Since I can’t go on an actual book tour, I’ve decided to take Fake It So Real on a Virtual Canadian Book Tour!! We’re going to start in Victoria and work our way east across the country, meeting FISR readers and the local independent bookstores who might have hosted us. If you’d like to participate, send me a message using the contact form on my site.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: February 25, 2021
Erin in Lima, Peru (via Ottawa) — “Susan has a talent for blurring the line between human connection and revulsion”
Our last official stop on the Virtual Canadian Book Tour is with my old pal Erin, who is a Canadian diplomat in Lima, Peru! Before I go on, I will say that I will gladly put up more tour posts if anyone has the desire to send me one – just message me!
I met Erin when we were eighteen years old, in our first year of university at the UofA in Edmonton because she was friends with my first love, Patrick. Erin and her friends impressed me with how unafraid and real they were—with an almost intimidating comfort inhabiting their own skin. We eventually went our separate ways, but Erin and I met again a few years later when we both showed up to ride with Edmonton’s all-womyns mountain biking club, The Dirt Girls. It was on a ride with Erin that I did the most athletically hard-core thing I’ve ever done: took a spill and landed with a tree branch up my nose. Erin graciously let me bleed all over her biking gloves and she nicknamed me The Stickler. At the time, I wasn’t ready to take on the name because it implied a nitpicker … but now that I’ve spent many years editing I’d say … ok, ok the name does fit.
Here’s what Erin had to say about Fake It So Real, all the way from Peru:
In a year that has seen so many plans interrupted, Susan’s inaugural novel is such a bright spot. Lots to love about this book—here are my top three:
1) The writing is very visceral, drawing on uncomfortable adjectives and images that mirror the messy, deeply human characters. Some examples: “scabby knock knees,” “raccoon eyes,” “juice-box sticky,” “rivulets of egg yolk dripping from his carnivorous mouth,” “sinister look in his eyes, like he was trying to plug the baby’s airhole.” I could go on. I think the chapter, “Sock Daddy” is a perfect example of Susan’s talent for blurring the line between human connection and revulsion.
2) This book captures place so well, to the point where it made me pretty nostalgic for Edmonton, the hometown Susan and I share. It’s a city that isn’t easy to love but one that is very much itself, yet another messy but authentic character in Fake It So Real. I’ve called many places home since I last lived in Edmo but references to the Funky Pickle, Blackbyrd Myoozik, and The Purple Onion brought me back instantly (all the way from my current spot in Lima). There really is no place like home 1.0.
3) The really great cover art (designed by Angela Yen; also available in T-shirt version, which I couldn’t resist).
Art is worth fighting for. Stories are worth writing. Keep going Susan—your loyal fans await, including the llamas.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: February 23, 2021
Uncle Rod in New Waterford, NS — “descriptive imagery reminiscent of John Prine”
This is it (almost)! Our penultimate and most Eastern officially in-Canada stop on the tour. We’re visiting my Uncle Rod in New Waterford, Cape Breton. Uncle Rod sent me a message a while ago, saying: “Just a note to let you know I enjoyed your novel. I was impressed by your very descriptive imagery—reminiscent of the song lyrics of my beloved John Prine.”
I—embarrassingly—had to look John Prine up. I listened to and appreciated a bunch of his songs, but I think “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” captures the feeling of Fake It So Real best:
“You’ve broken the speed of the sound of loneliness
You’re out there running just to be on the run”
Thank you, Uncle Rod, for the comparison and for introducing me to the late, great John Prine.
If you’re in Halifax, which is sort of near New Waterford, you could order a copy of Fake It So Real from King’s Co-op Bookstore or you could put a hold on it at the Halifax Public Library (they have one copy on order. Yay! Thank you, Halifax Public Library!).
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: February 18, 2021
Lenny near Charlottetown, PEI — “Susan describes vividly the relationships and struggles of clouded minds in sobering scenarios”
Today, we’ll join Lenny on PEI. I was put in touch with Lenny through our mutual friend Mike. Mike and Lenny used to play in the famed band, the Chicken Snails Roadshow back in the 90s in Edmonton. Now, Lenny makes beautiful salvaged-wood art on PEI. You can check out his work at Birdmouse. I especially like his lighthouse pin, The Signal: The Original Distancing Tool, which you pin on your lapel to signal to people that you want them to stay away. Perfect for a pandemic!
Here’s what Lenny had to say about Fake It So Real:
My great friend Mike Sadava encouraged me to read this book… and he’s no slouch when it comes to words. So I accepted the offer and was sent a signed copy in the mail from the author herself! This book is really “REAL”. I spent a few years roaming the alleys and playing music on the streets of Whyte Ave in Edmonton back in the late 90’s and was brought right back to places I hadn’t thought of in a long time. Susan describes vividly the relationships and struggles of clouded minds in sobering scenarios, not unlike the reality of many who find themselves living close to the ground. The chapter “What to Expect” was a highlight. “And so began the enoughs.” This turning point. The change that comes from reflection and dissatisfaction, and the real things that follow these unsettled feelings is real life. This was a very compelling book. Raw and real, open and dark, leaving space for compassion and love. Highly recommended read!!
If you’re on PEI, Lenny suggests you order a copy of Fake It So Real from Bookmark in Charlottetown. The PEI public library does not currently carry Fake It So Real, but if you’d like to suggest they do, you can do so here.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: February 16, 2021
Paige in Montreal, QC — “It’s even more upsetting than I’d hoped”
We can’t leave Quebec without hitting up Montreal—it’s mentioned in the book as being one of the sought-after destinations of Fake It So Real-elder sister, Sara. Paige is someone I consider to be a friend even though I’ve never technically met her in person. We can have those, right? I met her virtually through my friend Jon. Jon met Paige at the Banff Centre, just like Jon met me (I think) a year later at the Banff Centre. I think this technically means that, somehow, in some warped universe that Paige could write about with deft elegance, Paige and I have met in person. Paige’s mind-blowing book of stories, Zolitude, came out in 2018 with Biblioasis. If you have not yet read it, please do. I’ve just been to her website and the first quotation from a review that came up was “unpindownable strangeness.” I think this sums up her book, and the reason I am dying to one day meet her in person, quite nicely. Also, the fact that she picked up on my unpindownable recurrent use of Cheetos in Fake It So Real.
Here’s what Paige had to say about the book:
I’ve been looking forward to this book for years—seeing Susan’s gutting stories together in one album—and it’s even more upsetting than I’d hoped. First, I snapped my shin-bone out of my skin, and then I read this book. The book was more painful. It brooks zero anaesthetic. It’s the kind of acerbic backwash of reality that reminds you you’ll never be safe. It sketches your worst fears, then it confirms them, then it feeds you a Cheeto. You savour the Cheeto.
Paige ordered her copy from Librairie Drawn and Quarterly in Montreal—she highly recommends you call them anytime you need a life-affirming chat.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: February 9, 2021
Tara in Pointe-Claire, QC — “The characters reflected people I may have known as neighbours or friends, could have stood behind in the grocery store, or passed in the street”
Today, we’re visiting Pointe-Claire Quebec, where my friend Mike’s (whom you met on our sixth stop, before we left Victoria) friend Tara lives. I have yet to meet Tara in person, but I’ve come to know that we have a lot in common, including shared connections to both Edmonton and Vancouver Island, and I can’t wait to get to meet her next time we’re able to.
Here’s what Tara had to say:
I know Mike through my husband, Blake, who was bandmates with Mike in the Edmonton bluegrass band, the Chicken Snails Roadshow, in the late ‘90s. Over the years, they remained in touch and reconnected in 2011 for a 10-year reunion show for the Chicken Snails. Since then, they have remained close and we have been fortunate to spend time with him and his lovely wife, Anne, whenever we have been in Victoria (which, incidentally, is quite often, since my family are all on Vancouver Island). Our friendship has only strengthened over the years and they have become like extended family to us. I was honoured to be included in the virtual tour, and devoured Fake It So Real after receiving a lovely signed copy in the mail. The portrayals of people living on the fringes of so-called mainstream society were apt and appreciated. They reflected people I may have known as neighbours or friends, could have stood behind in the grocery store, or passed in the street. Being a Vancouver Island girl myself (who has spent a good amount of time in Edmonton!), having places from my own past reflected back to me through a different perspective was a thrill. Experiencing Pluto’s Diner, Dallas Road, Julio’s Barrio, and the Hornby Island Co-op was both familiar and exhilarating to me. Likewise, I appreciated the accurate, often aching portrayal of the blessings and burdens of motherhood, and the experience of losing and finding oneself again. We all face different challenges in this world, but the sacrifices and joys each of the characters experienced in the book pulled at my heartstrings and enriched my own feelings toward both life and motherhood.
Tara’s favourite local bookstore is Librairie Clio, and you can order a copy of Fake It So Real from them here.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: February 4, 2021
Aunt Olivia and Uncle Jack near Ottawa, ON — “I wanted alternately to provide nurturing and encouragement and to scream at them”
Today we’re visiting my Aunt Olivia and Uncle Jack near Ottawa! Aunt Olivia is one of my Dad’s one million brothers and sisters (ok, there are only eleven of them). Olivia and Jack housed and took care of my Grammy in her later years (honestly, after going through childbirth eleven times it’s a wonder she could still walk) in their old home in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, and so that’s where my family would stay when we visited. I learned to dive in their pool (and subsequently forgot again) from a second cousin who kept telling me to straighten my “lags” and I also learned that my Uncle Jack must really like me because he let me sit in his chair. Awwww. They came to visit us in Alberta once, and if I remember correctly, I think I convinced them to buy me a bunch of The Babysitter’s Club books and Archie comics, which was all I would read at the time. I’m glad they liked my book, despite the “off-colour language”—as I told them, I think anyone who still calls me Susie won’t like that about the book 😉
Here’s what Aunt Olivia and Uncle Jack had to say about Fake It So Real:
Fake It So Real is one of the few books I plan to read a second time. There are so many nuances, so many undercurrents missed the first time around. The culture into which the characters find themselves has been referred to as the “underbelly” of society—the dark side of humanity. In short, the book describes how generations follow each other, never quite managing to claw their way out of the life they were born into. Susie has the ability to bring her characters to life, to incite so many different feelings in her readers. I wanted alternately to provide nurturing and encouragement and to scream at them to leave that lifestyle, to have more respect for their own bodies, to support each other rather than running away. Finally, the descriptive phrases in this book are original, inventive, and show the ability to think “outside the box” . . . however, some of the off-colour language was, in our humble opinion, unnecessary and could eliminate a certain reader base. Otherwise, great job, Susie. We love you! ❤
Aunt Olivia and Uncle Jack could have ordered their copy from Perfect Books on Elgin Street in Ottawa, who are currently open for curbside pick-up seven days a week. Sadly, they could not have borrowed a copy from the Ottawa Public Library, because it appears they don’t carry Fake It So Real! If you have an Ottawa Public Library card and would like to suggest they do, you can do that here.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: February 2, 2021
Kara in Toronto, ON — “It’s tragic in its exploration of complex human relationships”
When I met Kara, she was a first-year writing student at UVic and I was a first-time TA, in the second year of my MFA program. Kara would attend my office hours religiously every week and it was such an honour to watch her grow both as an artist and a person. She made me feel like I might actually have something to teach someone. I think it was pretty cool that we sort of learned together that year. Now Kara’s gone on to do grad work and is about to graduate with an MA from the University of Toronto. They grow up so fast!!
Here’s what Kara had to say about Fake It So Real:
All 59,065 words of Fake It So Real are thoughtfully considered. The verbs and similes in each chapter match the voice of the particular speaker — for example, in “What is Good,” a struggling-to-stay-sober Gwen compares the sound of clinking ice cubes in a child’s glass of iced tea to “rocks in rum” (p. 154) — which creates consistent and solid character perspectives that will stick with you long after you return this novel to your shelf (in the centre, cover forward, for all to see). I love how the chapters are carefully placed so that you get a sense of what has happened in the time between each event.
Although it was hard to pick favourites, I especially loved “Sock Daddy” and “Popular Girls.” Both are tragic in their exploration of complex human relationships. When Gwen admits to herself, sock puppet on her hand, that she misses the way Damian made her feel, I understood just how lonely she is in the company of her daughters and Shepps. So many of Fake It So Real’s lines gut-punched me, like in the first chapter: “She could not say no to the one person who could say no to her” (p. 8), and in the third: “Nothing was ever so good for Mom as the moment before. She was a constant reminder of the passage of time” (p. 35). I also admit that I teared up in “Big Spoon” when Meg says: “I’d write STAY on his back but by the time he guessed it the sentiment would be gone” (p. 117).
I am so proud of you, Susan! I still look up to your writing every day. If it weren’t for you, I would not be here in Toronto finishing my Master’s. Your characters are so lucky they had you to tell their story.
Kara had a friend in Victoria pick up a signed copy for her at my launch party in November and mail it to her, but she says her favourite book store in Toronto is Type Books. According to Type Book’s search function, neither I nor my book exist, so if you’d like them to order in a copy, you might need to use their contact form. And of course, there’s always the Toronto Public Library!
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: January 26, 2021
Kira in Toronto, ON – “I couldn’t have been more relieved to meet Susan’s women”
This week, we’re visiting the BIG SMOKE!!! And we’ll start with my friend Kira. I met Kira back in 2013 at the Banff Centre, when she and I and our friend Jon from Vancouver, whom you met earlier, all spent a blissful week with each other under the mentorship of Alexander MacLeod. I actually pulled out my diary from that time, hoping to find some hilarious anecdote I’ve since forgotten about Kira. Unfortunately, the diary entry consists of a 5-point list of my interactions with Alexander MacLeod followed by this: “I also met these two awesome, open, hilarious people, Kira and Jon, who were in my short fiction workshop. Ok I’m so exhausted I can’t keep writing.” What I meant to say was, Kira is one of those rare honest, funny women who you can talk with about things like how cum smells like pancake batter or how my ex-boyfriend at the time reminded me of a black bear. Maybe that was too much information? My point being, it wouldn’t be too much for Kira. I can’t believe it’s been seven years. I actually felt my heart lift when I saw this adorable photo of her in the bath with my book.
Here’s what Kira had to say about Fake It So Real:
When I first met Susan, I thought she was such a badass: darkly funny, deeply talented, weird and kind and unafraid. Over the years, I’ve read her stories as they’ve come out, most often standing in the aisle of a bookstore or library, never able to wait until I was home to crack the spine. And never able to stop reading once I’d started.
Getting to experience these chapters all together this year has been a particular treat, and a tonic. As the pandemic had me alone at home, scrolling, scrolling, filling so many hours with other women’s performative happiness and relentless positivity and (ugh) self-love, I couldn’t have been more relieved to meet Susan’s women again, with their relentless honesty, their brokenness on full display. They were messy, but in a way that felt strangely aspirational. As in: if I pee in my bathtub, will my life feel sexier too? (I did; it didn’t.) They surprised and comforted me, made me laugh on nearly every page, and won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
I bought my copy of Fake It So Real at Another Story Bookshop on Roncesvalles, in Toronto. It’s a delight of a bookstore, committed to promoting both diverse and local writing, and with a staff who consistently make great recommendations. If you’re in Toronto, buy from them! Another Story is currently open for curbside pick-up (online orders only) and they have copies of Fake It So Real in store!!! Yay! The book is also available at the Toronto Public Library, which is currently open for contactless hold pick-ups.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: January 21, 2021
Edward in London, ON
Today we move all the way from Saskatoon to London, Ontario (which is actually mentioned on p. 174 of the book!) where my uncle Edward lives. Edward is my mom’s youngest brother, and he was quite a bit younger, so I didn’t get to know him all that well growing up. My mom’s family has a very straight-laced, upright, productive-member-of-society side to it (my grandfather, the Anglican priest; my mother, the lawyer; her older brother David, the computer programmer and holder of facts who you literally could not play Trivial Pursuit with if he took the first turn because you would not get a turn) and then a more fun-loving, Bohemian side (my grammy, who traipsed around the world with five children, a smile on her face and a song in her heart; my mother, sometimes, when she’s had a glass of wine or two; my auntie Jill, the painter with a romantic heart; my uncle Rod, the folk singer; and uncle Edward, the rock star). It is perfectly fitting then, that the rock star of my family is a part of this tour! I’ve learned, from reading his facebook wall, that when uncle Edward was still living at home, practising with his band on the front porch, my grandfather poked his head out and asked the band if his sermon writing was too loud for them. Har har.
Uncle Edward said that he really liked the ending of Fake It So Real. I can’t tell you everything he said because of spoilers, but he liked that after years of being emotionally dead, Gwen came to life in the end.
Uncle Edward could have ordered his copy of Fake It So Real at Oxford Book Shop on Piccadilly Street in London, ON. It looks like they’re open for business Tuesday to Friday, 10-4. The London public library does not currently have Fake It So Real in their collection, but if you’d like to tell them they should, you can do so here.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: January 19, 2021
Janice in Saskatoon, SK — “It’s like looking at the world through HD glasses”
Today, we’re crossing another border into Saskatchewan where my sister, Janice lives. I call Janice my little-big sister, as in, she’s older, yet smaller than me. Surpassing her height of 5 foot-even (or is she shorter?) in high school was a grand achievement. For one thing, it meant she could no longer sit on me when we fought. Janice and I are polar opposites in many ways—she listened to Cat Stevens, I listened to Bikini Kill; she’s a farmer, I kill cactuses—but we both write. Janice published a best-selling biography of the early mountain explorer Mary Schaffer Warren, No Ordinary Woman, in 2006. One of my favourite times with Janice was when I went to visit her at university in New Brunswick when I was eighteen. She had just broken up with her boyfriend and we spent a few days being strong, independent women together. The characters of Fake It So Real would’ve been proud.
This is what Janice had to say about Fake It So Real:
I put aside the other dozen books I am reading to devour Fake It So Real over the weekend. It was hard to put down—even though I found it somewhat depressing! I got so attached to the characters though, and still want to know more about what happens to them, and what happened in Gwen’s life prior to chapter one. You have incredibly acute powers of observation (kind of scary really!) and a descriptive genius to match. I love the quirky and oh-so-accurate similes and metaphors. It’s like looking at the world through HD glasses. As for a favourite part, how can I pass up the tender scene in “After Gwen” between Shepps and his kale. A true gardener!
Janice ordered her copy of Fake It So Real at Turning the Tide video rentals and alternative bookstore in Saskatoon. You can order a copy online or by phone—they currently do curbside pickup or delivery. Or you can place a hold on a copy of Fake It So Real at the Saskatoon Public Library.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: January 14, 2021
Christina in St. Albert, AB — “She paints wonderful pictures of the characters”
We’re heading slightly north-west of Edmonton today, to St. Albert, where my high school friend Christina lives. Christina is probably my most quintessentially Albertan friend. For instance: (a) I shot my first (and only) shotgun at Christina’s cabin; (b) one could always find a deer carcass hanging in her basement; (c) her father was the VP of a company that had something to do with science (I was in high school … when people said “science,” I tuned out) and also spent his weekends in that one-room cabin, on the grounds of which he hunted said deer, which I believe is the most Albertan dichotomy of existence. In any case, Christina’s house was right beside our high school’s track, so my friends and I spent almost every second of our lives at her place. Now that I am an adult and have realized that frozen burritos do not, in fact, grow on trees, I feel I should send Christina’s mother a life-time supply to make up for those I have eaten at her place.
This is what Christina had to say about Fake It So Real:
I am reading Fake It So Real and I am loving it. The character description is so thorough, she paints wonderful pictures of Sara, Gwen and Meg, and all of the others who cross their paths.
Christina could have ordered her copy of Fake It So Real from Glass Bookshop in Edmonton, where you can special order a copy and have it delivered for free anywhere in Edmonton, St. Albert, or Sherwood Park. The St. Albert Public Library does not carry Fake It So Real, so if you live in St. Albert and would like to suggest that they correct this travesty, you can do so here.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: January 12, 2021
Kara in Edmonton, AB — “I was seeing the character’s life through my own eyes”
This week, we’re stopping in my home town, Edmonton, Alberta!!! Woooo! And who better to meet in Edmonton than my childhood neighbour, Kara? I lived across the street from Kara until I was eleven years old. What I remember from our childhood days is that Kara had the curly, voluminous 80s hair that I aspired to (several perms later, I still had no luck), she had a shrine to Kirk Cameron et al. in her bedroom that was perhaps only rivalled by my older sister’s, and her mother had one of the first ever leaf blowers—like before they were a menace to society—and we thought she looked like a Ghostbuster when she used it.
This is what Kara had to say about Fake It So Real:
If I’m being embarrassingly honest, I was surprised by the sudden and recurrent “raunchiness.” Not that I was offended or unimpressed but there was no mention of it in the description, reviews, etc. I thought, gee do I read so little fiction that raw sexuality is just expected? Naïve, yeah, probably, but now I know what “crust fiction” is (I think …).
Now for the visceral, head-spinning, physical experience that is “Angling.” This chapter/short story/dream sequence/I’m not sure, is a memorable experience. Not just a read, but an experience. And not in the way that fancy words or gimmicks make it stand out, but the structure changed the pace I read it, I could feel myself being rushed, spun, images flashing through my mind, but not mine, I was seeing the character’s life through my own eyes. I think I said “wow” when I finished this chapter.
Kara got her copy of Fake It So Real at Audrey’s Books in downtown Edmonton. They have copies in store, and at the moment I think you can purchase online and either do curbside pickup or have orders of $50 or more delivered free in the Edmonton area. I’ve just noticed the Edmonton Public Library does not have Fake It So Real in their collection (WHAT???). If you’d like to suggest the title to them, you can do that here.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: January 7, 2021
Annie in Calgary, AB — “This book caused a unique combination of guffaws-amongst-sobs”
This is Annie, my indefatigable publicist. Since Fake It So Real came out, she’s been doing the work of three people, it seems, to get the word(s) out. Though I am fond of a good ringer tee, I love how she’s gone the extra mile to create a punk look for her photo here. All she needs to do is turn her back to us and light up a cigarette and we’d have a serious dress-like-a-book contender here.
There were so many things Annie loved about Fake It So Real. Here are her top five.
- The gift-ability: As soon as it seems safe, I will tromp down to my amazing neighborhood bookstore, Shelf Life Books, to buy this book for some of my best friends. I will then underline various lines and put stars next to certain paragraphs, and write beside them: “sound familiar?”
- This book has one of the most well-executed endings I’ve come across in recent memory.
- The images that float through the book—and the individual sentences—are just so good. I can open this book to any page and find so many gems. Here, I’ll try it now:
- Page 72: The little girl whose “sloppy French braid was the aftermath of a mother-daughter tug-of-war”
- Page 124: The distant father who “returns, tosses the baby, pat-a-cakes, retreats”
- Page 209: “He’d expected to find her in a fetal heap, clinging to a vodka bottle she’d grown around like moss”
- The bath scenes.
- The humour. I am a crier when I read. I can often be found sitting at my desk reading manuscripts and blubbering. However, this book caused a unique combination of guffaws-amongst-sobs.
If, like Annie, you’re in Calgary, you can head over to Shelf Life Books and grab a copy, or order one from their online store for either curbside pick-up or free local delivery. You could also put a hold on it at the Calgary Public Library and be the first to get your hands on it once the library opens up again.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: January 5, 2021
Mom and Dad in Canmore, AB — “It gives a vibrant description of the effects on the lives of those left behind”
This week, we’re crossing a border into Alberta—and crossing borders is something Albertans know aaaaalllll about, especially if they’re Conservative politicians, har har har [major eye roll]. Anyway. I met my parents back in 1977 at the Miseracordia hospital in Edmonton. They’ve been fans of my work since I was putting out self-published, limited-edition chapbooks in the 1980s such as: “A Coat Full of Pockets,” “The Cabbage Patch Kid’s Sleepover,” “The Very Big Mistakes,” “The Iguana Meets the Easter Bunny,” as well as my Magic series: “The Magic Dollar,” “The Magic Easter Bascket [sic],” “The Magic Stick,” and “The Magic Broom.” Though Fake It So Real has fewer pictures and fewer spelling errors, they still liked it. Here’s what Mom and Dad had to say about the book:
Mom said: My favourite chapters were those dealing with Meg, particularly “Chorus” and “Tom’s Wedding.” Though she married Tom for “protection and procreation” and “thought once married she could coast, content,” she realized that she had to leave him in order to find herself and her bearings.
And Dad said: The chapter that sticks in my mind is “Sock Daddy.” It gives a vibrant description of the effect on the lives of those left behind when a husband and father leaves home and simply disappears. I also enjoyed the descriptive phrases and sentences, such as “Braceleted by masking tape, bowed by duffel bag, he was as greasy and limp as an undercooked French fry.” To quote Alexander MacLeod, “Nobody rocks a sentence like Susan Sanford Blades.”
Mom and Dad got their copy of Fake It So Real at Café Books on Main Street in Canmore, and even convinced the owners to carry it in store! If you’re in Canmore, you can also put a hold on it at the Canmore public library.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: December 22, 2020
Jon in Vancouver, BC — “The world of this book is like some kind of Velvet Underground Mousketeers Club”
Jon and I met at the Banff Centre, where we got to spend a week bringing our short stories to life under the mentorship of the great Alexander MacLeod. I think in an intensive situation like that you are quickly drawn to those who are weird like you, and that’s what happened with Jon and I and our friend Kira, who you’ll meet later, when we hit Toronto. One of my favourite memories of that time with Jon is from the morning after the first night of readings, when another writer told him how much she loved the story he read, especially the part about the shark. It became obvious that she had mistaken Jon for Alexander MacLeod, but he kept her going with questions about his own story, “And how did you feel about the part with the sister?” etc., until she finally realized her mistake. Jon is hilarious and kind, refreshingly real, an incredibly talented writer and astute reader. He’s helped me with a large part of this book post-Banff and I hope to share writing and good times with him for many years to come. Here’s what Jon had to say about Fake It So Real:
The world of this book is like some kind of Velvet Underground Mousketeers Club – with the dark gravity of Tillie Olsen, and the body language of Phyllis Diller.
I’ve loved Susan’s work for years. It’s heavy with agony, but glitters with a sharp humour that, instead of creating distance, somehow draws you closer to the characters — you can’t help but envy Gwen’s ferocious clarity, even in her world of sock-diapers and sweaty sleeper vans. (It also deepens the sensory overlap between sex, cheap sticky food, and childbirth in a way that you will not soon forget.)
There’s really nothing like it. This book deserves a tour that arcs way beyond these shores.
I got my mitts on Fake it so Real at Pulp Fiction Books. Pulp Fiction has been my neighbourhood anchor in two locations — on Main St., where I used to live, and now in Kitsilano. These tidy local shops are thick with the right titles, both used and new. They seem to defy gravity, rooted in as they are on expensive retail strips, and every time I leave one, I think about how France subsidises their bookstores, and that I wish we did the same.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: December 17, 2020
Libby in Campbell River, BC — “It balances danger, absurdity, and the banal with a desperate, dark humour”
We’re saying goodbye to Victoria and taking the virtual tour on the road today with my friend Libby in Campbell River. I met Libby I think seven years ago when we both did a week-long mentorship at the Banff Centre. Libby wasn’t in my short fiction group but we got to know each other in the cafeteria where the Banff Centre artist residents were surrounded by oil executives who were attending a convention hosted by the centre. It was an oddly “high-school” experience—the weirdo arty people bonding amid swarms of loud, finger-gun shooting, business-card wielding popular kids. Libby has been writer in residence at the Walter Morgan Studio in Campbell River this year, and is working on a novel, which I hope to have in my hands soon!
This is what Libby had to say about Fake It So Real:
I’d read and enjoyed so many of the pieces that form Fake It So Real in magazines over the years and I couldn’t wait to see how they all fit together. The intertwining of the stories of the three main characters was beautiful, poignant, and strangely comforting. There is a solid sense of being in each gritty, heart-wrenching moment, yet a corresponding vertigo at seeing the depths that the characters can and do fall. Susan’s mastery is in balancing danger, absurdity, and the banal with a desperate, dark humour. (Susan also definitely pioneered the term “moist breathing” in either some kind of pre-COVID clairvoyance or genius way of one-upping Justin Trudeau in real-time.)
Libby bought her copy of Fake It So Real at Munro’s on a visit to Victoria so that I could sign it for her, but assures us the wonderful Jane and Jane of Coho Books in Campbell River can order in copies for folks on the north island in a couple of weeks. Fake It So Real is also available to people in Campbell River through the Vancouver Island Regional Library system.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: December 10, 2020
Matt in Victoria, BC — “This book is steeped in a deep humanity”
This is Matt, or, as I like to think of him, the King of the Library. When I worked at the downtown branch of the GVPL, I first knew Matt as a sound—the sound of keys jangling from his lanyard, batting against his chest as he power-walked down the ramp from his office, flush-cheeked, ready to deal with that day’s (or hour’s, depending on the day) misdemeanor. After a few hellos, we realized we were both writers. Then, he told me about Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. I read it, and loved it, and then Matt and I became friends. Soon enough, we were meeting up with our mutual friend Vanessa and sharing drinks, and all the intimate details of our non-library lives.
Matt has been super supportive of Fake It So Real. He and his wife even have matching Fake It So Real T-shirts! This is what he had to say about the book:
As an avid fan and reader of Alice Munro, the comparisons that have been made between your book and Auntie Alice’s work are spot-on. Fake It So Real is very much akin to Alice Munro for the punk generation. You have done such a magnificent job of making extraordinary the lives of ordinary people. Parts of this novel were difficult for me to read and broke my heart a little. I’m the oldest child and have four younger sisters, and despite considering myself a staunch feminist and advocate for women, Fake It So Real gave further insight into the lives of women and some of the challenges they face in love, with body image, and with self-esteem; it was very raw to read in places, as I kept thinking of my own sisters and the struggles they have faced about which I have no clue. However, the most stark reminder I have taken away from your novel is that of our woundedness as humans. Regardless of who we are and what advantages or disadvantages we’ve had, life leaves its mark on us, often cruelly; we all carry hurts and pain. Some are able to overcome them, but others don’t have the support or tools to do so. Your book is steeped in a deep humanity, Susan. It made me laugh. It made me misty, and in moments it even made me angry. Ultimately, it is a triumph, and I enjoyed it so very much. I can’t wait for your next novel!
In honour of Matt, I’ll mention today that Fake It So Real is available at the Greater Victoria Public Library. Taking Canadian authors’ books out from the library is actually really helpful to them, and for those of us who don’t write bestsellers, it is often how we make the most money from our books. So please put a hold on Fake It So Real at your local library! If your library doesn’t carry Fake It So Real, you can suggest that your library carry it. Most libraries have a function to make suggestions on their websites.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: December 8, 2020
Alicia in Victoria, BC — “It captures so many nuances about human experience”
This is my friend and neighbour Alicia, looking smug because she gets to hang out with not only Frida Kahlo but Gwen, Sara, and Meg between the covers of Fake It So Real. Alicia and I have inhabited the Heartbreak Hotel family housing complex here in Fernwood for many years now and we plan to never leave. Seriously, we’ll have more babies if we have to.
This is what Alicia had to say about Fake It So Real:
As someone who loses interest in fictional stories more easily than I’d like to publicly admit, these characters held my interest. I feel like not since My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell has a book held my interest so well—due to the ability of the writing to actually transport the reader into another reality so easily. I like nature, that’s what held me to Gerald’s book. Susan’s impeccable writing captures so many nuances about the timeless human experiences of family, parenting, relating, relationships, and life. It’s a good read. So go read it.
Alicia’s favourite quotation comes from chapter six, “What to Expect”: “He said Sara the way he does now. The way he inflates the last a with balloons of disappointment.”
In Victoria, Munro’s Books and Bolen Books have many copies of Fake It So Real on their shelves, waiting for you. If you’re not in Victoria, a good place to find it (other than your own local, independent book store) is from Harbour Publishing or All Lit Up.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: December 3, 2020
Mike in Victoria, BC — “You had me at oral sex at Pluto’s”
I met Mike a few years ago when I was working at the public library. He came in looking for a book and I recognized him as the star of Current Swell’s video for, “When to Talk and When to Listen,” in which Mike played a librarian (in a sweater vest, no less) making a music video in the downtown branch of the GVPL after hours. As I was getting his autograph, we realized we were both writers and a friendship was born. Mike had just published his 2018 Whistler Independent Book Awards shortlisted book of stories, The Project, and he has since written two novels and is working on a third, which is way more than I can say for myself!
Mike shared this with me about Fake It So Real:
You got me at second bass player in a punk band and oral sex at Pluto’s. Of all the venerable restaurants in Victoria, none is more venerable than Pluto’s, which in my mind explains the suitability of oral sex within its confines. I love the way the quirky chapters of Fake It So Real fit together in a haphazard, non-linear way that imparts in the end the feel of a novel, yet each chapter stands on its own. The chapter that really got to me was “What is Good,” which chronicles the descent of Gwen, the dysfunctional matriarch of the book, back into an alcoholic haze. “Gwen said yes to one glass, it was spring and spring was made for hard iced tea. Nothing wrong with one glass. Nothing wrong with vodka in the springtime.” I really felt I was right inside Gwen’s head, with all the struggle and justification for giving up sobriety when she is supposed to be looking after her grandson.
Quit surfing and instead read this book. I bought my copies of Fake It So Real at Bolen Books. I can’t wait to read Susan’s next book.
Bolen Books is located in Hillside Mall in Victoria. Bolen books carries books and so much more – lots of games, puzzles, mugs, AND nine copies of Fake It So Real on their shelves (I think it might be shelved under Blades there, though my last name is Sanford Blades). And the All Lit Up blog is still offering 20% off until December 4, 2020. Use the code BINGEMAS20 at checkout.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: December 1, 2020
Maddie and Veronica in Victoria, BC — “I saw myself in each of the women in this story”
I’m really excited to share with you this very special mother and daughter, Maddie and Veronica. Maddie came into my life two summers ago when my oldest son, Benji finally asked her out after gazing at her across the bell of his euphonium for all of Grade ten (maybe Grade nine too?) during band class. They are absolutely adorable together and it’s been such a pleasure to get to know Maddie and Veronica this year. If I go on any longer, this will sound like a wedding toast.
These two had this to say about Fake It So Real:
We loved your book! This story is heartbreaking, honest, funny and so real! Its depictions of motherhood, daughterhood, married life, and growing up are true to life in a way that’s harsh at times, but also comfortingly honest. I saw myself in each of the women in this story. The “Popular Girls” chapter hit closest to home. Like Meg, I remember playing with Barbies at age twelve—that awkward in between time—wanting so badly to be a teenager, but not willing to let go of childhood. It was also exciting to recognize real elements of Victoria in the story! The familiarity of the setting and cultural references that are uniquely Victoria made it even more fun to read.
Maddie and Veronica bought their copies at Munro’s Books, and then another two for friends at Bolen Books. But today I want to mention another place one could purchase Fake It So Real: through the All Lit Up blog. They’re offering 20% off until December 4, 2020. Use the code BINGEMAS20 at checkout.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: November 26, 2020
Aaron in Victoria, BC — “Imagine Jane Austen writing about Shane MacGowan”
This is Aaron. If you live in Victoria, he may look familiar to you. You may have seen a flash of him in your peripheral vision as he shelved an entire truck of books or perhaps set up tables, chairs, and the AV system in the meeting room at the downtown branch of the GVPL in a matter of seconds. When I worked at the library, Aaron, the senior page, was like a mentor library elf—like, in the coolest, Tolkien sense—always calm under pressure, always helpful and understanding, knowledgeable yet fully willing to admit and to help find answers when he didn’t know something.
Aaron tore through my book, I think he said in a day, and had so many nice things to say about it. I’ve compiled them here: “It was sharp, apt, and observant. You did such a good job of deciding what to cut, what to keep, how to arrange it all that I never thought of those decisions until now. I didn’t appreciate a large part of the work involved, because a good job is unobtrusive. Like with paging at the library, when you do something perfectly, there’s no way to notice that it was done. The closest I’ve come to describing it is to tell people to imagine Jane Austen writing about Shane MacGowan (described by Christy Moore as “a magnet and a touchstone for other lost and wandering souls”)—the blurry motives that are familiar to most of us, described with sharp empathy and no wasted words.”
I’m not sure about the current travel restrictions, but Aaron might have travelled a bit up island and gone to Volume One Bookstore in Duncan, BC to buy his copy. They currently have three copies of Fake It So Real in store!!
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: November 24, 2020
Kyeren and Chris in Victoria, BC — “I relished in the breaking”
This Chris, the less camera-shy half of Kyeren & Chris, looking fiiiiiiiine in his Fake It So Real T-shirt with their copy of the book. I first met Kyeren ages ago (maybe 10 years?) in the Malahat Review office. I was the circulation and marketing assistant and she was in the midst of doing her MFA at UVic and sitting on the poetry board. It wasn’t long before we started meeting on our own time for what we named Ladies Coffee, as well as for play dates in which her daughter was enamoured with my son for the way he dusted sand from her feet but equally repelled by the way he smushed her playdough colours together (and who could blame her!). The last pre-COVID book launch at Munro’s I attended was Kyeren’s, for her book of poetry, Cult Life.
Kyeren wrote a lovely review of Fake It So Real on Goodreads, and I’ll share some of it here: “This book broke my heart over and over again, and I relished in the breaking. It feels like my life—even though it doesn’t resemble my life in its events at all, it FEELS like life feels. … You’ll wear it like an aura for days afterwards.”
Since Kyeren is originally from Australia, Chris and Kyeren may have ventured up the peninsula to Canada’s answer to Australia: Sidney, BC (also Canada’s only Booktown) to Tanner’s Books, to purchase their copy. Tanner’s currently has one copy of Fake It So Real in stock!
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: November 19, 2020
Jamie in Victoria, BC — “All those words are really powerful”
Jamie and I were brought together by books. The very first time I met him, he cut my bangs at Hive and told me about his friend Darrel McLeod’s book Mamaskatch (but what I really remember about that encounter was that when he took off his scarf, it got caught in his nose ring and he had to leave the room to sort himself out). We met again at the launch of our mutual friend, Mike Bond’s book of poetry, Bad Meanings, where he noticed that I’d recently given myself a bang trim with a less favourable outcome. Nevertheless, I enticed him to the launch of Kyeren Regehr’s book of poetry, Cult Life a week later. After that, Jamie read chapter 13 of Fake It So Real, “After Gwen,” which had just been published online in the Minola Review, and he was hooked. If I recall, his exact words were something along the lines of “I surrender.” He’s been my number one fan ever since.
Jamie’s favourite part of Fake It So Real comes from chapter nine, “Chorus”: This would be the time to touch him. Not a shuffle-past in the hall, but to touch him. To save her marriage, like a drowning puppy or an allowance. To crack herself open like a dry-glued paperback. To moan for him in her highest octave. To rip off his skin and wear him like a cloak.
I totally get this part, Jamie says. It’s really honest and hard and true and for some reason impossible to do. Like what stops us? I mean all those words are really powerful, the last part like holy fuck. That’s how you save something. That’s how love conquers everything: “to rip off his skin and wear him like a cloak.”
Jamie got his copy of the book in Victoria, but, when it was safe to do so, he might have ventured over to Galiano Island Books on our favourite Gulf island, to pick up a copy. The owners of Galiano Island Books, Lee Trentadue and Jim Schmidt have shared their love of reading and independent book stores with tourists and locals alike for over 20 years now. The bookstore also founded the Galiano Island Literary Festival, on hiatus for now, but which normally occurs on the island every February. You’ll find new and used books as well as rare treasures (such as the one copy of Fake It So Real they have on their shelves!!) at Galiano Island Books.
Fake It So Real Virtual Canadian Book Tour: November 17, 2020
Kathy in Victoria, BC — “Finally some honesty!”
Today, we start really close to home with my former neighbour, Kathy. Kathy used to live above me in our building, which houses “below market-level” families and tends to be populated with single mothers, hence Kathy’s name for it: the Heartbreak Hotel. In the tenth chapter of Fake It So Real, “What is Good,” the Heartbreak Hotel (but, I must add, NOT Kathy or any of my real neighbours) is featured, along with the picnic table out front, upon which we really did bitch about our ex-husbands and the poor selection of available men in Victoria.
Of the book, Kathy says: I just finished the “Angling” chapter. Wow!!! I love your book. All of it. I thought “Sock Daddy” would be my favourite but now I think it’s a tie with “Angling.” Honestly Susan I’m in a good mood today because I feel like: YES finally some honesty!
It looks like Kathy got her autographed copy at Munro’s Books in downtown Victoria. Munro’s first opened in 1963 by Jim Munro and his first wife Alice (yes THAT Alice Munro) and is now housed in the former Royal Bank of Canada building, built in 1909 and refurbished in its neo-classical style by Jim Munro when he bought the building in the 1980s. Munro’s has been a big supporter of Fake It So Real, and at this moment, I believe they have eighteen autographed copies in stock, along with many other fine books and, so I hear from my poet friends, an incredible poetry selection.
November 4, 2020:
Fake It So Real Book Launch – The Most Fun You Can Have During a Pandemic!
On November 4, 2020, we were lucky enough to celebrate the publication of Fake It So Real in person at the Victoria Event Centre. I read from the book and we played music bingo with a playlist inspired by the novel.