Take 10 with Madeleine Thien


Madeleine Thien is having an extraordinary year. Do Not Say We Have Nothing, her epic novel of a musical family set amidst the political turbulence of 20th century China, is shortlisted for The Giller, Man Booker Prize and Governor General's Literary Award. Madeleine answers 10 illuminating questions for BlackIris.co. 

Madeleine Thien

Madeleine Thien

What is your current state of mind?


When you have a perfectly free day what do you best like to do?

Daydream and watch the world go by.

What talent do you wish you had?

The ability to think in the language of physics and mathematics, and also to play the violin.

What is your greatest fear?

Not being able to help, assist, save, or comfort my loved ones.

What quality do you like best about yourself?

Quietness. Restlessness.

What is the first feeling you have when you finish a novel?

Wonder. The sensation of being two selves, the before and after.

When did you know you were really a writer?

When I first learned to read. I thought I was imagining the words into existence, that the writer and I were the same.

What is your most treasured possession?

The ability, or the aspiration, to feel what others feel.

 What quality about yourself do you wish you could change?

The fear of disappointing those I love.

Where is your favourite place to write and what time of day?

Early morning, and daybreak, anywhere.

Madeleine Thien appears at Kingston Writers Fest on October 2, at Vancouver Writers Fest on October 19 and at Ottawa International Writers Festival on Sunday, October 30.