Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Ian Colford

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Ten Questions with Ian Colford

Ian Colford's first collection of stories, Evidence (The Porcupine's Quill), won the Margaret & John Savage First Book Award and was shortlisted for the Thomas H Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. In the United States, Evidence was shortlisted in ForeWord magazine's Book of the Year (BoTY) competition and took a silver medal in the Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Ian will be reading at McNally Robinson at Don Mills on Sunday, July 26 at 2:00 p.m. See our events page for details.

OBT:

Tell us about your book, Evidence.

IC:

Evidence is a collection of stories that follows a single protagonist, Kostandin Bitri, on his journey from a war-ravaged homeland in Eastern Europe to a new life in North America. The stories represent individual episodes from that journey. I’ve done a couple of different things with this book. For one, the stories are not arranged in chronological order, so the reader first encounters Kostandin halfway through his journey, and the stories skip around from there. The book also resembles a novel because I’ve left the stories untitled. My intention was to disorient the reader by removing some of the traditional signposts we see in works of fiction, so that the reader’s experience would mirror Kostandin’s.

 

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

IC:

To tell the absolute truth, I had in mind a readership of one: me. I wanted to write the kind of book that I would enjoy reading. So I guess writing Evidence was a supremely selfish act.

 

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

IC:

This varies. When the writing is flowing, I can work almost anywhere. I wrote most of Evidence during lunch and coffee breaks in the crowded, busy library where I work. For other things I’ve written, I’ve needed the quiet and seclusion of my own room with the door closed. I suppose the ideal lies somewhere in between.

 

OBT:

What was your first publication?

IC:

In 1983 I was a graduate student at Dalhousie University and another student had been given the post as editor of a publication that was being started up called University Avenues. He was looking for submissions, and when I heard this I went down to my desk in the basement of the English House and (on my typewriter) dashed off a story called “An Honest Man.” It was included in the inaugural issue, which, as it turned out, was also the second to last issue.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

IC:

Stories of the immigrant experience in Canada abound, so I’d be hard pressed to choose one that influenced something that I’ve written. But Kostandin Bitri’s journey to the West was influenced by stories I’ve heard about people who have made great sacrifices to come to Canada from countries all over the world. It’s a source of endless amazement to a lot of people that the deeply flawed nation we call home remains a preferred destination for so many people trying to escape appalling conditions abroad.

 

OBT:

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

IC:

These days I read fiction almost exclusively. Any nationality, I don’t care. I don’t necessarily seek out Canadian writers. However, three wonderful books I’ve read in the past year that I think reveal a great deal about this country of ours and would make a terrific welcoming gift are:

The Sacrifice by Adele Wiseman
The Origin of Species by Nino Ricci
The Nymph and the Lamp by Thomas Raddall

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

 

IC:

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It’s a book of short stories in which Olive Kitteridge is either the main or a peripheral character. I’ve read five of the stories and I’m mighty impressed by the wisdom and humanity on those pages.

 

OBT:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

IC:

Someone told me, and now I can’t remember if it was Alistair McLeod or not, “Write what moves you and don’t worry if it moves anyone else. That will come.”  

 

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

IC:

The most difficult thing is to stick with it: don’t let the lengthy waiting periods and perfunctory rejections get to you. I almost gave up a number of times. With writing as with any artistic pursuit, there are no short cuts. Don’t worry if you have to cut yourself loose from a story or even a novel. Whatever you’ve written to this point makes it possible to write the next thing.

OBT:

What is your next project?

IC:

I’m working on a novel set in South America during a period of political upheaval. I’ve made my focus a young man who is drawn into the conflict against his will and then must adapt to the moral climate around him in order to survive. It’s a story of ordinary people living, working and struggling to endure under extraordinary conditions.




"Kafka and Kosinski collaborate. The result is Evidence. Reader discretion advised." -- Richard Cumyn


Read more about Evidence by Ian Colford at The Porcupine's Quill website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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