Magic 8 Q&A

Marina Endicott on abandoned workouts, stubborn knots and her most lovable character

The author of Close to Hugh answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Marina Endicott is the author of the novel Close to Hugh. (marinaendicott.com)

Marina Endicott worked as an actor and director in the theatre for many years before embarking on a second career as a fiction writer. Since 2003, she has published five critically acclaimed books, including Close to Hugh.

Below, Marina Endicott answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A. 

1. Helen Humphreys asks, "If you write in a room with a window, what is the view out of that window?"

I look up and see the leaves of an elderly birch tree to the right. On occasion the shadow of a bird passes through that shaft of light, like an idea.

2. George Bowering asks, "Do you get any enjoyment from reading your unpublished work?"

Yes, lots, while I'm still working and changing and fixing things. It's the published stuff that I can't bear to read any more — no more fixing allowed. Until they let us do a director's cut, like in film.

3. Kim Thúy asks, "Have you ever fallen in love with a character from your own book?"

None of the characters I have written so far are as quick-witted and mercurial as my own husband. (But I do have a soft spot for Orion, in Close to Hugh.)

4. Claire Holden Rothman asks, "What kind of a child were you that you grew up to write fiction? What were the formative influences?"

Lonely, isolated by frequent moves, snooty, over-sensitive, and a fool for beauty in words and images. Since my father was either an Anglican priest or a student through most of my childhood there wasn't much cash, but there were always books to read — shelves and boxes and rooms full of books. I read constantly, with an insatiable need for story. When not reading, I listened at doors, went through cupboards, and generally investigated how adults live. Still investigating.

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

Second day I do four sets of two sentences, ten reps per... No, wait, that's the workout routine I abandoned. I lie in bed until I feel shame from the direction of my dog, around 6 a.m. I take a coffee to my office and poke around the corners of my computer. Starting with email I sneak up on actual creative work. It's easier once I get solidly into a book. Some days are brilliant and transformative. Some are just long and stupid.

6. Shani Mootoo asks, "Is the writing life a selfish indulgence, a narcissistic quest, or a plain crazy way to try and make a living?"

Of course, all of the above. If I'd been given a choice I'd be a pianist or a visual artist with paint-stained fingernails. Crazy or not, there was never a choice (although I did wander up the wrong alley for a while, working in theatre). 

7. Peter Robinson asks, "What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the writing process?"

My favourite part is puzzling through those knots that arise in the story. Some can take months to untangle — the answers often come suddenly, like the shadow of the bird across the window. The pieces of the narrative fall into place. I love when inevitability emerges and surprises you: they drive up to the house and you realize that of course he's going to steal that car. My least favourite part is when the bird does not fly, the car is not parked there waiting, and you have to write the book by hand. 

8. Charlotte Gill asks, "What does your afterlife look like?"

My husband asked me this a while ago and the answer I gave is honest, though I am afraid it is childish. In my afterlife I will see my sister Azana again.

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