Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Scotiabank Giller Prize-shortlisted author Ed O'Loughlin: 'I write to get away from myself'

The author of the novel Minds of Winter answers eight questions from eight writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
Minds of Winter by Ed O'Loughlin is on the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. (Nuala Haughey/Anansi)

Ed O'Loughlin is on the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist for his third novel, Minds of Winter, which follows two people in search of answers about a family member in Canada's Arctic. O'Loughlin, who was a finalist for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for his novel Not Untrue & Not Unkind, was raised in Kildare, Ireland. The Toronto-born author now lives in Dublin with his wife and two children.

O'Loughlin takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight random questions from eight writers.

1. Eliza Robertson asks, "In its finer moments, do you think writing can be a little bit alchemical or magic?"

Most writing comes from the subconscious, which is working away on our real business while the waking mind gets in the way. When it finds something good, the subconscious serves it up through a hatch in the wall, as if by magic. All we have to do then is package it up and ship it on out. We're not in charge of the operation. We just live over the shop.

2. Melanie Mah asks, "Who are some of your favourite writers?"

This month, top of head: Tove Jansson, Kurt Vonnegut, Eoin McNamee, Jennifer Johnston. List subject to change. Other authors are available. 

3. Mark Sampson asks, "What is the longest amount of time that an idea for a book has germinated in your head before you started the first draft? What is the shortest?" 

My last novel, Minds of Winter, began to stir six or seven years before I started writing it. It took three years to write. I started writing my second novel, Toploader, a few months after the idea first came to me. It only took a few months more to finish the first draft. They are very different novels.

4. Xue Yiwei asks, "How much, according to your experience, does a writer's fame rely on luck instead of diligence?"

I wish I could answer that, but while I've had some luck in my time, mostly good, I know little about fame and even less about diligence.

5. Emily Schultz asks, "Which do you prefer to write: characters that are more like you or less like you?" 

I prefer characters who are nothing like me. I write to get away from myself.

6. Hoa Nguyen asks, "Next to the dictionary and a thesaurus, what is your favourite reference book?" 

Parragon used to do a really detailed and fascinating children's encyclopedia of dinosaurs, but that edition is out of print now and our copy fell apart in the end.

7. Katherine Lawrence asks, "What book are you reading right now and why?" 

Shark Drunk by Morten Strøksnes. It's the true story of a bemused writer and a meditative artist who decided to try and catch a giant Greenland shark from a small boat off the Lofoten Islands in Norway. I became fascinated with Greenland sharks when I was researching my own polar book, so I was easily hooked. I haven't finished the book yet, so I can't speak for the shark.

8. George Murray asks, "When is enough enough?"

When your friends confiscate your keys, call you a taxi and walk you to the door. Also true of bars.