ScotiaBank Gillers

Q&A with Wayne Johnston

This year, 17 Canadian authors made it to the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist, the country's richest literary award for fiction. To get some further insight into their work and their inspirations, CBC Books asked the longlisted authors a series of questions. As the prize jury debates which books will be named to the shortlist, we'll be posting our Q&As for you to enjoy.

Here we have Wayne Johnston, author of A World Elsewhere.

Q: Pitch Canada your novel in three lines or less.

wayne-200.jpgWayne Johnston: Two young men, one rich and from an American Vanderbilt-like family, one the son of a Newfoundland sealing captain, meet and form a close friendship at Princeton in the late 1800's. The former, known as Van, betrays the latter, known as Landish Druken. Landish returns to Newfoundland and eventually becomes the guardian of a boy named Deacon who is parentless because of an act of recklessness committed by Landish's father at the seal hunt. Landish , who wants to write and not become a sealing captain, is disinherited. He has no way to care for Deacon and so must ask help from Van who now lives in a Biltmore-like mansion in North Carolina. Landish and Deacon travel to Biltmore where their fates, and Van's, are played out in the great, enigmatic mansion.

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

WJ: I can't say as I haven't had the chance to read any of the other nominated books yet.

Q: What's your favourite bookish place in Canada?

WJ: The part of my favourite local bar known as the "library" by its owners and patrons.

Q: Which Canadian author (alive or dead) would you most like to meet. Why?

WJ: I'd like to meet D. W. Prowse who wrote what still holds up as the greatest history of Newfoundland. It was published in 1895.

Q: Who is your favourite fictional character and why?

aworldelsewhere-125.jpgWJ: My favourite fictional character is Anna Karenina. As my father used to say, I might be in love with her. I wish Tolstoy hadn't thrown her beneath a train. Did I just give away the ending for some people?

Q: What would you be if you weren't a writer?

WJ: Destitute. I have a knack for no other profession.

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

WJ: I reread Anna Karenina. It never fails to break my heart.

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