Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Guy Vanderhaeghe on bad scenery and imaginary people

The Governor General's Literary Award winner answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Guy Vanderhaeghe is the author of Daddy Lenin and Other Stories. (Guy Vanderhaeghe)

The legendary author and winner of the 2015 Governor General's Literary Awards for fiction for his collection Daddy Lenin and Other Stories reveals possibly the strangest literary insult we've ever heard.

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

1. Gail Bowen asks, "Claims of suffering writer's block are just excuses for laziness. Agree or disagree?"

Maybe not an excuse for laziness so much as a fear of failure. If you don't try to do a thing, you can't fail at it.

2. Sharon Butala asks, "Do you ever feel trapped by your writing life and wish you could escape?" 

I seem to be rewriting all the questions. I don't feel so much trapped by the writing life as I feel trapped inside my own head when I'm writing. For me, writing a novel is often like running on a treadmill — a lot of effort and the bad scenery never changes.

3. Kate Pullinger asks, "Do you pay attention to the opinions of your family — parents, spouse, siblings, children, etc. — when it comes to your writing, both in terms of what you write about, but also how you write?"

Never. Somehow I've never been beset by that problem.

4. 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?"

Not that I'm aware of. But then self-censorship is likely to be largely unconscious.

5. Timothy Taylor asks, "What book were you reading when you were first inspired to write? How old were you? Why do you think that book affected you the way it did at that moment in your life?"

Setting aside comic books, it was probably The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I read that when I was about nine. What appealed to me about that book at that time was Huck's blissful embrace of freedom. He had escaped "civilization" to float down the Mississippi on a raft with Jim. I was starting to hate school and I wanted to run away from it the way Jim had.

6. Donna Morrissey asks, "What are the biggest hurdles to overcome in your personal life while you're creating a book?"

The biggest hurdle is giving the real people around me the attention they deserve. The imaginary people seem to suck up a lot of psychic energy.

7. Pasha Malla asks, "Please quote one egregiously stupid criticism — either specific or general — of your writing, and address, refute or mock it."

I was once called "a voice from the shithouse." Does that mean I read a lot?

8. JJ Lee asks, "If you had to write a country song right now, what would the chorus be?"

Why are questions so easy and answers so hard?


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