memoir Horseplay is due to be released in November 2020 and is an account of his time spent as an RCMP undercover officer working with heroin addicts on Vancouver’s Granville Strip. He retired after a successful and rewarding career in the RCMP, and now resides in Ottawa.
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 is coming out in a few weeks. Initially, it gave me personal pride just to know that I had finished what I had set out to do. Then, when my publisher (Newest Press) called, a new dimension was added to my life. My feelings went from pride to being thankful. I am still adjusting to the public side of writing.
2 - How did you come to memoir first, as opposed to, say, fiction or poetry?
The story dictated what would come first. I knew that my time spent on the Granville Strip, in Vancouver was a story I wanted to tell, so I committed to it before everything else. Meanwhile, I kept writing and studying all forms of writing, for which I still keep an interest.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially 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?
I usually begin writing only when I have a picture in my mind of what I want to say. Then I think of the structure and write the main elements down. After that it’s a slow process. I do multiple drafts and am constantly revising. It took me close to ten years to write “Horseplay”.
4 - Where does a work of prose 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?
I like to start with an image and build from there, finding the elements that makes the story worth telling. An image brings along all the questions a writer needs to answer: how did I get here? What does it mean? I don’t think too much about the length of the piece. When writing “Horseplay” I remembered driving away for the last time from Granville Street and thinking of the people I had met and what had happened. I had strong feelings about it and I knew that had become a different person than at the time the undercover operation started. That image carried me through the story.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I haven’t done public readings yet and I hope to enjoy it. Maybe it will make me look at my own writing in a different light. I don’t feel comfortable reading what I have written in the past unless it is to re-write or edit, so this is a new experience for me.
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?
Finding the basic human traits we all have, even if they lay deeper in some of us due to circumstances, is what interests me. On a lighter note, I just like a good story, and knowing that someone will find a welcome escape in my writing would be enough for me to keep writing.
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?
I believe that giving someone an opportunity to explore and live a situation that is foreign to them is the main role of a writer. It helps us understand each other and reflect on our own place in life. But for that to happen, the work also has to be interesting and entertaining.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
It is essential and should not be more difficult than the writing itself. An outside editor is an extension of what a writer does every day. It should be looked at in the same light. Disagreements should be welcomed and the writer should not be afraid of making hard decisions. Decisions are a part of every sentence, and every word you put down.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
When you’re done writing, leave something for the next day. Sometimes this means writing the first sentence of the next chapter or paragraph before closing the laptop. I believe Hemingway said it (not the laptop part…). It is so much easier to sit at the table and have something in mind before you start. It also gives you something to think about while you are not writing.
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 like writing in the morning, if I can. Or after having been outside doing something physical. Otherwise, I don’t really have a schedule and I blend my writing time into my life. This is something I learned to do while holding a full time job and raising a family with my wife.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I leave it and go jogging or ride my bike. When I find myself writing the story in my mind as I run or bike, or watch a movie, I know that it is time to go back to it and write.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
The hoppy smell of a brewing plant, mixed with a food factory, and a distillery. I am from a factory town and I remember smelling it coming home from camping trips with the family. I knew then that I was home. I still like it.
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?
Paintings, movies, and music all work for me. I often feel like writing after visiting an art gallery. It all seems to work off the same muscles.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I love fiction that is true to its characters and places. This is something I appreciate more in Canadian fiction than in anywhere else. I also love to return to the classics, some of which I can open anywhere on a page and enjoy reading a paragraph or two. I like how some books can capture a time and place as Hemingway and Steinbeck did in the 30’s, the Beat Generation’s On the Road and Naked Lunch in the fifties, and Updike’s in the sixties. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jose Cela, and James Joyce, among others, also had an impact on me.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
My life so far has been very fulfilling and my goal is to keep writing.
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 am fascinated by scientists who travel to remote places, such as New Guinea and the Amazon to study an insect, a lost civilization, or a type of rock formation. It seems that we still have a lot to figure out about this planet and it would be exciting to be a part of that.
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I remember having an picture in my mind as a kid and writing the story behind it so that the picture became alive on the page. I felt good believing that I had done it and I have been writing ever since.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Book: The Innocents: A novel by Michael Crummey
Film: Double Jeopardy a film noir set in LA about an insurance salesman who gets involved in a murder.
19 - What are you currently working on?
I spent the last ten years dedicating my writing to “Horseplay” and am eager to explore and undertake new writing challenges. I have also started to put some words down on a new project, but it is too early for me to really talk about it.
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