Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Linden MacIntyre on writing and other pathologies

The author of Punishment answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Linden MacIntyre is the author of the novel Punishment. (CBC)

The esteemed broadcast journalist and Giller Prize-winning author Linden MacIntyre's latest book is the twisty thriller Punishment, which hones in on the blurry line where crime and punishment risk swaying into vigilantism. 

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

1. Vincent Lam asks, "Does your personal relationship with your characters change over the course of writing a book? If so, how?

Some characters are planned, some just show up and either pass off the stage or grow into narrative significance. My relationship with the characters evolves but doesn't change essentially though I tend to become more tolerant and sympathetic toward their foibles as the story unfolds and accommodates the ambiguities of real life.

2. Lorna Crozier asks, "How did growing up with (or without) siblings affect your writing or your desire to be a writer?"

I grew up with two younger sisters in a small village where there were few kids my age. I read a lot, and it helped develop a capacity for imagining more interesting circumstances than the rather static world I lived in.

3. Gail Bowen asks, "If you could live in the world created by another writer, what fictional world would you choose, and why?"

Different worlds at different times. In one phase, the world of H.E. Bates (The Darling Buds of May, When the Green Woods Laugh); in another more earnest phase, the wartime world of Sartre and Camus.

4. Cathy Marie Buchanan asks, "What is your writing routine?"

It has always been challenged by the distraction of a career. But I discovered that I am most productive in the early morning hours. When I have an active writing project I try to start at five in the morning and stick it out for, perhaps, four hours of original writing. 

5. William Deverell asks, "Ever wanted to throttle an interviewer? Tell me about it."

I've been lucky with interviewers. Perhaps because I've done a lot of interviewing I tend to know where they're coming from (if they've read the book, if they've understood the characters, the plot,) and what they hope to get out of me so I can either oblige or reroute the dialogue. This avoids the necessity of throttling.

6. Heather O'Neill  asks, "If there were to be a biopic made about your life, which actor would you want to play you? Which director would you choose to direct?"

That is a frightening question — stirring the hobgoblins of vanity. Okay Heather, I'll fall for it: Sam Shepard and Wim Wenders. 

7. Sharon Butala asks, "Someone once said to me, 'It's a sin not to write,' meaning that if you have the gift you do not have the right not to use it. Is writing something given to you by the gods and thus it is your duty to pursue and develop it?"

I think writing is not so much a gift as a compulsion and like most pathologies originates in a deep and mysterious place where character is shaped by curiosity and vanity, emotion and the residue of real life experience. We're probably all familiar with the admonition "if you don't have to write, don't" and the wise observation that "we write because nobody listens."

8. Charlotte Gill asks, "What is your Kryptonite?"

A computer card game: goddamn FreeCell.