Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Jeffrey Round

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Jeffrey

November 28, 2010 -

Open Book: Toronto:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

Jeffrey Round:

My first publication, and first official piece of writing, was a poem titled "Raggedy Anne," which won Honourable Mention in my Grade Six class at Princess Anne Public School, Windsor Ontario.

My first novel, A Cage of Bones, (not a mystery, despite its title, but a literary work about the European fashion industry) was published in the UK.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

JR:

The violent events of the G20 Summit held in Toronto this summer form the background of an upcoming book in my Bradford Fairfax mystery series. While the series is essentially comic, real-life events often provide the basis of each plot and this one was made to order.

OBT:

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

JR:

That would depend entirely on whom I am welcoming, and three titles are not enough. Restricting the list to Canadian works reflecting a Canadian experience, however, I would choose Beverly Stone’s Newfoundland tragedy, No Beautiful Shore, for its beautiful, limpid writing, RM Vaughan’s Troubled, for its exceptional poetry and Éric Dupont’s award-winning Voleurs de sucre, a sly childhood “memoir” (in English, Sugar Thieves).

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JR:

My ideal environment is both ideal and actual. I stay at an inexpensive guesthouse in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. (It’s inexpensive because it’s out of the tourist area — north of the Rio Cuale and just past what is drolly known to locals as “Gringo Gulch,” for all the ex-pats who reside there.) It’s my one financial indulgence. I save all year, horde those Air Miles, and rent out my house in Toronto, to be able to afford it. (It ends up costing about $400 for a one-month’s stay — not much more than it would cost me to stay here in the cold and snow.) Situated on the hill in downtown Vallarta, it has an actual turret with a tiny room at the top overlooking the town and bay. In the morning, I climb a two-story ladder, carefully bearing my coffee, and write for six or seven hours. When I need a break, I look out over the bay for humpback whales breaching. When I feel I’ve written enough, I make a half-hour trek to the beach (the famous “Blue Chairs”) for a little socializing and, often, character research. In the evening, I climb back up to the turret to catch the sunset and watch the nightly display of fireworks reflected in the water and think how lucky I am to be able to do this.

OBT:

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?

JR:

Actually, no. If there were then I would simply rewrite it. Last year I wrote a completely updated and reinvented version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (to be published under a pseudonym.) On the whole, I enjoy being me and don’t want to write like anyone else.

OBT:

Is there a book that you think you should have read by now but haven’t?

JR:

I keep trying to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but can’t do it. (I am a Joyce fan, but that book eludes me.) On the other hand, I’m currently going through Proust’s In Search of Lost Time for the third time around. We do what we can.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

JR:

As above. I’m an omnivore and avid reader and can’t stick to just one book. I’m also reading Trevor Cole’s Practical Jean, Michael Cunningham’s By Nightfall and Yukio Mishima’s Thirst For Love. I’d need another lifetime to read everything I want to read.

OBT:

Do you have a specific readership in mind when you write?

JR:

For my comic Bradford Fairfax mystery series, I imagine trying to amuse and titillate Oscar Wilde (which isn’t easy!) For my literary works, I have a different person in mind for each one, but never the same person.

OBT:

What are you working on right now?

JR:

I am writing what is known as a “cozy,” featuring an 82-year old woman who goes back to the scene of a crime she was involved in 70 years earlier (again, under a pseudonym.) I am also working on the fourth book of the Fairfax series, Bon Ton Roulez, which takes place in New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina. To satisfy my literary urges, I have a novel-in-progress, tentatively titled In the Place of Joy and Laughter, that takes place in Toronto during the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra sessions and revolves around the suicide of a young dancer.

OBT:

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

JR:

Do everything you can to master your craft. That means studying every aspect of story telling and writing, as well as following what’s going on in the publishing industry, both at home and abroad. Building a writing career can take years. It’s not for the impatient. In the meantime, don’t make the mistake of thinking the Canadian literary scene will be financially rewarding. It won’t. Look elsewhere if you want to be more than a part-time writer.

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