The Next Chapter

Michael Winter on Minister Without Portfolio

Michael Winter on his Canada Reads contender Minister Without Portfolio.
Michael Winter's 2013 novel Minister Without Portfolio is a contender for Canada Reads 2016.

Michael Winter's novel Minister Without Portfolio follows a man whose girlfriend has dumped him. To get over her, he goes to do general contracting work in Afghanistan with some of his buddies, but witnesses one of his friends die in a roadside incursion. He's traumatized, guilt-ridden, and lost, so he goes home to Newfoundland to try to rebuild his life. The book is a contender for Canada Reads 2016, where it will be defended by actor and former WWE wrestler Adam "Edge" Copeland.

Shelagh Rogers interviewed Michael Winters when Minister Without Portfolio was released in 2013.

I was interested in adults who had tried at being adults once when they got to be 20 and 30, but then they got to be 35 and the attempt at progress through adulthood met some kind of failure. What do you do then? What do you do when you're in your mid-30s and you're asked to try again? I moved to Toronto and at the same time I found a house in Newfoundland to spend my summer. It was a kind of a change of place where I am most of the year, but at the same time a real commitment to the east coast and to Newfoundland with this summer place.

When the main character's girlfriend asks him to leave, she says in a fit of exasperation that she wants to live a dangerous life. He's left with those words. What is a dangerous life? What does it mean to risk things? The first part of the novel is his attempt to graft that on to his own life, perhaps in attempt to attract her back. He realizes that, the true dangerous life isn't just being foolhardy with risk; it's another deeper thing he learns is the true dangerous life. 

Michael Winter's comments have been edited and condensed.