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Magic 8 Interview

I enjoyed this interview with CBC Books for their Magic 8 Ball, where the questions are picked (by a Magic 8 ball?) from those supplied by other writers. For instance, Kenneth Oppel asked me if I had to avoid distractions to write, and I said this. It sounded less damning in my head.

Here's a sample, but the whole thing is over here.

5. Robert Currie asks, "What writers do you read, not only because you admire their writing, but because you think you can learn from them?"

Every once in a while I flip through Tolkien for technical reasons. He can make you feel as if

great distances have been travelled or long periods have passed in the space of a page or two. In the early parts of The Lord of the Rings he managed an ensemble cast of nine characters. The last time I put four people in an enclosed space I was tempted to kill one of them to make the blocking easier.

I am also a big fan of certain realist writers - Alice Munro, Barbara Kingsolver and Mary Gordon spring to mind - who can draw a whole character just by having someone make a cup of coffee.

I would like to meet Anthony Doerr and find out how he pulled off his collection of short stories, The Memory Wall. Each of them felt like his personal story, the kind of story you write about your people and your hometown - but since they take place across three continents and half a century, that seems unlikely.

8. Kenneth Oppel asks: "Do you resist all distractions during the working day, or welcome (and even invent) them?"

I have the attention span of a goldfish and the self-discipline of an eight-week-old puppy. I

have to be ruthless about paring away distractions. For years I have done my writing in a

rented office with no internet, no phone and no doorbell. Alas I've had to give it up, so I am

currently winterizing a garden shed.

Contrariwise, if you ever come to my house and find it spotless, that's a Very Bad Sign.

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