The Next Chapter

Hal Niedzviecki on finding new ways to connect with his readers

Hal Niedzviecki talks about playing with publishing form and reader expectations in his latest novel, The Archeologists.
Hal Niedzviecki is the founder of Broken Pencil magazine. The Archaeologists is his 12th book. (www.alongcametomorrow.com)

Hal Niedzviecki's The Archeologists tells the story of six characters living in suburban Ontario whose lives start connecting and colliding when one woman discovers human bones in her backyard. Niedzviecki published the novel online last year, partnering with five literary magazines to release a new chapter weekly between April and October.

Shelagh Rogers spoke to Hal Niedzviecki in Toronto.

On embracing the serial form

Normally, you put a book out, it has its little amount of time where people might notice it and it might be in bookstores. And then it's kind of up to history and fate, which are generally not very kind to writers. So you want to try something new and see what happens, see if you can stir up a different kind of conversation in the process. I published it in small literary magazines — Geist, Taddle Creek, subTerrain, Broken Pencil and The New Quarterly. I picked them because I was interested in having a different relationship with community. Rather than just saying "Hey, Hal has written a new book, go and buy it," what if there's a process in which I'm releasing chapters through magazines that really try to break down the distance between creator and community, and trying to get a whole conversation going — not just about the content of the book, but also the way we perceive authorship?

On naming one character "Hal"

I think it comes back to trying to jar the reader a bit and connect with them in a different way. If the name of the author is a character in the book, that immediately has a different significance in that sense of "What do I know about the author? Can I connect the character to the author?" Which is something that we always are trying to do unconsciously anyway — Is this a true story? How much of this is based on your life? So I wanted to play with that, and again it's this question of community and how we relate to each other. Just as I wanted to play a bit with the form of publishing, I wanted to play with the idea of these characters being people that I'm really manipulating as an author and doing horrible things to them, and implicate myself in the same way that I am, just like everyone else, implicated in what has gone on in the past.

Hal Niedzviecki's comments have been edited and condensed.

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