Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Novelist Andrew Kaufman would rather take this questionnaire than work on his next book

The author of Small Claims answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Andrew Kaufman is the author of the novel Small Claims. (CBC)

A man crushed by problems in his marriage and career turns to small claims court for answers in Andrew Kaufman's new novel, Small Claims. The humorist has written several books, including All My Friends Are Superheroes and The Waterproof Bible. His novel The Tiny Wife won a 2015 ReLit Award.

In the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A, Kaufman answers eight randomly selected questions submitted by eight fellow writers.

1. Matti Friedman asks, "If you could go somewhere on earth right now, where would it be?"

Zipolite, Mexico. But not the Zipolite of now — the Zipolite of 1993. I was sent there by a beautiful woman who'd just broken my heart as a place to recover. It was a backpacker's paradise back then. I stayed at Gloria's, off the beach where we all lived in hammocks and smoked Tigre cigarettes, which made us feel authentic even though we were just tourists trying to convince each other that we were artists. Or at least that we would be soon.

2. Ausma Zehanat Khan asks, "If you discovered a terrible secret about someone that you knew would make for an exceptional story, would you make use of it? Would you tweak it to protect the person's identity if you knew that weakened the story?"

I'd use it as is. In my experience, people rarely recognize themselves when I base characters on them. Even if I think it's a one-to-one knock off, they will invariably decide that it's another character that's based on them.

3. Rajiv Surendra asks, "Is there a book that you wish you had never read? Explain. Please. Thanks."

Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas. It's a novel all about all the literary characters who prefer silence in writing, the reasons not to write fiction. It's a really amazing book, very funny but very dangerous too. He makes a pretty convincing argument.

4. Helen Humphreys asks, "Which of your books is your favourite?"

The Waterproof Bible. No doubt in my mind.

5. Kevin Major asks, "If you were to write a book with a chef as a major character, what would be the chef's best recipe?"

A cake that makes people fall in love with each other. Recipe below... Selecting potential partner, combine infatuation, optimism and a dash of denial. Over wine, combine shared interests with personal secrets. Heat entire mixture with unrealistic expectations. Cover and let mixture sit overnight as you fall asleep holding them tightly. Results may vary.

6. Saleema Nawaz asks, "What do you do when the writing is going badly... or not going at all?"

Writing never comes easily to me. My method is to make slow progress and a lot of mistakes. So I just sit at my desk and try not to take it personally.

7. Robert Wiersema asks, "If someone were to create a comic book based on your life, what would your hero name be, and what would be your special gift/skill?"

Because I wrote a book called All My Friends Are Superheroes, I get asked this a lot. My stock answer is that I'm the Narrator, able to tell an entertaining story. In reality, my only superpower is the ability to remember every single piece of trivia relating to 1980s New Wave bands. I'm not kidding about this. You can ask me anything.

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

How much more fun it was to answer these than it is to work on my novel. Seriously, please ask me more. Don't make me go back there...


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