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How Andrew F. Sullivan turned tough-guy tall tales into a very violent novel

Andrew F. Sullivan on his debut novel's origins in urban legends he heard while working the night shift.
Waste is Andrew F. Sullivan's debut novel. (

Andrew F. Sullivan is the author of Waste, a novel set in 1980s Ontario that's noted for some pretty shocking violence. In his own words, he explains how he used the tall tales of tough guys to find material for the book.

Violence is definitely very present in the book. I wanted to write about violence as a sort of currency — a way that people who have limited resources or limited options express themselves or attempt to change their lives. It usually doesn't go anywhere very helpful for anybody, but I do think violence is this currency between people that we often don't speak of. It's an unspoken thing that happens behind closed doors. And that's often how it gains power. 

A lot of the stories that crop up in Waste or in my other work are derived from a lot of bluffing and storytelling that people are doing to build up their own sort of urban legends. A lot of this was when I was working night shifts and other jobs and it was a very masculine community — you get a lot of one-upmanship and guys trying to outdo one another, and a lot of that has bled into my story. I thought, what if we took all this made-up stuff and we say it did happen? For me, even if these stories seem outrageous... a lot of strange things do happen.

Andrew Sullivan's comments have been edited and condensed.

Read more about how Andrew F. Sullivan wrote Waste.

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