lives of a cast of characters at a small radio station in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories in her book which was inspired by Hay's own experiences living in the north when she was a radio broadcaster - all in a way to take her small life and put in fictional use - for something larger.

Hay's works have a distinctive Canadian feel, particularly because of their geographical settings. Her debut novel, A Student of Weather, which was nominated for the Giller in 2000, follows a family from a farm in Saskatchewan to urban Ottawa. Hay also documented her exploration of the country's cultural identity while she lived in New York in the non-fiction work Captivity Tales: Canadians in New York.

Elizabeth Hay's award-winning novel Late Nights on Air was No. 2 on the Globe and Mail newspaper's bestseller list for fiction for the week of November 17, and has been difficult for stores to keep in stock since it won the Giller.

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