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48 FINAL EXAM Professionally Speaking June 2020 PHOTO: TRISTAN OSTLER Shari Lapena's Mysterious Ways The writer of bestselling whodunits shares her circuitous route from lawyer to teacher to celebrated author. BY LAURA BICKLE • Born in Scarborough, Ont., in 1960 • Attended public schools in Toronto, Aurora and Belleville, Ont. • Graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor of arts in political science and economics. Obtained her bachelor of laws from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. Received her bachelor of education from the University of Toronto in 1991 • Did supply and long-term occasional teaching in the former City of York, mostly ESL and English • Her debut novel, Things Go Flying, was a Sunburst Award finalist in 2009 • Happiness Economics was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Award in 2012 • The Couple Next Door, released in 2016, was a bestseller in Canada and internationally • Her fourth novel, A Stranger in the House, was published in 2017, followed by An Unwanted Guest (2018) and Someone We Know (2019) Describe yourself as a student. Well-behaved. Teachers loved me. What were your favourite literary pieces studied at school? I loved the Shakespearean tragedies — Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth (especially Macbeth) and The Merchant of Venice. I didn't like the comedies. And I loved Beowulf. Who are your favourite historical figures? I loved reading about all the British and French kings and queens, and various revolutions. I read a lot about Russian history. But favourite historical figures? Honestly, there wasn't a lot to admire. Who are your non-fiction heroes? Right now, my real-life hero is Greta Thunberg. Who are your favourite writers? Kate Atkinson, Hilary Mantel, Anthony Trollope — and too many others to name. As a student, what career path did you dream of following? I wanted to be a writer when I was about nine. But I didn't really consider it as a career path. A law degree seemed like a good idea. But I never really wanted to be a lawyer. What natural gift did you wish to possess during your school days? And now? A photographic memory would have been nice. I don't need that anymore. I wish I had a natural gift for technol- ogy, but I don't. I still struggle with it. Who is your favourite fictional teacher and school? Hogwarts for most favourite school ever, and Snape for favourite teacher. What quality did you most appreciate in a teacher? I had a teacher who made history and politics absolutely fascinating. His name was Mr. McWhirter, and his enthusiasm really inspired me. Your favourite extracurricular activity? I was pretty good at basketball, even though I wasn't very tall Most important life lesson you learned at school? Probably organization and discipline. And how to make friends. Fondest school-related memory? Hanging out in the halls with my best friends from high school. We still get together now. What school experiences prepared you for your life now? I was a big reader from a very young age. That love of books is still a big part of my life. Also, learning to type was useful. High school and university opened my mind and stimulated my curiosity. You were a teacher: how did your school experience shape your career choice? I loved literature and wanted to share that. PS

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