Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Marc Raboy on the writing advice he's glad he ignored

The author of Marconi:The Man Who Networked the World answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Marc Raboy is the author of Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World. (Claudio Calligaris)

Marc Raboy's Marconi takes a microscope to the life of the enigmatic Italian inventor, exploring Guglielmo Marconi's precocious childhood, his sensational scientific breakthroughs and his little-known involvement in fascism at the end of his life. The book was a finalist for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize.

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

1. Phil Hall asks, "Where do you go for a writing retreat? Where would you go ideally?

Into my home study. There's nowhere I work better. When I'm doing research I tend to collect a lot of stuff and it's sometimes useful to have things handy. That said, I have a typical writer's fantasy of holing up on a Greek island like Henry Miller or Leonard Cohen, but I'm not too sure how well that would work.

2. Patrick deWitt asks, "What is the least useful writing advice you ever received?"

Keep it short and simple.

3. Linden MacIntyre asks, "To what extent is Google becoming a substitute for experience, real research, and even the imagination?"

In the first draft of my acknowledgements I thanked the internet, then took it out because it looked so cheesy. But really, my book would have been much poorer if I hadn't been able to do online research. It was certainly not a substitute for experience but a supplement.

4. Beth Powning asks, "Do you lose track of time when you are writing? Does time pass fast or slowly or does it simply cease to exist when you are writing?"

It ceases to exist. I love writing with no time limit but the extent of my own energy.

5. Timothy Taylor asks, "Can you comment on prize culture in literature and what it's done for good (and ill?) in the life of a typical writer?"

I don't particularly care for it except that, to be honest, nowadays when the attention of media and booksellers is at such a premium, prize recognition is important for the life of a book.

6. Dave Bidini asks, "What is it about answering lists of questions submitted by your peers that you find the most unsettling?"

Ha ha.

7. Emma Richler asks, "What is your favourite reward for the moment you put down your tools for the day?"

Taking that deep breath when you know you've accomplished something and have moved your project forward.

8. Tomson Highway asks, "Do you ever get jealous of other writers? If so, why?"

Never. I relish the success of other writers.

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