Category Archives: Interview with a writer

Opal Interview with Robert J Sawyer

From the Archives – March 2017 Opal Magazine.



OPAL: Can you tell us what prompted you to write Quantum Night?

Quantum Night is my twenty-third novel. Most of my previous books had been very optimistic in tone, so much so that a few people have suggested I was perhaps naïve or Pollyannaish about the future. I don’t think that criticism was justified but I decided nonetheless to write a novel asking a simple question: is there any science of evil? As soon as I started researching that, I discovered there was tons: evolutionary psychology, game theory, experimental psychology, sociology, neuroscience, and more. You see the concept of evil dealt with all the time in fantasy fiction, where it’s considered to be an elemental force or supernatural power, but rarely if ever in reality-based a science fiction, and so I decided to tackle that topic.

OPAL: Your newest novel, Quantum Night, is set in Calgary, Winnipeg, and Saskatoon. There are wonderful and completely accurate details about each; have you lived in any of these cities?

Cumulatively, over numerous trips, I’ve spent a couple of years in Calgary, and more than a year in Winnipeg. And I was writer in residence at the Canadian light source, Canada’s national synchrotron, in Saskatoon, in the summer of 2009. I fully agree that the only way to write with authority about a place that really exists is to have visited it, walked its streets, eaten in its restaurants, and talked to its denizens. I was proud to be able to showcase three cities that I love so much in this novel.

OPAL: Were you concerned that a Canadian set novel would be accepted by publishers?

Not in the least. Of course, that’s easy for me to say now, with all the awards and bestsellers under my belt. The real question is: was I deterred when writing my first novel about setting it in Canada or having Canadian characters? At that time, the late 1980s, everyone I knew cautioned me against setting my work in Canada. But I am a Canadian patriot, and I think this country has much to teach the world. And so way back then I went ahead and did it — and, in all the time since, I’ve never had any pushback from any American publisher, editor, agent, bookseller, or reader. If a Scandinavian-set novel like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo can be an international bestseller, why the heck can’t a Canadian one?

OPAL: Are any of your characters based on real people that you know?

In some of my books, yes — although they’re more likely to be amalgams of several people I know. In this novel, Quantum Night, the main character Jim Marchuk is not me, but he is certainly who I’d like to be. Jim is a committed utilitarian, sacrificing even his own best interests for the collective good and eating only a vegan diet. He’s a better man than me.

OPAL: The experiments and facts about psychopathy and quantum physics in the story are fascinating and chilling. What amount of truth is there in the story – for example, are there really 3 categories of the population out there: Q1’s, Q2’s, and Q3’s?

Everything I say the novel about psychopathy and quantum physics is true and rigorously researched. As an appendix to the novel I do something very unusual: I provide a comprehensive bibliography for those who want to follow up on my research. My contribution to the discussion is the notion of the three distinct categories of consciousness. Is that actually true? I don’t know; no one knows. But I was invited to lecture on the topic at the 2016 Science of Consciousness conference in Tucson. It’s certainly a topic worthy of further investigation.

OPAL: For our authors out there, can you tell us how you outline your novel when you are writing? Do you have a preferred method?

When you begin a career as a novelist, you have no choice but to write the complete book before getting a publishing contract. Later on, a publisher will give you a contract if you provide sample chapters and an outline of the complete work. Even later — at the stage I’ve been at for more than a decade — a publisher will give you a contract pretty much just for what ever your next book is going to be without really anything much up front. So, because I’m not economically obligated to produce outlines anymore, I don’t, at least not in any great depth. The only thing I consider it crucial to know is how the book ends, and then I’m very content to take the scenic route as I write generally ambling towards that destination.

OPAL: What is next for you? Any ideas for the next novel?

Well, I’m not super-thrilled with the current state of publishing, to be honest. I was lucky enough in 2009 to have a network TV show based on one of my books, FlashForward, on ABC. And so I’ve been concentrating my energies on getting more TV projects off the ground. That said I do have a terrific idea for another novel, one in which most of the characters would be real historical figures. The challenge of that appeals to me: nobody knows Jim Marchuk or Kayla Huron, the main characters of Quantum Night, better than I do; nobody can say I wrote them incorrectly. But millions of people are familiar with the lives and work of the great twentieth- century physicists, and trying to capture their characters and distinct voices in a novel strikes me as a very interesting undertaking.

Thank you Robert!

Interview with a writer – Helene oseen

Welcome to another week of From the Archives. This interview was taken February 2019. I hope you enjoy these interviews, and look forward to some new ones coming this Fall!

Helene Oseen is the author of Wear Your Life Well.

Helene, I started reading your book right after our interview and I thoroughly loved your openness and candor. What inspired you to write Wear Your Life Well?

I find it ironic that in all the noise of our day-to-day existence and in amongst all the technology and communication advancements, the world has grown less personal.

What truly connects us is our stories. They always have and they always will. I have heard stories that changed my life and, in hindsight realized that they were very specific to what I needed to hear at the time. The impact stories have on us is personal.

Today we can watch movies and television and read books to hear stories. But our ancestors told stories about their life experiences, and they told these tales to each other regularly. They knew that stories add a layer of richness to every day life. They did it to give each other insight, to entertain each other and to engage each other in times of sadness and celebration.

Sharing real-life stories was an essential element in forging friendships, families and communities. It brought individuals a greater intimacy with each other and simultaneously a stronger sense of self.

Life is full of journey’s and stories and writing Wear Your Life Well: Lessons on the Journey to your Truest Self was not only a writing journey, but a life journey for me. The process helped me get in touch with my essence. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it out as a go. My life. My outfits. Everything.

Who is Wear Your Life Well written for?

I love the company of women. I realized how important we are to each other early in life and over the years have come to appreciate the bonds that connect us from childhood to old age.

We all have similar relatable life experiences. We may think we have an ordinary life, but I assure you that we all have some extra-ordinary stories. Our stories look different for each of us, but we all have stories to tell. We have all had welcome highs and difficult lows. Our stories are the fabric of our life. Some days we wear silk, some days we wear burlap.

By sharing my slice-of-life experiences with vulnerability and unconditional honesty I hope that women will discover that they are not alone in navigating the quirks, absurdities and wonders of everyday life. I wrote how-to and why-not lessons to inspire and encourage women to make their dreams real and understand that their beauty comes from being strong, stylish and confident.

I found it lovely how you presented fashion sensibility together with the becoming and maturity of womanhood in all its aspects. Why did you write the book in this particular style?

I worked in the fashion industry for over 25 years. As a personal stylist often when women would come to shop with me, I understood that they were looking not only for a new outfit, but often what they really wanted is to update their life too.

I became known as a fashion therapist to many of my clients, because you can’t really separate look from life. For women, it’s all part and parcel of who we are.

I also spent several years as a weekly newspaper columnist for the Calgary Herald writing a Q&A column called Fashion 911® and did weekly television segments on Global Television Saturday Morning Breakfast show by the same name. This taught me that most women have no aspiration to be a fashion icon. They do want to get it right in the morning and then get on with their day. I provided runway to reality advice.

I told my friend, esteemed author and Calgary Herald columnist, Catherine Ford, that I had this idea to do a book on style tips but also life lessons. She shook her head and told me that can’t be doe, they are two different things, and it would need to be two books.

But I knew I could write one book and meld the truth of what I know.

I started to write and then it’s almost as though it started to write me. Initially writing from my head and then the words started to flow directly from my heart.

Once I committed to doing the book magic started to happen. I sort of had an idea about the beginning, the theme of it and the end, but that’s it.

When it was done, I asked Catherine to read it and see what she thought. She honoured me by writing the Foreword to the book.

I could entirely relate to the experiences that we women share through all the phases of our lives and I especially loved your personal little stories. Do you have a favourite story in the book that you would like to share here? (Mine was the ‘colour of panties story’!)

I find it hard to choose just one because there are 3 types of stories – all of which make up the 42 stories in my book. The first kind are the haha stories, those that are funny and give us a good giggle. Because that was one of your favourites (and that of many women) I’m happy to share it.

The second kind of stories are the aha stories – those that delight or surprise the mind as we come to a new understanding about something around us or within us as we listen to intuition that whispers us to take action.

The third type of story and the stories of most importance to us are the ahhhh stories, those that touch deep emotions and move the spirit. Those are the stories that reveal the forces that shape us, where we have come from, attitudes we adopt, the values we hold and contributions we can make.

I hope you enjoy this story:

uncover your secret strength

It’s not about seducing men, it’s about embracing womanhood.

~Dita Von Teese

My granddaughter Zoë, just two and recently potty trained, started to hop around at the mall as if she was dancing on a bed of hot coals. I took this as a sign that she had to go so I whisked her into the nearest public washroom. She made it. Yay!

I praised her, told her how proud I was of her, that she was a big girl now and didn’t need to wear pull-ups anymore. With a huge smile on her face, and with a clear sense of accomplishment, she became quite excited and animated when she told me that she has lots of nice panties — her favorites being her purple Dora panties. Now we all know it’s common to talk pee-pee and poo-poo in public with young children.  So, it wasn’t surprising that at exactly the moment we were leaving the washroom, at exactly the moment we were walking past a line-up at the check-out, in all innocence she used her outside voice and asked: “What color is your panties Grandma?” Everyone chuckled. I blushed and made certain I didn’t make eye contact with anyone. I leaned over and whispered to her sweet little face “My red ones’ honey and please use your inside voice.” 

Some days I wear my Bridget Jones proper panties.  Other days call for my power panties. Not those provocative wisps we think we should wear for our partner — but those we wear for ourselves to celebrate growing out of girlhood and into a woman.

Let me tell you about mine.

After my second divorce my confidence and self-esteem was suffering. I felt fractured. I had always loved the color red but at that time in my life I wasn’t emotionally ready to own the power that red represents — strength, courage, power and passion. I couldn’t relate. It made me uncomfortable. So, I didn’t wear it.

But I had a little secret. Whenever I needed a psychological boost, I would wear a pair of red panties. Not outside my clothes like a super-hero. My red (not so tiny) knickers were my hidden superpower. Wearing them made me feel invincible.

As I started to own my power, and my life again, I started to incorporate more red: first nail polish then handbags and shoes and ultimately apparel. Bringing red back into my being was a sure-fire confidence booster that made me feel vibrant and full of life.

That episode with Zoë prompted me that maybe my panties might not be as pretty as they once were. So, since then I’ve ruthlessly sorted through my pile of unmentionables and tossed any that were not up to snuff. Too old? Worn out? Lost their shape? Out they went.

On those days when I need to stand a little taller and be a little braver, I still reach for my red reminders when I get dressed. After all, even a little girl knows that it feels nice to wear pretty panties.

You also have a Journal. Wear Your Life Well: Your Journey through Journaling.
Why do you recommend journaling?

I bet at some time you have thought to yourself, WOW I’ve been through a lot of CHIC in my life. (I couldn’t resist.) I urge you to start to record some of your life events and your day-to-day thoughts. You don’t need to be a writer. Spelling and grammar mistakes are fine. These musings are for YOUR eyes only, like that secret diary you had as a young girl.

When you start to remember your story, it will heal you because you are honouring yourself as you acknowledge both the pleasure and pain in your life. Your inner wisdom doesn’t come from age, it comes from reflection.

Going forward, if you are feeling stuck or confused about something, by journaling you are coaching yourself through your “stuff’ and that blank page suddenly becomes your best friend who is helping you unclog your mind. It’s an effective way to deal with daily life, cope with stress and create exciting permanent change.

That’s why I created the companion volume to my book. It is filled with prompts that will lead you through activities that will stimulate your memories and turning points in your life and give you the courage to go in the direction of your dreams.

Where can we buy your book? Can you tell us about your Masterclass program?

My books are available on AMAZON.

I’d LOVE to tell you about my Masterclass because it is my best work yet. I am incredibly proud of this on-line program and how it impacts the women who take it. I only offer it 3 times a year and the next class starts on March 24, 2019. It’s called Midlife Makeover and you can get all the details at

Let’s connect. To get you started on your journey to your truest self, I’ve got some free gifts for you to download. Visit

You can also follow me on Facebook at and on Instagram @heleneoseen.

Read Book Talk for more information about this book.