Gabriella Goliger is an unassuming writer whose book, Girl Unwrapped, has been nominated as a finalist for the Ottawa Book Awards.
Published in September 2010, Girl Unwrapped is more than a coming-out story; it is the story of an immigrant family making a new life in Canada. Julius and Lisa Goldblatt, scarred by the Holocaust and the loss of a way of life, move to Montreal to reinvent their lives and create a new one for their daughter, Toni.
Xtra caught up with Goliger to chat about her book, the past year and the future.
Xtra: I know you have spent time promoting Girl Unwrapped. What has the response been?
Gabriella Goliger: I’ve been warmly welcomed wherever I’ve gone. I prepare a lot for every event. If it’s a reading, I carefully choose and rehearse my material. Audiences appreciate a confident, clearly voiced delivery. Turnouts have varied: really good crowds, such as at the Vancouver Public Library (but I wasn’t solo), to barely a handful at a bookstore in Montreal (miserable rainy night). Every event has the ripple effect of the publicity surrounding it, and sometimes the smallest groups are the most satisfying.
Xtra: Writing a novel is one thing, but promoting it another. How have you felt the book sales have gone, and are you pleased with them?
GG: I don’t have specific numbers, but my publisher tells me sales have been very good and that the book is in second printing, which pleases me to no end. Ultimately, though, I don’t worry about numbers. That’s not my gauge of success so much as the positive comments I’ve been getting from individual readers, both GLBT and straight. People have told me I opened a window on an era or experiences they knew little about but found themselves relating to in some way. Others said the book told it like it was. All very gratifying.
Xtra: Girl Unwrapped is a finalist for an Ottawa Book Award. Did you expect that to happen, and how do you feel about it?
GG: The best thing to do with awards is not to think about them because you can torture yourself with anxiety otherwise. It’s such a crapshoot. So much depends on who else is in the running that year, as well as the leanings of that particular jury. So, yes, my nomination came as a delightful surprise. It means great new exposure for the book. And now I will shut my eyes, put my fingers in my ears and go “la, la, la” until the announcement of the winner on October 27.
Xtra: What now? When we last talked, you had not started working on your next novel; although, I think you had started on the research. What progress have you made and where are you with it? This is of course, assuming you want to talk about it.
GG: My new novel is about a Jewish girl who has a love affair with a British policeman in Palestine during the 1930s and ’40s. I’m working at my usual snail’s pace, writing and researching at the same time. I can’t do just one or the other because I have to develop my story to know what to research, and I have to find the details that fit the raw material, so to speak, in order to craft the story. It’s a huge task. Recently I went to Israel, partly for research, only to find that present realities overwhelmed my search for the past. Just the fact that a city today looks so different than it would have 60 years ago interfered with my efforts to imagine the settings. Plus, well, the present in Israel is very present. It may be better for me now just to study archival photos and other material. Anyway, I’m making progress, slowly, and haven’t hit any major roadblocks.
Xtra: I know that you leave Ottawa during the wintertime to go to Victoria. Do you do more writing when you are there and if so, why do you think that is?
GG: Yes, we are going back to Victoria this winter. I don’t have as many social or community involvements there as here. We leave our house and dog behind (dog goes to nice foster parents, don’t worry). So it feels like a retreat. But whether I work well or not depends on how disciplined I am. It’s always an effort.
Xtra: When you start on a new novel, does the last one fade into the backgound or do you still think about? I guess you do if you are promoting it and if it gets picked as a finalist – but is it easy to let it go?
GG: I’ve definitely let go of Girl Unwrapped in that it’s finished, published, sailing on its own seas. There aren’t even many promotional events to do anymore, which is a relief. My writing mind is only engaged with the new work now. But the fact that I produced Girl Unwrapped and that it’s doing well has given me steam for the work ahead.