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Q&A: Robert Hough

hough_robert.jpgTo celebrate this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist, we asked each longlisted author a series of questions to help us gain insight into their work and their thoughts on the craft of writing. Here we have Robert Hough, author of Dr. Brinkley's Tower.

Q: What inspired you to write Dr. Brinkley's Tower?

A: In 1931, Dr. John Romulus Brinkley built a million-watt radio tower in Northern Mexico to promote a medical procedure in which he transplanted slivers of goat testicles into men suffering from impotence.

If that isn't inspirational, then I don't know what is.
Q: What would you say is at the core of your book?

A: I noticed you said "what" and not "who" so I'll answer accordingly.

I suppose it's a cautionary message, up there with "don't run with scissors" or "wait a half hour after eating to go swimming." Except in the case of Dr. Brinkley's Tower, it's more like: "if you monkey with a foreign country, you should be really, really, really careful."

Q: If your book was being made into a movie, who would be your dream director?

A: It has to be a director who can tell a fast-moving story, who can do both funny and poignant, and who is comfortable with an underlying dread. David Fincher?

Q: Which Scotiabank Giller-longlisted book (other than your own!) would you most like to see take home the prize?

A: I'd say Inside by Alix Ohlin, if only because it's published by House of Anansi, which put out Dr. Brinkley's Tower. They've all been so nice to me over there I'd like to see them make some real coin. I suppose if Dr. Brinkley's Tower and Inside tied that'd be the best ...
dr_brinkleys_tower.jpgQ: Where is the absolute best place for you to write?

A: I often hear about writers who go off to someplace remote and exotic to write. In my case, I'd be too curious about my new surroundings to get any work done. Likewise with going to coffee shops. Honestly, I see people in there, laptops open, screens of text staring them in my face, and my reaction is always: "If you were a real writer you'd be too busy eavesdropping on other people's conversations." Oh no -- I need the most boring, familiar place possible to get any writing done, and that place is my office in work-a-day Toronto.
Q: Is there a specific subject matter, event, or location close to your heart that'd you love to write about in the future?
A: Caffeine and Ativan. In fact, I'd love to write a novel called, simply, Caffeine and Ativan. Think how current that would be! Without those two substances -- which, ironically enough, work at cross-purposes -- I swear our whole society would crumble.

Q: What book has moved or affected you most in the past year?

A: Any Human Heart by William Boyd. At the end of it, I felt like those two characters in Spinal Tap, chatting at Elvis Presley's grave.

"Kind of puts things in perspective, don't it?"

"A little too much fucking perspective if you ask me."

Q: What is one insight into the craft of writing or the writing life that you wish you'd known much earlier?
A: In real life, we like people who are pleasant to be around. In books and films, we like characters who are fighters, no matter what their faults. 

Read more longlisted author Q&As


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