Andrew Pyper was one of last night’s Showcase authors where he presented his latest novel called The Demonologist. I admire Andrew for being such a talented and prolific author. I also hate him just a little bit for his ridiculous ability to produce quality fiction so effing fast. We both had books out in 2008. How many has he published since then? Two. Me? Zero. So we’re 2:0. But who’s counting? Our mutual agent, that’s who. Some authors are on the same cycle, meaning they release books at the same time every three or four years, and in turn they find themselves reunited at festivals and such. Every time I see Andrew I feel like a turtle. But whatever. He’s a nice guy so I’ll let it go. His commitment to his craft and gracious ‘niceness’ makes it difficult to hate him. Alas.
After his reading last night at the J-Dutton, he discussed The Demonologist in a short interview, in which the subject of FEAR was kicked around. FEAR, one of the strongest emotions we as humans will experience. Fear is an emotion that can propel our behaviour or decisions in directions we can’t and don’t always see coming. Pyper explained that both writing and reading about fear is unlike reading or writing other emotions such as love or grief or worry. Fear is more revealing in a deeper, raw and honest way. The unique tension inherent to working with this kind of emotional response continues to motivate his decision to write literary horror. Working with fear presents opportunities in a narrative that are not otherwise possible.
When asked about his influences he mentioned both Alice Munro and Stephen King, explaining that he sees little distinction between these two types of books, “The events don’t define the writing,” he said, “the writing defines the work.” One question I wish I had asked him but only thought of later, was how—in his opinion—can we distinguish between intuition and fear in everyday life. For instance, say you are about to have a medical procedure, and you’re a little scared (naturally)—and your gut is insidiously whispering, I don’t think you should go through with this… How do you know if this is a nagging fear that must be overcome (courage has rewards), or an intuitive voice you should stop and listen to? Maybe I am overly philosophizing, but I think these two emotional experiences can sometimes be difficult to distinguish. Hmm.
The rest of the lineup was equally engaging, Todd Babiak (speaking of fear) talked about the nightmare he had several years ago, a bad dream that he couldn’t quite shake off, and how this dream informed the initial premise for Come Barbarians. Todd is another one of these pesky prolific writers who’s released two books since 2008. And he’s running a business! With two kids and a family! Maybe having kids urges you into a regimen that enforces the requisite discipline necessary to completing books. I should mention that both Todd Babiak and Andrew Pyper have great blogs. Click their names to check these out.
D.W. Wilson (author of Ballistics) shared some details about his writing experiences at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, a town he jokingly referred to as a “graveyard of ambition.” Wilson was a judoka expert for eleven years at an earlier point in his life, and while he is no longer involved in the martial arts, he lit up on the subject of physicality; to observe and capture the machinery of the body as a writer is of great appeal to him. This reminded me immediately of Giller-nominated Craig Davidson’s kinetic style (Cataract City) and I’m curious to watch for parallels between these two authors and their novels. Here is a Globe & Mail interview where D.W. shares some of his thoughts on being a writer.
Michael Winter stepped onto the stage, and like other Newfoundland authors I’ve enjoyed hearing from, drew the audience into colourful anecdotes about how his latest novel, Minister Without Portfolio, came to fruition. “Such a bad title,” he said, shaking his head, “so bad. I always thought I would change it.” Winter is a funny man. He gave amusing advice to aspiring writers. First of all, “Don’t use Moleskins…you know those nice expensive little notebooks that Hemingway and Chatwin used? Why? Because you’re thoughts aren’t good enough!” To be clear, he made this point with animated and obvious humour. He displayed the cheap (free, actually) little booklet he carries around in his pocket to jot down his daily observations, and I have no doubt the students in his fiction workshop this evening will leave with sore cheekbones from laughing.
After the Showcase, we fuelled up on snacks and cocktails at the Late Night Party where author and musician Geoff Berner entertained a packed room. Local authors had the opportunity to chat, laugh and compare notes with the Festival authors and other industry insiders. At some point after midnight, the lights were turned up. “Ah, the F*** off lights,” announced brilliant poet and friend, Christian Bök.
Slowly the crowd thinned out and Dave and I left to catch a cab to get home. In the car we swapped stories about the people we’d talked to and what they’d said. “Andrew Pyper’s already half-way through his next book,” he elbowed me in the ribs. “Seriously!” I threw up my hands and let my head butt into the car’s backseat window. I curled my fist, “Pyper.”
Stay turned for more Festival coverage! To see more photos by Official WordFest Photographer Monique de St. Croix, CLICK HERE.
Samantha Warwick is the author of the novel Sage Island (WordFest artist 2008 + 2009). Her nonfiction and poetry have been broadcast on CBC Radio and appeared in various literary and commercial publications including Geist, Event, Room, filling Station, The Globe & Mail and FASHION. Samantha is the Official WordFest Blogger for 2013, and moderator of “Afternoon Delight,” featuring L. Marie Adeline and Ophira Eisenberg on Saturday, October 19.