Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Guy Delisle on writing rituals, favourite words and not reading his own books

The author of the graphic travelogues Burma Chronicles and Pyongyang takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight questions from eight fellow writers.
Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle poses at the Angoulême International Comics Festival on January 29, 2015. (Pierre Duffour/Getty Images)

Guy Delisle's celebrated graphic travelogues, like Burma ChroniclesJerusalem and Pyongyang, are a mix of personal stories and explorations of a country's complex past. His most recent book is Hostage, the true harrowing story of a Médecins Sans Frontières administrator's kidnapping in the Caucasus region. The book was nominated for the 2018 Doug Wright Best Book Award, which recognizes excellence in Canadian comics.

Below, Delisle takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.

1. GG asks, "Do you have any rituals to get you in the right mood to work?"

I do my best not to check my computer before noon. 

2. Jesse Jacobs asks, "Would you rather have written a terrible, unpublishable book or no book at all?"

If I have the feeling it is a good book, then I would rather have it published.

3. Tom Gauld asks, "Have you ever looked back on a finished story and felt that an element of it was actually better in a previous draft?"

As it stands, I have never gone back to read any of my books yet. Once it is published, I put it behind me to focus on the next project.

4. Barbara Gowdy asks, "Are there any other writers in your family? Are there any artists of any kind? Have there ever been?"

My grandfather would work on oil paintings sometimes on Sunday afternoons but the smell of the turpentine irritated my grandmother so he eventually stopped.

5. Durga Chew-Bose asks, "If you could have any view just outside the room where you write, what would it be?"

Easy, a river.

6. Saleema Nawaz asks, "What's the best response you've ever had from a reader?"

"Your book made me cry."

7. Dominique Fortier asks, "What is the most beautiful word?"

In French, I like "complicité," I guess it translates pretty directly to complicity — a sense of being in it together. That's what I try to achieve with my readers.

8. Nick Mount asks, "What mattered to you in your last (or any previous) book that reviews failed to notice/appreciate?"

The amount of work I put into the book that went unseen.