The Source of Inspiration with Jenifer Kanin
What first inspired you to write this novel?
I was looking after a friend’s place on the east side of Toronto. She was away for a few months and had a black and white cat that I was taking care of. One night while sitting outside with a friend, what I thought was the cat came wandering up to us. In the dark it was difficult to see, and I just reached down and gave it a pet without thinking. A minute later when it was walking away from us, it stepped into the light, we were both shocked to see it was not the cat but a skunk! The idea that one animal could impersonate another was inspired by that.
Was there any specific event that occurred that made you realize that you wanted to be an author?
Like my father was murdered by a writer and on his deathbed asked me to perfect the craft of his killer in revenge? No specific event. I just like making up stories.
To what degree would you say your own personal experiences influenced your debut novel, Unmasked?
To a large degree. You have to write from what you know for it to feel authentic. I would not say any one character was ‘me’ in the book, but a thread of truth runs through many details and have a basis in my personal experiences and observations. The more philosophical parts of the story have been drawn from my (and my families) life experiences, as well as observations on the different choices we have all made in our lives and the consequences that resulted.
What have been some of the biggest influences on your craft as a writer?
Other writers for sure! I remember reading Jurassic Park and having to cancel my plans for the afternoon and sit on a park bench to finish reading it. Tale of Two Cities was one that really stayed with me after the book was done. So many other great books, too many to name. They were more than just stories. They captivated, inspired and created a world you could get completely lost in.
Did you come across any instances of writer’s block when you were writing Unmasked?
Not so much in the story, I had a clear vision of where I wanted that to go. Some of the individual chapters, I knew what I wanted to say but how to say it took numerous tries. I think chapter 14 must have gotten close to 20 rewrites.
When you are feeling uninspired what helps to get you back into the writing spirit?
The very first thing I ask myself is: Do I need it or can I cut it out? You would be surprised how many times a troublesome chapter or sentence can be fixed by completely eliminating it. If I am uninspired writing it, no one is going to be inspired reading it. Next I try to think if there is something I am missing about that part of the story. A different perspective, or something funny that could have happened, or some tension that could be introduced. If I can get a good idea, it always fires up my writing.
One example would be in the sequel to Unmasked that I am currently writing, I need the characters to get from one location to the next and was struggling with how to do it. When I added in a scene in the journey where Gary decides it is time to get something to eat, it became one of my favorite parts of the book (so far).
What advice would you give to other writers (or just people in general) looking for inspiration?
Be curious and never stop asking questions.
“I live in Canada near the world famous Niagara Falls. I love animals and have had cats, dogs, chickens, quail, ducks, goats, and pigs living with us in our family farm. I love to garden and grow many fruits and vegetables. As a family we make all kinds of yummy things from what we grow including smoky salsa, wine, jams, hot sauces, cobblers and even maple syrup. Been an avid reader all of my life and love being able to share something with people through my writing. My goal is to either make them laugh or cry. Hope Unmasked makes you do both!”