In A Degree of Futility, one of the main characters, Simon, debates the merits of his doctoral studies with Lily, the narrator. While M.P. Fedunkiw has experienced her fair share of frustrations with the post-doctoral job market, she has no regrets about her educational pursuits. “Like Simon, when I went into the job market, there were some struggles. I had a book which was due to come out, which is usually the biggest step in moving from assistant professor to associate professor, but unfortunately, there are more people pursuing their doctorates than there are available jobs.”
It was the lack of academic jobs which pushed Fedunkiw towards a full-time career as a writer. She ended up realizing that her background in journalism had prepared her for life as a full-time novelist, but not in the way she had expected.“I discovered that [imposed deadlines] are my friend. They helped me in graduate school too. During my MA, I was the only person to finish on time. ... I was so trained by the 'deadline or die' mentality, that I would hand my projects in whether they were 'perfect' or not.”
Her punctual mindset was vital to a timely completion of A Degree of Futility. As an author, she understands that it is very tempting to aim for an unrealistic, perfected version of your work, but self-imposed deadlines are needed to stop others from spending needless hours 'perfecting' one paragraph. In addition to time management, Fedunkiw recommends that other authors storyboard their ideas; through the use of Excel spreadsheets, she was better able to map out all of her chapters.
Fedunkiw admits that her background in journalism has given her a bit of a head-start on her promotions, but many of her anxieties ring true with first-time authors as well. “As Michael Walton said, the promotion needs to start long before the book is released. Planning for your book's release can be tricky when you do not yet have books to give people, but it is important to be prepared.” She also encourages authors to narrow down their audience. Having a target market in mind makes it much easier to reach readers.
Right from the first page, Fedunkiw intended to write for a particular audience; professional graduate students. “The voice that I have given the characters was very deliberate. You have to be a bit of a nerd to enjoy this book ... I like to think of it as cerebral humour.” Early on, she found herself inspired by the work of British author David Lodge. His publications, Small World, and Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses inspired Marianne's academic career. “I read them in high-school, and loved them! There were so many British-isms! It planted the seed in me of I wonder what it would be like to be a professor..."
M.P. Fedunkiw is an academic, journalist, playwright, and author. Her recent publication, A Degree of Futility, is available for purchase through the FriesenPress bookstore. Fedunkiw is scheduled to attend a writers conference at the University of Massachusetts in June. For more information, please visit: mpfedunkiw.com
Interviewed & Written by: Ashley Good