Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Alexander, Paul and Andrew

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April 7, 2008 -

Open Book:

Tell us about Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started.

Alexander:

Kickstart is a book based on three-years of interviews we did with successful Canadians from coast to coast. We asked them how they got started – about their early experiences, obstacles, first jobs and more. We were trying to find guidance for our own lives: all three of us were just out of university and looking for first jobs. The book looks at the question “What do I want to do with my life?” and provides a number of answers – all shown through the examples of people as diverse as Karen Kain, Brian Mulroney, Alex Colville and Roberta Bondar.

OB:

What was the most challenging aspect of co-authoring a book?

Paul:

Co-authoring a book!

Andrew:

I believe the most challenging aspect was also one of our biggest assets, which was getting everyone to agree with each other. We are remarkably different people with different goals.

Alexander:

Thanks to email, it didn’t matter that I was 550 km away in Montreal. Modern technology saved us. We’ve probably sent around 10,000 emails back and forth relating solely to this project. The most challenging aspect was finding a way to reach consensus. Should it be two-thirds? Or does it require unanimity? (The issues of constitutional law come up in the least expected of environments.)

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Kickstart?

Andrew:

Truthfully, I am hoping it appeals to both young readers looking to find their own path, and older readers who are interested in reading the early stories of successful Canadians.

OB:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your work.

Paul:

It’s not the type of thing that grabs headlines, but the experience of watching so many over-educated friends flounder after leaving the comfort of university helped inspire the book and kept me engaged with the project.

Alexander:

Speaking to so many well-respected Canadians showed me how open our country is. We live in a society where these people don’t have to hide behind walls of personal assistants or bodyguards.

Andrew:

Conrad Black: That no matter how much you add to this country, if you are president of a public company, the shareholders are president of you. Jim Pattison understood that.

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

Alexander:

Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan, Citizen of the World: The Life of Pierre Trudeau by John English and Point de Rupture by Mario Cardinal.

Paul:

Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler, Souvenirs of Canada by Douglas Coupland and Selected Stories by Alice Munro.

Andrew:

Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started x3. One for themselves, one for their kids and one for their grandkids. Then they can all discuss how age affects their opinions of each story.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

Alexander:

Though I’d like to be someone who can loaf around cafés and jot inspiration on a coiled pad, I need my space, my isolation and my silence.

Paul:

I’d prefer a drafty Victorian house filled with dusty hardcovers, overlooking a still, motorboat-less lake. But I’ve learned how to work anywhere.

Andrew:

At about 1:00AM, after an espresso, knowing I have to be up in 5 hours.

OB:

William Faulkner was once asked what book he wished he had written; he chose Moby Dick (with Winnie the Pooh as a close second). Is there a book that you wish you had written?

Alexander:

Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Paul:

Antoine de St. Exupery’s Le Petit Prince, or anything by Dylan Thomas.

Andrew:

The Wealthy Barber.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

Alexander:

Cervantes, Don Quixote (it’s taken a while, I’m about 700 pgs in) .

Paul:

Neil Smith, Bang Crunch
Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself
Spotlight Canada – a Grade 10 Canadian History Text Book, as I’m currently teaching it
An early draft of Alex Herman’s first novel, The Toronto Trilogy

Andrew:

I am reading Equity Analysis for the level III CFA exam on June 7th. It’s really quite stimulating.

OB:

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to get published?

Alexander:

If you’re proud of what you’ve created, you shouldn’t feel ashamed bugging the hell out of people to read/review it.

Paul:

Don’t do it for the money or prestige, because there isn’t any. Make sure you really love your project because you’ll need to live with it for a long time and you’ll need to sell it to people; find a backer – someone in the industry or who’s well-connected.

Andrew:

Beg, borrow and think big. Also, to call friends, family and ask for help.

OB:

What’s your next project?

Alexander:

I’ve recently finished a novel, The Toronto Trinity. It takes place in Toronto over a summer and involves a number of characters whose lives intertwine. There’s Erin Yes, the Korean girl who’s trying to write the Great Novel. There’s Burton Kiely, the sleepwalking child, trying to ignore his parents troubled marriage. And there’s Felix Prospect, trying to trigger the world’s next communist revolution… Each story wraps into the others in unexpected, intriguing ways. And, of course, Pope John Paul II makes an appearance.

Paul:

I’m currently finishing up a short film I’ve written and co-directed with Steve Guise called Point of Light. We’re going into post-production in early April. I’m also working on a feature film script tentatively titled Getaways.

Andrew:

I like to keep projects a secret until there is a sign they may work, otherwise I feel a bit like a fool.

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