Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With A Pearl Earring, has a new novel out that is an unforgettable modern take on Othello. New Boy is set in the fierce world of preadolescent children, where the grown-up forces of love and jealousy, and the hurt of being ostracized, can be as real and as devastating as for any adult.
New Boy is set in a 1970s suburban DC schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers.
We caught up with Chevalier this week.
SDTC: What should we be paying more attention to?
TC: Climate change. It’s incredible that I even have to say that. It should be top of everyone’s list, keeping us awake at night. But humans have a hard time looking that far forward.
What was the last Netflix series you binged on?
Stranger Things. I loved the 80s vibe, the kids gang of misfits, Winona Ryder’s hysteria, all the Christmas lights, and especially Eleven. What a face!
One new thing you learned this year?
That politicians actually listen when you phone or write them.
What memory brings a smile to your face?
My dad singing “The Road to Mandalay” while a little tipsy.
What book/song/lyric is resonating with you right now?
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – a young adult novel about a teenager witnessing a white cop shooting her black friend. It opens out the black community experience in a way I’d never experienced before and has really stayed with me.
Describe the funniest thing you’ve experienced in recent memory.
Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on SNL, especially when she takes the gum out of her mouth, sticks it on the podium and says, “I’ll get back to you!”
Best advice you’ve been given?
Less is more. Or, as Coco Chanel once said, before leaving the house you should look in the mirror and remove one item. I laugh at photos of my young self wearing so much jewellery. Now I wear earrings or a necklace, never both together.
What is the best part of being your current age?
I don’t have to prove myself so much anymore.
What word or phrase should we use more often?
“I may not agree, but I respect your right to say it.”
What’s on your night table?
A dusty stack of unread books I ought to read, but some newer, shinier book always jumps the queue.
What one item would you be lost without (besides your phone)?
Literally – reading glasses. Can’t read a thing without them (including my phone). My heart sinks when I realize I’ve gone out without them. So I have many pairs scattered all over the house and in my bags.
Your biggest literary pet peeve?
Copy cat books that try to piggyback on an original book’s success. They are never as good. And the industry thrives on unpredictable books. Once something’s popular, writers and publishers need to move on and create something different.
What trends are you loving right now?
The humour on Twitter. When it’s good, it can make even terrible incidents bearable.
Who was your celebrity crush when you were a kid?
Davy Jones, the cute one in the Monkees.
What do you love about Toronto?
My wonderful friend, the poet Ronna Bloom, lives there.