Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Jeffrey Round

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Ten Questions with Jeffrey Round

Open Book: Toronto speaks with Jeffrey Round about his third novel, The Honey Locust, reading and writing.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book.

Jeffrey Round:

The Honey Locust is my third completed novel and my fourth book of fiction to be published. It’s about a young woman struggling to come to terms with her troubled relationship with her mother. The protagonist, Angela Thomas, is a war journalist who finds it easier to exist under wartime conditions than stay at home with her family in Canada. The story moves back and forth in time, largely between Sarajevo during the Bosnian war and a family weekend in the Bruce Peninsula.

OBT:

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

JR:

This is an early book of mine and I wrote it for a Canadian and European readership, whereas many of the books I write now are for the American market. People who enjoy novels in a poetic literary tradition, such as those of Anne Michaels or Michael Ondaatje, may find something to enjoy in this work.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JR:

Literally, it’s a tower in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I spend a month or more in Mexico each winter and rent a studio apartment with a turret. I climb two ladders to get to the top, where it opens onto a space about six feet by six feet in size. From there, I can see most of the city and Banderas Bay lying before me. It’s a stunning view, open on all four sides. I have to curtain it off partially in order to concentrate or I’d end up watching the whales and sailboats instead of writing. I write on a laptop while playing whatever music catches my fancy at the time—sometimes opera, sometimes Miles Davis, and sometimes the Beatles or even Lady Gaga. I’m a musical omnivore.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

JR:

It was a short story entitled Truth and Beauty—A Fairy Story In the Tradition of Oscar Wilde, published in the “Dalhousie Gazette” during my university days.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

JR:

I’m a big fan of Quebecois writer/director Robert LePage, whom I’ve dubbed the 21st Century Shakespeare. Recently, I was unable to travel to see his staging of the Berlioz opera La Damnation de Faust at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, but I was able to catch it in HD broadcast at a local theatre. Every Lepage production is a revelation of technology wedded to a specific poetic vision.

OBT:

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

JR:

I would of course want to choose the recipient of the gift as well, to make sure they were well received and properly appreciated. Given the ideal reader as a recipient, at this point in my life I would choose Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient for a novel, Robert LePage’s Polygraph for a stage play and Gwendolyn MacEwen’s The TE Lawrence Poems for poetry. If I were allowed a non-fiction add-on as a fourth book, it would be Geoffrey Payzant’s Glenn Gould—Music and Mind.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

JR:

Anne Michaels’s The Winter Vault and Darren Greer’s Still Life With June, two brilliantly written novels that deserve to become Canadian classics.

OBT:

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

JR:

Don’t be put off by criticism of any kind, no matter who offers it. If it doesn’t help you, put it aside. Your own honest and informed opinion of your work is what counts.

OBT:

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

JR:

Know your goals and objectives, be flexible in what you are willing to write and, above all, know your market. Canada’s literary scene does not financially support more than a handful of authors, so don’t limit your work to Canada if your goal is to make a living as a novelist. You will either starve or die of frustration. It’s hard enough trying to make it as a writer without adding obstacles in your path.

OBT:

What is your next project?

JR:

I’m currently working on three books. The first of these, Bon Ton Roulez, (Cajun for “Let the Good Times Roll”) is the fourth in my Bradford Fairfax comic mystery series, aimed largely at an American market. The second, Javier and the Temple of the Jaguar, is a YA novel with mystical themes intended for a young multicultural readership. The third, another literary work as yet untitled, is about a Toronto choreographer who stages an AIDS benefit after a young dancer commits suicide. It will, I hope, appeal to both a Canadian and a European readership.


Jeffrey Round is an author and playwright from Toronto. He has worked as a television producer and writer for the CBC and Alliance Atlantis. He has a BA in English Literature and Theatre from Dalhousie, has attended the Humber School for Writers, and has studied Film and Television at Ryerson University. He lives in Toronto.

For more information on The Honey Locust please visit the Cormorant Books website.

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

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