News and Interviews

Claudia Dey's Triumphant Return to the Novel with Heartbreaker

Dey_Claudia 2018

Claudia Dey's Stunt was an innovative, genre-pushing, wonderfully strange gem of a novel. After a few years spent on other endeavours, including acclaimed non-fiction, playwriting, and her successful design line Horses Atelier, the multi-hyphenate Toronto artist has returned to the novel with her gorgeous new book Heartbreaker (HarperCollins Canada).

Heartbreaker follows Billie Jean Fontaine, who rolled out of a stolen car and into town 17 years ago. When she vanishes, her daughter, Pony, and her husband, The Heavy, along with a teen boy known as Supernatural, mount a frantic search. Dey's trademark dry humour and delightful strangeness take the story to a sophisticated, moving place. It's a triumphant return to the novel form for Dey, and we're excited to welcome her to Open Book today to celebrate Heartbreaker's publication this month.

We challenged Claudia to take our version of the Proust Questionnaire, a personality-focused quiz beloved by Proust and his fellow author friends. Claudia tells us about her real life heroes, makes us want to join her on a sun-heated rock, and offers a helpful (and patently punk) motto. 

The Proust Questionnaire with Claudia Dey

What is your dream of happiness?

Lying on a sun-heated slab of rock after a swim in a large body of cold water, the smell of a bonfire, my sons’ and husband’s voices close by.

What is your idea of misery?

Working in a Christmas store.

Where would you like to live?

The house in Call Me by Your Name.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?

Courage, ingenuity, wildness, mystery, grace.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?

Courage, ingenuity, wildness, mystery, grace.

What is your chief characteristic?

Watchfulness.

What is your principal fault?

Worry.

What is your greatest extravagance?

My fake gold Cuban link chain.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

Overreacting.

What do you value most about your friends?

Originality.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

Striving for status.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?

Fear.

What is your favourite virtue?

Justice. 

What is your favourite occupation?

Dancer.

What would you like to be?

Lead singer of a punk band. Also: a recluse.

What is your favourite colour?

The colour of my sons’ eyes which is the colour of the sky after a storm.

What is your favourite flower?

Pussy willow. 

What is your favourite bird?

Great blue heron.

What historical figure do you admire the most?

The Suffragettes. 

What character in history do you most dislike?

Hitler.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

Jean Rhys, Elena Ferrante, Tolstoy, George Saunders, Zora Neale Hurston.

Who are your favourite poets?

Anne Carson, Sam Shepard. 

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?

Nedra from James Salter’s Light Years. 

Who are your heroes in real life?

Teen activists.

Who is your favourite painter?

Harold Klunder.

Who is your favourite musician?

My husband.

What is your favourite food?

Spaghetti Pomodoro.

What is your favourite drink?

Red wine.

What are your favourite names?

Jazavion, Sugar, Mercy, Cleopatra, Nostradamus, Tennessee.

What is it you most dislike?

Imitation.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

The Midas touch.

How do you want to die?

My heart stopping on that same slab of sun-heated rock.

What is your current state of mind?

Watching my soul cross an eight-lane highway.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

My sons.

What is your motto?

Focus thine anarchy.

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Claudia Dey is the author of the novel Stunt, a Globe & Mail and Quill & Quire Book of the Year. Her plays have been produced internationally and nominated for the Governor General's and Trillium Book Awards. Dey's writing has appeared in many publications including The Believer and The Paris Review. Dey has also worked as a horror film actress and cook in lumber camps across northern Canada, and is co-designer of Horses Atelier. She lives in Toronto.

Buy the Book

Heartbreaker

A poignant new novel that combines humour and heartache, from the brilliant mind of Governor General’s Award finalist Claudia Dey

Seventeen years after falling from a stolen car into a remote northern town, Billie Jean Fontaine is still an outsider. She may follow the stifling rules of this odd place, but no one will forget that she came from elsewhere. When Billie Jean vanishes one cold October night in her bare feet and track suit with only her truck keys, those closest to her begin a frantic search. Her daughter, Pony, a girl struggling against being a teen in the middle of nowhere; her killer dog to whom she cannot tell a lie; her husband, The Heavy, a man haunted by his past; and the charismatic Supernatural, a teenage boy longing only to be average. Each holding a different piece of the puzzle, they must come together to understand the darkest secrets of their beloved, and lay bare the mysteries of the human heart.

With her luminous prose, wry humour and dead-on cultural observations, Claudia Dey has created a storytelling tour de force about what it means to love, no matter the consequences.

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