Michelle Berry's Red Letter Day


Red Letter Day is the 49th Shelf series where Canadian authors tell us about a dream day where all pleasures are possible, thanks to a combination of extraordinary talent and mad cash.

Today that day is envisioned by Michelle Berry, author most recently of the suspense novel, Interference, in which an ordinary neighborhood turns out to be anything but.

Here is the premise: It’s been a good year. Things are looking up. You’ve sold your book, some lucrative foreign rights, and won a few prizes. AND it’s your birthday. It’s time to treat yourself. For once, money is no object. It’s time to go live a little.


49th Shelf: You walk (or fly!) to your favourite bookstore (MB: Munro's Books in Victoria) and browse the shelves for three books you’ve been meaning to buy. What are they?


MB: Also, I'll see if I can pre-order new books by two other wonderful writers, Elisabeth de Mariaffi (The Devil You Know) and Rebecca Godfrey (The Dilettante), which are coming out soon.

49th Shelf: Then you see a struggling student scanning the shelves of the Canadian Literature section. You decide to “pay it forward”

and buy three must-read books by Canadian authors to leave anonymously at the counter for the student. What are they?"


... The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick Dewitt; anything by Rohinton Mistry or Michael Ondaatje, especially The English Patient; Esi Edugyan's Half Blood Blues; Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel, Barbara Gowdy's Falling Angels; Ann Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees; Linden MacIntyre's The Bishop's Man; Eden Robinson, Lynn Coady, Lisa Moore ... I could buy this student the whole Canadian literature section we have so much talent here.

49th Shelf: You’re a little bushed from all that buying and being considerate. So you’re going to go home, flake out on the couch for a while, and celebrate the birthday indulging in some of your favourite things to do at home. Here are some options:


  • Listen to a killer album: Mumford and Sons' “Babel.”
  • sunsetboulevard

    Watch a movie you’ve been wanting to see (again) forever: Sunset Boulevard.


  • Visit your favourite non-book website: There are non-book websites?
  • Other: Bike ride then drink Prosecco and eat popcorn.

49th Shelf: Now you’re going to fly ten friends into town and take them out for dinner somewhere special. Where are you going to go?

MB: If I'm in Peterborough I'm going to order Indian food from Shafiq's and somehow get it to my cottage without it getting cold. If I can fly these friends somewhere I'll take them to Fiesole, Italy, where we'll eat at this small restaurant in the main square, the name of which escapes me. The pizza is great there, but that doesn't really matter—it's more about the atmosphere. We can walk into Florence when we're done.

49th Shelf: At dinner, that good old question comes up: what would you be if you weren’t a write?

MB: Unhappy.

49th Shelf: Then they ask you about your latest book. What do you say? 

MB: "Interference is about those small and large life events that constantly surprise you. It's about growing up and growing older. It's about living and loving and sorrow and happiness and cruelty and kindness. But mostly it's about several inhabitants of a small town over the course of one women's house-league hockey season and the way these people interact, interfere, and aid each other."

49th Shelf: Finally, because you’re the sort of person who puts aside 10% of your income for charity, you decide to spend make a significant a charitable donation.

MB: I think I'd give to some cancer charities as I've been watching friends and family suffer the last few years and I want to do something.

49th Shelf: That night you head to bed a contented person. Only one thing remains: deciding which of your new books you’ll read first until you fall asleep.

MB: I'd start alphabetically by the last name of the author, just to make it fair.


Michelle Berry is the author of three books of short stories (the most recent of which, I Still Don't Even Know You, won the 2011 Mary Scorer Award for Best Book Published by a Manitoba Publisher and was shortlisted for the 2011 ReLit Award), as well as five novels, including This Book Will Not Save Your Life, which won the 2010 Colophon Award and was longlisted for the 2011 ReLit Award. Her writing has been optioned for film and published in the U.K. with Weidenfeld & Nicholson. Michelle has taught creative writing at Ryerson University and Humber College, was on the board of PEN Canada and the authors’ committee of the Writer's Trust, and served as Second Vice-Chair of The Writer's Union. She presently teaches online for The University of Toronto, in-class at Trent University, and is a mentor at Humber College. She is a contributing reviewer for The Globe and Mail. Interference is her fifth novel.

September 17, 2014
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