Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with CB Forrest

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CB Forrest is Open Book's March 2012 Writer in Residence.

February 28, 2012 -

Open Book:

Tell us about your latest book, The Devil’s Dust.

CB Forrest:

The Devil’s Dust is the third crime novel featuring protagonist Charlie McKelvey. The story opens with McKelvey running from a cancer diagnosis and the violent memories of the big city. He retreats to his hometown. A small declining mining centre, Ste. Bernadette offers McKelvey a chance to resolve old family issues, including his father’s involvement in a deadly wildcat strike in the late 1950s. When the local police force enlists his help in tracing an upswing in youth violence and vandalism, McKelvey stumbles into the hornet’s nest of a crystal meth industry. Tim Wynne-Jones, author of Blink & Caution and two-time Governor General Award Winner, has said of the novel: “Devil’s Dust is a tour de force, the crime fiction trifecta: perfectly plotted whodunit, first-rate thriller and beautifully crafted novel. The end is stunning!” 


OB:

What sort of research did you do for your book? 



CBF:

I sometimes think I enjoy the research phase as much as actually creating the story. It allows me to completely immerse myself in a topic: biker wars in my first novel and the Srebrenica massacre in my second. For The Devil’s Dust I read a number of books, newspaper articles and interviewed several addicts. Methland by Nick Reding was particularly informing in terms of laying this out as socio-economic more than a moral or criminal issue. The gutting of our rural traditions and the death of manufacturing and resource-based centres is the underlying reason why young people are turning to Oxy and Meth — there is simply no hope left, they see no future in college or university. Addicts told me harrowing stories of the almost instant addiction from the first time they smoked meth. The high lasts a lot longer than crack, so it’s cheap and effective. I always balance my study of books with real-life interviews so I can get the details just right. 


OB:

Who are some of the people who have deeply influenced your writing life (fellow writers or not)?

CBF:

Leonard Cohen was the first writer whose words struck me like a bullet. I remember reading his poems and lyrics and thinking “this has never been said this way before”. I became interested in and influenced by writers who really sweated over each word and phrase. Like all young writers, early on I was imitating my heroes before I found my own voice and style. Raymond Carver, E. Annie Proulx, Michael Ondaatje, David Adams Richards, Matt Cohen.…

OB:

Is there a book you’ve read recently that you wished you had written?

CBF:

I finally read Barney’s Version. I had put it off for a decade because I knew it was Richler’s last offering and that once I had turned the last page, well, there would be no more. I don’t necessarily wish I had written it, or anyone else’s book for that matter, but it really did close out the author’s career on a high note. He gave us one last big, rich book. Richler was the last of the generation that carved out a career from their earliest days, over there in Paris in the ‘50s. I envy that experience. 



OB:

What are you working on now?

CBF:

I’m working on the development of a new crime series that will turn the genre upside down. I’m excited about it because it will be very different from anything people are used to (hopefully in a good way). I’m also working on a mainstream fiction novel about the after-effects of an accident, and of course I always have a short story on the burner just to keep my chops in shape. The one I just finished is called Hangover At Sunset.

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