Todd Babiak on haunting visions, hummus and other neuroses
Good things don't come easily to Todd Babiak characters. If you're the protagonist of Toby, A Man, you'll have to move into your parents' basement before things start to turn around. And for Christopher Kruse, the security agent at the centre of Babiak's thrillers Come Barbarians and Son of France, a shot at redemption only comes in hunting down the killers of his wife and young daughter.
Below, Todd Babiak answers eight questions submitted by eight of his fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
1. Bill Richardson asks, "There is no word in English for the horrible feeling of finding a typo or some other grievous error in your own printed book. What should that word be?"
Ignominstration. "I opened my novel to page 27 and when I saw I had written Fruit Loops instead of Froot Loops I fell to my knees and ignominstrated rather violently for 20 minutes. Someone called the cops."
2. Patrick deWitt asks: "What is the last thing you read that made you feel actually jealous?"
Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt. I finished the novel and I was overcome with an urge to find the author and glare menacingly at him or her from across the room.
3. Michael Winter asks, "Do you have a window you can see out of when you write, or do you purposefully write up against a blank wall?"
When I look up from my computer, Mr. Winter, I am in junior high school. It's early spring. A boy named Raymond steps on to the street and a car hits him. I had been cruel to Raymond earlier in the week. I'm too ashamed to tell you what I had done to him, Mr. Winter. My first thought, when the car hit him, was that it was somehow my fault. Or that Raymond had done this to punish me. I know: it wasn't about me. But somehow it was about me because I was a 12-year-old boy. It was a Reliant K-car, beige with a darker brown stripe. He flew in the air and landed on the hood of the car, which had stopped with a miserable screech. For a moment he was still. Then he rolled off the hood of the K-car, flopped on the pavement, grabbed his backpack and walked toward the school.
4. Erin Moure asks, "What part of writing life brings you most joy?"
Moving a reader.
5. Jane Urquhart asks, "Could you write a novel about two square meters of outdoor space (urban, rural or wilderness)?"
As long as there were people in it, and they wanted different things. That is, the possibility of conflict. If it were empty space, or if the insects and vegetation or invisible deities had to talk in order to create drama, I don't think I would enjoy myself enough to go through the heartbreak and torment of writing a novel. So no, I guess. No.
6. Kim Thúy asks, "Have you ever fallen in love with a character from your own book?"
You can't tell, reading this, but I have been thinking about your question for three days, Ms. Thúy. We met once in that café, remember, in the winter? We talked about Ru. You were with our friend Marie. Maybe we spoke French! You had done a reading and I had missed it because I had mixed up the days, or I had some lousy business thing. I'm trying to avoid answering your question. I don't know the answer.
7. Shani Mootoo asks: "What was the best surprise you had in the process of writing your latest published book?"
This was not a good surprise, but Son of France opens with an explosion in a restaurant in Paris. I was finished the novel and looking at the final edits in November 2015, when terrorists attacked the Bataclan. I felt like a ghoul.
8. Nazneen Sheikh asks, "Are you totally neurotic about your writing environment?"
I'm totally neurotic about hummus, French wine, pyjamas, crosswalks, male pattern baldness, earthquakes, air quality, moles, white privilege, bird flu, the weather, zoos, bike lanes, the phrase "in terms of" and venture capital. My feelings about writing environments are relatively healthy.