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CS Richardson takes the Magic 8

The author of The Emperor of Paris on the value of intractable knots and creating characters you'd want to have dinner with.

What is the Magic 8?


1. Helen Humphreys asks, "If you write in a room with a window, what is the view out of that window?" 
Trees and rooftops in a ravine once home to mineral baths (now a sepia-toned Edwardian memory). In the foreground, the shed where we keep the garbage bins (now in want of emptying).

2. Lynn Coady asks, "Is there a poet, philosopher, musician, painter or any other type of artist outside the world of fiction who has inspired your work in a concrete way at some point or another? If so, who?"
The French photographer Robert Doisneau

3. Vincent Lam asks, "Do you ever choose to deviate from rules of standard grammar and language usage? If so, how do you decide whether to do it?"
As often as I can. If the circumstance (character, scene, whole book) seems to call for it, I wander off the map. If it then reads as affected, tuneless, or mind-numbingly incomprehensible, I return to well-travelled ground. I have abandoned more deviation than I have kept, but eventually I find my way to something (hopefully) approaching unique.

4. Greg Hollingshead asks, "How much—and what—do you think about the massive upheavals in the world of writing and publishing caused first by 9/11 and then by the digital revolution?"
I don’t think about them, at least not as they relate to my craft. Which is not to say they are not cataclysmic events. But they have no more impact on my ability to write a novel than do Kristallnacht or the invention of moveable type. Put another way: my conceits may (or may not) be framed by monstrous events, the delivery systems for my work may change, but for me the tale will always be in the telling.

5. Vincent Lam asks, "What is your favorite editorial stage, and your favorite type of editorial conversation?"
Conversation: every one I have with my editor, even the ones where she suggests that I try again. Stage: the final draft (being the culmination of all those conversations).

6. Sharon Butala asks, "Do you ever feel trapped by your writing life and wish you could escape?" 
Never. I’m trying as hard as I can to stay in. If that is trapped, feel free to tighten the knots.

7. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "You are hosting a dinner party. Choose seven characters that you've created to join you at table. Feel free to bring people back from the dead. Why did you choose these particular guests?"
At one end: Isabeau Normande and Zipper Ashkenazi, to discover what they’ve been reading lately.
At the other: Mr Umtata and Abraham “Le Drop” Walker, to hear more of their adventurous youths.
Facing across the centrepiece: Ambrose Zephyr and Jacob Kalb, locking intellectual horns about art.
At my shoulder as I pour more wine: Octavio Notre-Dame, whispering stories in my ear about everyone else at the table. Stories I could scarcely have imagined.

8. Kate Pullinger asks, "Do you pay attention to the opinions of your family—parents, spouse, siblings, children, etc.—when it comes to your writing, both in terms of what you write about, but also how you write?"
One family opinion: my wife’s, and only about the what. The how is for me alone to figure out.


CS Richardson's latest novel is The Emperor of Paris. His first novel, The End of the Alphabet, was an international bestseller published in thirteen countries and ten languages. Winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Canada & the Caribbean), it was named on four Best of the Year lists and was adapted for radio drama by BBC Radio 4. Richardson is also an accomplished and award-winning book designer. He lives and works in Toronto.

Photo credit: Curtis Lantinga

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