Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Linwood Barclay on his new challenge

The author of Broken Promise answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Linwood Barclay is the author of the novel Broken Promise. (Bill Taylor)

Bestselling crime writer Linwood Barclay's novel Broken Promise is the first in a trilogy of books about the disturbing secrets of Promise Falls, New York.

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

1. Jalal Barzanji asks, "Why do you write?"

Because it beats working for a living. Also, contracts.

2. 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?"

Not really. The first person who reads my work is my agent. By the time family members read it, it has been through most of the editorial process. I like them to be able to enjoy it — or not — as any other reader would.

3. Johanna Skibsrud asks, "What are some of your biggest frustrations while you work? In what ways do you continuously fail at what you do?"

The satirical writer and illustrator Bruce McCall once said to me that he's never done a drawing that was as good on paper as it was in his head. I think that's true in writing, too. I continuously fail at description. I just want to write what people do and say. 

4. Vincent Lam asks, "What is your favourite editorial stage, and your favourite type of editorial conversation?"

If my editors, after reading the first draft, phone and say, "It's perfect. Almost nothing to do!" that would be my favourite type of editorial conversation. Unfortunately, it has never happened.

5. Zsuzsi Gartner asks, "What role do religion and spirituality play in your writing?"


6. Cathy Marie Buchanan asks, "Do you know how your story will end when you begin writing?"

For the most part. I pretty much know where I want to end up, but how I will get there is not nearly as clear when I am at the beginning of a book. I don't see the opportunities that exist in the book until I'm in the thick of it.

7. Shani Mootoo asks, "What was the best surprise you had in the process of writing your latest published book?" 

That it worked. I tend to think of the next three books — because they are all linked — as one very long novel. I'd never undertaken anything like that before, and was somewhat intimidated at the start of the process, but it seems to have come together.

8. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "Which comes first, the title or the book?!"

Book. The titles are usually the subject of much discussion that involves not just me, but my agent, and editors on two continents. Sometimes, the title actually ends up being one I thought of. Maybe half the time.