Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Edward Riche on recurring nightmares and the best Batman

The author of Today I Learned It Was You answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Edward Riche is the author of Today I Learned It Was You. (edwardriche.com)

When a local constituent begins to turn into a deer, St. John's Mayor Matt Olford finds himself in the middle of a social media storm. Today I Learned It Was You is Edward Riche's hilarious satire on local politics and the digital age. The book was longlisted for Canada Reads 2017.

Below, Edward Riche answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.

1. Lawrence Hill asks, "Why do funny novels get so little respect in Canada, and have you ever burned with desire to write something so damn funny that readers will fall right out of their chairs? Is that a laudable goal?"

Comic novels don't get respect in Canada because CanLit has been defined by earnestness and tends to mawkish lyricism. Those traits are at odds with comedy. Canadians feel literature is worthy, like exercise in the out of doors, so literary fiction that makes them laugh confuses them — they can't jibe pleasure with the pain they imagine should come from reading a book.

I've written several things that have had readers falling out of their chairs or pissing themselves and, yes, it feels like a laudable achievement. My wife insists that comic literature is so rare I should dedicate myself to it exclusively. If you hear the audience laughing you know you have your craft, if you hear them gasp you know you made some art.

2. Ivan Coyote asks, "If you weren't a writer, what would your dream job be?"

I've always thought I would enjoy being a mailman, a letter carrier. I would take that job now were it on offer.

3. Elisabeth de Mariaffi asks, "Are you a dreamer? Do you remember your dreams — and if so, are they notions or vivid with detail? Do you have a recurring dream?"

I have vivid dreams most every night. I have a recurring nightmare that I have committed a grievous crime, sometimes it is robbery, other times violence, and am shortly to be arrested. Never dream of the act, only the dread at the police closing in. I am not a thief and have never killed anyone so I suppose it represents something for which I feel guilty that is buried in my subconscious. I've been a good boy and can't think what that could be.

4. Alan Cumyn asks, "What do you do when the well runs dry, when it feels like you've had your last good idea?"

I've got a backlog of good ideas. My well fills up every morning I walk my dog. My problem is funding their realization in risk-averse, anti-intellectual Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Without a Canada Council grant it won't be viable for me to start writing the next novel despite having it already mapped out.

5. Mariko Tamaki asks, "How much of your writing process involves actual physical writing these days? Do you go write to the computer or do you work things out with pen and ink first?"

To avoid another course, I think it was Industrial Arts, i.e. shop, I took typing in junior high school. I assumed it was going to be a Mickey Mouse affair, essentially a free period to goof around. But the lady who taught the course was stern. She had been trained in yardstick by Mossad. One took her instruction seriously. So I learned to touch type at a young age. I go straight from head to drive without missing a beat. I'm forever in that teacher's debt.

6. Linda Spalding asks, "What moves you to tears?"

Song.

7. Anita Rau Badami asks, "What is more difficult, and which is more satisfying: starting a novel or finishing it?"

I've made my living as a writer, ad copy to stage plays, screenplays, novels, recently a virtual reality video game, for over 30 years, so I start writing without a thought. I get to my desk and begin. There is nothing noble in this, no discipline, it's simply pattern at this stage. So starting a novel isn't the anguish for me I've heard others report. Finishing is different. When is it done? One is never sure. Yet for that uncertainty and doubt, once there is nothing more one can do, once it is in the publisher's hands, there is a profound sense of relief. Nobody cares, nor should they, about the woes of a novelist. When you are deep into writing one it doesn't turn off, it's in your head even as you sleep, there is no relief from that torment until you can no longer make revisions.

8. JJ Lee asks, "Superman or Batman?"

Batman. Adam West Batman. Batman dancing the Batusi.

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