Creator and sole “correspondent” at www.dailybonnet.com, Andrew Unger is the author of award-winning novel Once Removed and the very new The Best of the Bonnet, both published by Turnstone Press. The Best of the Bonnet is in stores now.
1. When you first started writing The Daily Bonnet in May of 2016, did it ever occur to you that someday this would turn into a book?
I suppose at that time I’d only written a handful of articles, certainly not enough to fill a book, so I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. Eventually, though, I thought, “hey, I think I have enough for a book here,” and it seems I’ve long surpassed that as only a fraction of the articles can fit in one book. For a number of years I was concentrating on my novel Once Removed and put The Best of the Bonnet book on the backburner. I’m glad it’s finally out there in the world!
2. You’ve written one post, sometimes two, every day for five years. How do you keep up the pace?
I honestly don’t know. It became a habit very quick. I wrote every day, sometimes a few articles a day. There would be periods where I’d take a break, of course, but usually I’ve been pretty consistent and I’ve posted a new article every single day for five and a half years. I think because I’m constantly thinking of ideas, constantly observing, and constantly writing, I never get out of the habit. It’s like exercise. By now it’s just part of my routine.
3. With thousands of articles to choose from, how did you choose the ones published in this book?
I had a lot of fun reading through all the old articles. That was my first step. Eventually I compiled a manuscript and sent it to Turnstone Press, who also published Once Removed. Together with editors Sarah Ens and Melissa Morrow, I worked on narrowing down the selections. Some things I considered were how popular an article was, of course, but also my own personal favourites and articles that had longevity. I also tried to have a range of topics. I’ve also written a handful of new articles that have never been on the website, as well as satirical introduction, and a Low German glossary. There’s a lot of fun extras in the book.
4. I feel like everyone asks you, in interviews, questions about people not responding very well to your satirizing of Mennonites. But I know that you get a lot of heart-warming, beautiful feedback from your readers. Can you share some of your favourites?
Yeah, I think the negative stuff is funny or maybe shocking for people, though I’m used to it by now and to be honest, “hate mail,” if you want to call it that, is actually very rare. More often I get emails and messages saying how people appreciate the website. Recently I even got a whole box of La Cocina chips at my door, simply because I mentioned them in an article. What a lovely gesture. Another reader recently told me how she’d read my articles to her elderly father and how The Daily Bonnet is part of her last memories of him. That was very touching and rewarding to hear that my work had that kind of impact. I actually teared up a bit when I read that.
5. Have you had a book launch yet?
Okay, so, because the book was released in December, which is a very busy time for bookstores, I was not able to schedule an official launch event for this year. However, I am planning for live events in Winnipeg and others cities in the new year. Stay tuned!
6. Where can folks purchase The Best of the Bonnet?
Not the thrift store. Haha. Well, it’s available more or less everywhere. If you can support a local independent bookstore that would be great. McNally Robinson in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, for example, has been a big supporter of my books — and they ship anywhere in the world. The Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach and CommonWord at CMU are two other great bookstores to support. If your local bookstore doesn’t already have The Best of the Bonnet in stock, you can ask them to order it in for you. And of course it’s also available at all the larger and online retailers like Chapters and Amazon as well.