Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Author Bill Gaston on accidental fires and questionable musical influences

The author of Juliet Was a Surprise answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Bill Gaston is the author of Juliet Was A Surprise, a collection of short stories. (Jen Steele)

Bill Gaston is the author of novels and short stories including Gargoyles, The World, Mount Appetite, and Juliet Was A Surprise. He's been a finalist for the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

Below, Bill Gaston answers eight questions submitted by eight of his fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A. 

1. Todd Babiak asks, "Do you ever feel so scared in the dark, when you're alone, that you have to turn on a light? If so, what are you afraid of?" 

I like the dark. Sometimes, when I can feel another awareness in the room, I very much don't want to see what's there.

2. Andrew Pyper asks, "Have you ever veered away from something in your work — explicit sex, say, or bloody violence, or a character uttering offensive thoughts — because it might soil the book for certain sensitive readers? If so, have you regretted it?" 

No, I've never veered. And I think at times I should have, so that's my regret. I've been called scatological more than once, and worse.

3. 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?" 

Good God, I've stolen from so many poets and philosophers that I can't even begin to answer this. And musicians? My first novel, Tall Lives, stole complete verses of the Ray Stevens song "Ahab the A-rab."

4. Peter Robinson asks, "What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the writing process?" 

Favourite part is putting together a good sentence, and finding musicality in that. Not to sound profound or anything, but I love the moment of creation. Least favourite? The business side of things — especially the dashing of hopes, the not being on a short list, again.

5. Timothy Taylor asks, "Are video games good for children?" 

Good and bad. Good for dexterity and speed and keeping the dopamine flowing, but bad because the content is stupid, and the habit is a doozy. It reminds me of alcohol, which is good and bad too.

6. Todd Babiak asks, "When literary prizes rely on audience participation, through social media, do you promote yourself in any way?" 

Never have, both because it nauseates me, and also because I don't know how.

7. Shyam Selvadurai asks, "Writers often use their own life as a springboard for fiction. Could you relate a real incident in your life and then tell us how it got changed into fiction?" 

Well, four years ago I was smoking salmon on my deck and I mishandled some not-quite-dead embers and in the morning the house was on fire. My novel The World begins with a guy losing his house after stupidly setting fire to his deck. 

8. Helen Humphreys asks, "What is the best piece of advice about writing that you have ever received?"  

"Don't find your voice, find your voices."