Wednesday, February 27, 2008

12 or 20 questions: with Ray Robertson

Ray Robertson graduated from the University of Toronto with High Distinction with a B.A. in philosophy and later gained an M.F.A. in creative writing from Southwest Texas State University.

He is the author of the novels Home Movies, Heroes, Moody Food, Gently Down the Stream, and What Happened Later, as well as a collection of non-fiction, Mental Hygiene: Essays on Writers and Writing.

He is a contributing book reviewer to the Toronto Globe and Mail, appears regularly CBC’s Talking Books, and teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.

1 - How did your first book change your life?

The fame, the money, the women--it was all too much too soon, it almost killed me. But with the help of the Lord and Zoloft, I made it.

2 - How long have you lived in Toronto, and how does geography, if at all, impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?

Except for the four years in the mid-90's I'm not entirely comfortable talking about without a lawyer present, I've made Toronto my home since 1985. I find that being a dead, white male limits my work, but, alas, this is the hand I've been dealt.

3 - Where does a piece of 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?

I wait for God to speak to me directly and then simply take notes. I believe this is called the New Criticism or the Intentional Fallacy orTourette's Syndrone, I forget which.

4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?

Any chance to appear in public without my "handlers" is a very welcome occasion.

5 - 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?

I want people to feel more alive when they read my novels. And no refunds, all sales final.

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

Editors are like the police: they're necessary, but you feel better when they're not around.

7 - After having published more than a couple of titles over the years, do you find the process of book-making harder or easier?

Semi-hard, but, then, I've had a few drinks.

8 - When was the last time you ate a pear?

A pear of what?

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

Eat a lot, sleep a lot, brush them like crazy. Run a lot, do a lot, never be lazy.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (fiction to reviews)? What do you see as the appeal?

Novels are why I live; reviews are one of the ways I stay alive. Or maybe it's the other way around.

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

Hangover, apologies, regret, delusions, lunch, work, alchohol and loud music, repeat.

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

Good prose, cheap wine, lasting music.

13 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?

As opposed to What Happened Later, my latest novel, my previous one was called Gently Down the Stream.

14 - 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?

Sad songs, shouts in the street, non-refundable daydreams.

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

The ones who made me want to be a writer: Thomas McGuane, Barry Hannah, Kerouac, Virigina Woolf's non-fiction, anyone who can sing and dance and make me want to join in.

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

Finish answering these questions.

17 - 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?

Daycare worker.

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

Writing is the ultimate DIY art form--all you need is a pen and some paper.

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

There is only one great film, Withnail and I; as for books, if it exists, I haven't read it yet.

20 - What are you currently working on?

Heineken and pain killers.

1 comment:

Sally T. said...

I went to high school with Ray. And I'd never let him alone with my kids (lol). Daycare worker, indeed.