Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Xue Yiwei on why writing is innately political

The author of Shenzheners answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Xue Yiwei is the author of Shenzheners. (Linda Leith Publishing)

The first time many Canadians heard of Montreal writer Xue Yiwei was this fall, when an English translation of his book of loosely interconnected stories, Shenzheners, was released. But in China, he's one of the country's best known (and bestselling) authors.

Below, Xue Yiwei answers eight questions submitted by eight of his fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.

1. Larry Tremblay asks, "Do you believe that knowing too much about a character can damage his or her creation?"

Yes, I do, though it depends on how much is too much.

2. George Elliott Clarke asks, "What is your favourite font — or typeface? Why?"

Times New Roman in English. I find it solid and serious.

3. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "What do you do when some academic or reviewer points out some amazingly interesting and clever metaphor or an implied meaning in your book that you had no idea existed?"

I feel encouraged and would like to share these new discoveries with more readers. I maintain interpretation extends the life of a book.

4. Beth Powning asks, "Describe the journey that you take after you have finished writing a book and are wondering what you are going to write next."

The language I write is Chinese. Between the book just finished and the book yet to come, I prefer immersing myself in English, reading and listening.

5. Paul Yee asks, "Do you think it's harder to write funny stories than serious ones?"

Yes, I do. My stories are always considered serious. But I bear a strong intention to write something profoundly funny before I would no longer be able to write.

6. Sigal Samuel asks, "Do you feel like being a writer absolves you from worldly responsibilities like attending political protests? Do you believe that when you're writing, that is you doing your political work, so you don't have to do the out-on- the-street kind? Or do you do both?"

Yes, I do think writing is the politics of a writer and the elaborately written words are the most delicate and the most efficient weapon for a writer.

7. Heather O'Neill asks, "What's the strangest thing you've done while researching a book?"

To ask the strangest questions like: Am I the right person to write this book? Or: Why should I write this book?

8. William Deverell asks, "Claims of suffering writer's block are just excuses for laziness. Agree or disagree?"

Disagree. Writer's block really matters. It will falsify all the excuses.