JF Garrard is an award winning speculative fiction writer, editor and publisher. She is the President of Dark Helix Press, serves as the Co-President for the Canadian Authors Association’s Toronto Branch, Festival Coordinator for LiterASIAN Toronto, Deputy Editor for Ricepaper Magazine, and Assistant Editor for Amazing Stories.
With your background in Nuclear medicine and marketing, how do you balance your different fields along with being an editor and writer?
I’ve always wanted to enter the arts, but having Asian parents, this choice was deemed to be too risky which is why I went into Nuclear Medicine. I love science and business and from these subjects I’ve learned a lot of technical skills which I apply to running Dark Helix Press, an indie publishing house. Admittedly while I love designing covers and collaborating with authors to publish books or plan events, I really hate accounting, that’s my weak spot! I view editing as a technical skill as well, since it’s not being creative, it’s more about helping a writer communicate with the reader. Writing is my creative passion and it’s my playground where I can create new worlds to tell an interesting story. Having a science background helps me with world building since I use this knowledge to establish some groundwork about the physical world with the reader while introducing more fantastical elements. Generally I have no work life balance, I just do things. I suspect I have some form of ADHD but with focus I can work for long stretches.
Has being an editor strengthened your abilities as a writer, and vice versa?
Definitely! When you read a story as an editor, you are not part of the creative process and it’s more of a technical job. An editor’s job is to help the writer present their ideas in a clearer manner to the reader, but with careful consideration to not change the writer’s voice. Over time you remember things you previously asked writers to change and you can’t help but apply it to yourself to improve your own writing. But since I’m a writer, as an editor it’s hard to surprise me. When writers send in something unexpected I feel very happy!
What book in the Asian-Canadian literary canon do you think is a must-read? And why?
Ru by Kim Thúy is a must read. It was the winner of Canada Reads and Governor General’s award for fiction in French. It’s a lyrical telling of a young girl’s journey from Vietnam to Malaysia and eventually Quebec. It’s a great story about persistence and survival, no matter how terrible things may seem. This book reminds us to be grateful for what we have, especially towards our own parents who sacrifice so much for their children and to have more empathy for those who are struggling in other countries.