Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Joey Comeau

Share |

August 31, 2010 -

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book.

Joey Comeau:

One Bloody Thing After Another is a zombie novel where your mom is the first person who turns, and what are you supposed to do? You can't kill your mother, even if she's a monster now. You keep her downstairs, you protect her, and now your only problem is what do you feed her?

It's a novel filled with bloodied headless ghosts and vomiting ghosts and unexpected first loves and adorable but powerfully stupid dogs. It is fun and horrible and sad, and maybe you will like it.

Anyway that's the "short synopsis" I wrote for it.

OBT:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

JC:

That's a tough one! Some embarrassing poetry in a cyberpunk zine, I think, when I was still in high school. But the first fiction was a short story about a brownstone apartment building adrift in space. It crashes into a spaceship. That was my first paying story! A lot of my early published fiction was science fiction. I love science fiction.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

JC:

I have no idea what this means. Margaret Atwood and I got in an arm wrestling competition, and she won. Of course she won. With that god damn robotic arm. Douglas Coupland sat next to me on a plane and wouldn't stop talking about his disgusting veiny grape being removed. At least it wasn't his "art." Everywhere I go, people are playing Stuart Maclean and his f**king turkey voice on the radio.

OBT:

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

JC:

I would give Tekkonkinkreet, which is by Taiyo Matsumoto. The Complete Plays of Sarah Kane, by Sarah Kane, a brilliant British playwright suicide case. And Steve Martin's Born Standing Up. And a note! A note that reads "Welcome to Canada, we're aware of the rest of the world."

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JC:

I like quiet, when I am writing, which is roughly 20 percent of the time. When I am thinking, I like loud music, and pacing around, or laying face down on the floor. It has to be loud music, and it has to be so familiar that my brain doesn't pay too much attention to it. Stimulating but not interesting!

OBT:

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

JC:

I stopped feeling like this a while ago. I used to think, "Oh shit, I should have read Proust! What kind of writer hasn't read Proust?" But then I read a bit or Proust, and thought, "This is okay, but I could read twenty 'okay' books in the time this bastard will take to read." There are too many good books to read out there, which makes it easy to not sweat any one in particular.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

JC:

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson! She's so great. It's dark and creepy, and funny as hell. Next up in her book, The Haunting of Hill House. I love the old version of the Haunting movie.

OBT:

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

JC:

I try not to, but of course you do. When you write something, and people really like a particular aspect, you keep that in mind. Maybe you tell yourself, "Oh this is what I am really good at," which isn't a writing motivation that I find satisfying. What I am good at, and what people like isn't always going to be what I am interested in writing.

OBT:

What are you working on right now?

JC:

A novel called Bible Camp Bloodbath, which is both a title and a synopsis. It is a horror movie of a novel. The last half is murder. Children and counsellors being murdered gleefully by the villain. They never kill kids in horror movies. Hardly ever. It's an untapped source of grisly discomfort! I love horror movies. I have loved them since I was a little kid, and this is the most fun I've ever had writing a book. Just letting go and writing the most horrible things. Laying the plot out like a movie's structure. Planning the scenes like the reader is a camera. Faking the audience out. Twists and turns! Gore. Oh, so much gore.

OBT:

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

JC:

Sure, just write. Write something that you think is good. If it's good, I think you won't have all that much trouble finding somewhere to publish it, especially not in the small press. There are new presses all the time, it seems like! Hungry for new up and coming writers! The real trick is this: If it's not good, you're going to have to figure that out for yourself, because nobody is going to tell you. Your friends won't. Publishers won't. They'll just say it's not for them, and what can you do with that? If nobody says it's bad, the temptation is to look for other explanations. You'll come up with all kinds of reasons why it hasn't been accepted — the economic climate, politics, how difficult it is to get published — but that's just your own way of not telling yourself it might be bad. Of course maybe it's crazy and brilliant and nobody understands its genius, but really take a look at it.

Related item from our archives