What is your working title of your book?
Listen All You Bullets
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was curious about the English class book selection at Asquith high school. There were no Canadian books that I remembered, but I remembered we read Shane in grade seven, and I wondered why. Was it meant as “western” literature, good for Western Canada? I had long ago encountered the argument that schools must teach the “best” literature and understood the implication that Canadian literature was not good enough. As my writing career progressed this idea became more and more offensive to me. I still encounter it with publisher’s representatives when I ask them for anthologies with more Canadian content.
Anyway, I wanted to explore a few things, using a novel like Shane as the starting point. One is these things do matter. What is popular culture becomes accepted as history at some point, and that can be dangerous. Two is the plot of Shane is too easy, of course. The blood is removed, and in the end the boy grows up well because of the example of the hero. I wanted to write a story in which the effects of this violent mythology were more realistically damaging.
The main character, a boy who is like a small man and carries the burden of this legacy of violence and cannot grow beyond it, came to me quickly thereafter. He was easy to picture: a boy in a hat he didn’t fit, weighed down by the guns he wore on his belt, and having adult mannerisms and habits.
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a literary western.
For the character of the boy, I don’t know his name and he’s much too old now. Years ago I saw a production of David Mamet’s The Cryptogram in Calgary, and that little boy was amazing.
I’ve thought of that guy as this character many times while writing the book. Louis C.K. could play the bookseller who thinks he’s a hero.
The parents could be played by Sarah Polley and Dean Norris. Kirsten Dunst could play herself.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A boy abandoned by his parents in the wake of frontier violence struggles to find a moral centre in an amoral world.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither. Gaspereau Press will publish it this September.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft took a couple of years. I never write a complete draft first, mind you, so who knows? It took two years to have the structure and all the correct pieces in draft form.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The idea and the inspiration seem inseparable to me. I suppose the inspiration is always work that moves and challenges me, and these works will continue to inspire my work. Three are mentioned in the previous question. There are an uncountable number, really. I subscribe to Poetry, for instance, and almost every month there is a poem that makes me keep writing and gives me energy for a week or so; a new George Saunders story in the New Yorker does the same, or a Stephen Henighan story in The Malahat Review.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Despite its historical setting, there is nothing real in it, except the violence. And despite the violence, it's a pretty funny book.
Please visit these writers for their answers, and I will try to add more: