Montreal Tastemakers: Q&A with author Arizona O'Neill
We caught up with Arizona about her latest book release. Here's what she had to say about the process.
The Main (TM): Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us! With the upcoming Salon du livre event, we wanted to highlight some of the local authors in attendance, and we’re so excited to share your newest work with our readers.
First things first, what inspired you to write this book?
Arizona O’Neill (AO): I grew up around artists my whole life. My mother is an author so I was always around the Montreal art scene. I wanted to make a book that highlighted the amazing and curious artists in Quebec, anglophone and francophone alike. One thing I had always observed was how artists are mostly incredibly anxious and insecure about their work, even when they are successful. So, interviewing artists about whether or not happiness exists and is an obtainable goal seemed like the clear path to take.
TM: What were you hoping to highlight with this publication?
AO: I have always loved Quebecois culture, especially how they are so supportive of their local artists. I wanted to highlight the diverse types of artists that we love, how idiosyncratic and odd and beautiful they are. I wanted to talk to some of our most creative and original minds and have them grapple with the social construct of happiness.
TM: What was the most challenging part about putting this story together? What has been the most rewarding?
AO: Tracking the artists down! It’s hard to interrupt artists. They were all in the middle of touring, drawing in a quiet place, or composing some elaborate tune. All the interviews were done post Covid, in a world where people are more cautious to meet up in person. So many of the interviews were done on Zoom. I needed to think of creative ways to illustrate the conversations. Although this was a challenge, it also allowed me to be more creative, and I am very happy with how it turned out.
TM: What are you hoping for once the book is released in stores?
AO: I hope that people will find some insight in the book. Artists have a good understanding of emotions since they need to embody and convey them with their work. Therefore, they have very interesting things to say about happiness. After having done the interviews, I think the best advice I can give is to forget about happiness! Let it leave your thoughts. Focus on the little everyday things that make you happy. Constant bliss is unobtainable, let’s just let ourselves live without the pressure of happiness.
TM: Which fictional character would you be most excited to meet in real life?
AO: I think I would choose someone I encountered as a teenager, when I loved fictional characters with a passion. I would choose to meet Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead. I have always loved the comics and the television adaptation. In my book, Patrick Watson brings up how his music was used in the show, and I got very excited because it meant I would draw a zombie! I also put Watson in Rick Grimes’ signature sheriff hat.
TM: Now for the fun part! Let’s move on to a speed round. Name your go-to places in Montreal for…
- Drinks: Sparrow
- Neighbourhood: Mile End Adjacent or Mile Ex
- Ice cream flavour: Salted Butter (from Kem Coba)
- Bagel: Fairmount and Saint Viateur (I will not participate in this fight)
- Park: Parc Saint-Viateur (before the chalet caught fire)
- Landmark: La Voie lactée by Geneviève Cadieux (the lips on top of the MAC) or the Farine Five Roses sign
- Most underrated spot: Cinéma du Parc
- Most overrated spot: Saint-Viateur Street
- First meal when returning from a trip: Burger at Nouveau Palais
- Best thing about the city: Local bookstores
- Worst thing about the city: February
Stop by booth #413 at the Salon du livre de Montréal to catch up in person with Montreal’s own Arizona O’Neill. The in-person event takes place from Nov 23-27 at the Palais des congrès.