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Q&A: Russell Wangersky

russell-wangersky.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 is Russell Wangersky, author of Whirl Away.

Q: What inspired you to write Whirl Away?

A: Critical mass. I had a nucleus of stories that looked at the question of what happens when a person's major skill -- their pride, their need to be the centre of attention, their skill at their job -- became their biggest weakness or greatest blind spot.

Q: What would you say is at the core of your book?

A: The ability people have to simply fly apart -- lose some critical underpinning that makes their universe spin properly on its axis. And as part of that, what happens to people after that central core leans away from their own true north.

Q: If your book was being made into a movie, which actors could you envision taking on the main characters?

A: I don't know. I am a very rare movie-watcher, but there are some that would definitely fit the somewhat distracted, somewhat lost souls so aptly performed by William Hurt or Kevin Spacey.

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

A: I haven't read enough of them yet to truly make a pick -- since this is a fiction prize, can I just pretend to be someone else and pick my own?

Q: Where is the absolute best place for you to write?

A: That's hard to say: I can write most places, from hotel rooms to basements. I work now at a computer in the kitchen, but sometimes a dramatic change of scene turns out to be the push I need to finish a story or a chapter. I slip pretty easily into the piece I'm working on, and once it's playing in my head, I'm not easily distracted. I put that down to years working on deadline in newsrooms. If you can't tune out a noisy room when you're writing news, you're never going to get home.

Q: Is there a specific subject matter, event or location close to your heart that you'd love to write about in the future?

A: Yes, except I'm already writing it, so I'll be a little coy about details. I'm really interested in the current cult of the need for electronic privacy, while at the same time we're busily spilling out details about ourselves all over the place, filling electronic archives that will survive long after we do.

whirl-away-wangersky.jpgQ: What book has moved or affected you most in the past year?

A: A strange little collection of short stories from Germany simply called Guilt and written by Ferdinand Von Schirach. He's a former prosecutor, and the stories have a brutal ability to ring true, even though some of them are astoundingly short for the power they carry.

Q: What is one insight into the craft of writing or the writing life that you wish you'd known much earlier?

A: That you can't be anyone except yourself. It doesn't matter if there is a type of writing, different from your own, that seems to be doing particularly well. Unless you're an absolutely superb stylist -- a mimic, in fact -- your writing voice is your writing voice, and your best option is to refine what you have to the sharpest point possible.

Read more longlisted author Q&As


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