Wednesday, November 04, 2009

12 or 20 questions: with Tony Burgess

Tony Burgess is the author of several books and could be described loosely as a `literary horror fiction' writer. He recently adapted his novel Pontypool Changes Everything into a film for Bruce Mcdonald. Tony lives in Stayner with his wife, Rachel and their two children, Griffin and Camille.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first book didn’t really change my life…except it encoraged me to write another. It did give me some confidence in believing I could own a way of writing. Funny you should ask that about my most recent, ‘cause I’m writing a story right now that would fit just fine in the first book.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?

I did start writing in a kind of hybrid of poetry, fiction and non-fiction…still do…I like that you can approach fiction as if it’s anything you want., once you’ve damaged it enough.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing intitially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

Hmmm…it changes a lot…I tend to write sentences in my head…imagine the writing first…then wait, sometimes days, sometimes longer, for the right rhythm and pace to fit the shape…then I look for, again days or longer, a spot in it to pull hard against the rest of the story…this is the beginning…could happen to any part of it but the pull, a sharp pull, unexpected to the rest of the story elements and I have my beginning…then I physically write…usually fast… and close to how I want to read.

4 - Where does fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

There are more than one way…sometimes I know I’m writing a novel, but I allow somethings to grow in compartments within the longer form…I know, whether it’s short or long, my earliest challenge is to slow down…to let things be for a while…the ending can wait…it’s a bit like the way an actor trains themselves not to anticipate another actors line…you have to convince your reader that you don’t know what’s going to happen.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

Sure. I started as a public reader long ago, and the writing was just something to `perform’ then disposed of…I do much less public reading now but enjoy it…has not much to do with my process anymore though…

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

Yes. There are always theoretical concerns…and they appear and disappear as you need them…you can either seem to be in league with an idea or not. The great thing about theoritical concerns is that will lay seige on the least conscious thing. You don’t have to even know the current question,- you are – ahem - always already weighing in.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

Not a clue. Who should decide this: the larger culture or the writer? Dunno. Shouldn’t be me, probably.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

Hmmm. That is one of those relationships that if it goes smoothly it isn’t working very well.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Be working on your next thing before you last one gets reviewed.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I write in the morning. For a few hours…I find as the day goes on and other things interfere I lose focus…but, if I’m on some crazed jag, I write around the clock a bit.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

Writing very fast can get rid of a stall…really it can…make the conscious choice to write much faster. Failing that, sleep.

12 - What did your favourite teacher teach you?

Dilletantism works.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

Lordy, I was going to say films, which is true, but I see you gave nature as an option. And yup, that’s it. Entire completed and spell corrected paragraphs can be found in nature.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

Oh that changes…as time goes on it’s less about cribbing from great books than listening to ephemera around you.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Write a novel that you have to sing.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

I would like to be a weather person on TV.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

Hmmmm. Like anything I suppose, my Mom told me I was good at it.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

19 - What are you currently working on?

Fiction, novels and short stories. Sequels to that damn zombie movie….other things.

12 or 20 questions (second series);

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