Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Scotiabank Giller Prize-longlisted author David Demchuk's secret to a successful story

The author of the horror novel The Bone Mother answers eight questions from eight fellow authors.
David Demchuk's horror novel was on the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. (David Demchuk)

David Demchuk (who works at CBC as a communications officer) has made the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist for his debut novel The Bone Mother, a collection of horror fairy tales from a group of Eastern European mythical creatures who are sharing their stories before possibly being destroyed by war.

We asked Demchuk to take the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answer eight randomly selected questions from eight authors.

1. Eliza Robertson asks, "Do you write for yourself or to be read? If no living soul could read your work again: would you keep going?"

I enjoy being read, but I mostly write for myself. I write to try to understand the world and its people — including myself — and to tell the stories that I personally need to hear.

2. Melanie Mah asks, "Who is a writer you love that you wish more people knew about? Why do you love them?"

I wish more people knew about Laurie Colwin, who wrote short fiction and novels in the late 1970s and 1980s before she died from an aneurysm at the age of 48. She wrote charming and sophisticated comedies of manners and thoughtful meditations on the complications of love, marriage and family. Her novel Happy All The Time is one of my very favourites, as is her collection The Lone Pilgrim. An unlikely choice, I know, but I am devoted to her.

3. Durga Chew-Bose asks, "What is your ideal writing snack?"

This is a challenge, as you don't want to eat something that will get all over your keyboard or your paper and pen. Lately it's tea and cookies: oatmeal or social tea or almond crisps, homemade or off the grocery store shelf.

4. Emil Sher asks, "What three words would you use to describe what makes a great story great?"

It may be apocryphal but I believe Sam Shepard said it best: "Fighting and f****ing."

5. Colleen Murphy asks, "What are some of the things you hate about being a writer?"

Not being able to sing or dance or swim. If I could do any one of those things, I wouldn't write.

6. Richard Van Camp asks, "What's the story you'll never write about that haunts you? It could be delicious. Yes, that's the one we want to know. What is your delicious that you'll never write about? What. is. it?"

I had a relationship for several years with a recovering crack addict who had an unusual fetish. Even though he was a screw-up in other ways, he did at one point save my life. There were many surprising and disturbing aspects to our story, including how it ended — but sadly (or not) it is not my story to tell.

7. Eric Walters asks, "Oh I wish I'd written that — what book?"

Thomas Tryon's The Other, which is a masterpiece of rural gothic terror that all but ruined me as a child. In fact, if you look closely at my book, you can see one or two moments where I paid it homage.

8. Robert J. Sawyer asks, "The greatest journalist of all time just may be Les Nessman of WKRP in Cincinnati, who would ask but two questions: 'Who do you think you are?' and 'What are you trying to pull?' Well?"

a) "Whomever you're not."

b) "Depends what you're offering."


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