Kevin Major on eBay research and his dream editor
For Kevin Major, history hits close to home. The novelist, who made a name for himself in 1978 with the YA novel Hold Fast (which CBC Books included on our top 100 Canadian young adult books list), is prone to tapping historical veins, especially those that run deep through his native Newfoundland and Labrador, as is the case in his latest novel, Found Far and Wide.
Below, Kevin Major answers eight questions submitted by eight of his fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
1. Dianne Warren asks, "Do you ever wish you had chosen something else as a career besides writer? If so, why and what?"
Having been accepted for medical school at the age of 20, I sometimes picture myself as a doctor, imagining my life had I not turned instead to writing. A stethoscope around my neck doesn't make for an unattractive selfie, but not an entirely satisfying one either. I think I made the right choice.
2. Pasha Malla asks, "Who is one writer, living or dead, who you wish could edit or critique your drafts?"
Hemingway. He knew what was extraneous, and what was on the page without being written.
3. Billie Livingston asks, "What's the most peculiar thing you've done in order to research a story?"
I wrote a book about someone who collected postcards all her life (Aunt Olga's Christmas Postcards). I needed several dozen antique postcards to move the narrative and to illustrate it. I spent an inordinate amount of time on eBay, clicking my way through hundreds of postcards each day to find just the right ones, at a price that didn't blow the book advance.
4. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "What do you do when some academic or reviewer points out some amazingly interesting and clever metaphor or an implied meaning in your book that you had no idea existed?"
I say, "Good for you, you're doing your job," with the hope it's a jolt towards a positive review. However, my experience has been that academics don't often make good reviewers, especially of non-academics who are stepping into their territory.
5. Linda Spalding asks, "What moves you to tears?"
Reading from a novel I wrote about a WWI battle, while next to me in a wheelchair sat a 95-year-old veteran, the last person alive who survived the battle.
6. Anthony Bidulka asks, "What has been your best experience with a reader of your work?"
I wrote a short novel for children that families often read together, a chapter each day during the lead-up to Christmas. I was told of a father who, in December of the first year his daughter went off to college, would telephone her each night to keep up their tradition of reading the story together.
7. Robert J. Sawyer asks, "Do you read your online reviews: Amazon, Goodreads, bloggers and so on? Or do you avoid them like a simile to be avoided? Do good ones delight you? Do bad ones get you down?"
I tend not to read them, unless my publisher forwards them to me. These are invariably positive, and so do my heart good.
8. Katherine Govier asks, "Do you feel, when you've finished a book, that you got at the questions you wanted to write about?"
Generally I get at questions. However, they might not be the questions I started with when I began the first draft.