Kris Bertin on watching bar patrons make bad decisions

Author and bartender Kris Bertin on his debut collection of short stories, Bad Things Happen.
Kris Bertin says he likes to set the stakes high for characters in his short story collection, Bad Things Happen.
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Kris Bertin's debut short story collection, Bad Things Happen, is filled with characters teetering in that moment when things fall apart. Often, it's their own demons or decisions that land them there. Kris lives in Halifax, where he's worked as a mover, an assistant curator in an art gallery, a cook and a bouncer. Here, he explains how his work as a bartender influenced his writing.

I'm a bartender, and a lot of the job is standing behind a bar looking at people and wondering why they're doing what they're doing. There's a few characters who specifically came from questions I would ask myself. Like, this guy seems perfectly normal, he seems smart — I don't know why he's making these decisions. And it's not merely alcohol. There's something else. 

In some of these stories there are people who are dealing with alcoholism or who are between jobs. There's a series of stories about the same character, who has gone from working menial jobs to getting involved in crime and then going back home and becoming an exterminator. I'm interested in making the stakes as high as they can be. If something's going to be at stake, why not make it everything?

Kris Bertin's comments have been edited and condensed.