Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions With Matthew Bin

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Ten Questions With Matthew Bin

Matthew Bin is the author On Guard For Thee: Canadian Peacekeeping Missions (BookLand Press, 2007), a collection of soldiers’ stories from Canadian men and women who have served overseas on UN or NATO missions from the end of the Cold War to the present day. His novel, LMF, was published by Little Green Tree Press in 2006. Matthew will be signing books at the OLA Expo on Thursday, January 31st.

OB:

Tell us about your book, On Guard For Thee: Canadian Peacekeeping Missions

MB:

The book is an oral history of Canadian peacekeeping in the modern, post-Cold War age. Veterans of every Canadian foreign mission from the first Gulf War to the current conflict in Afghanistan were interviewed about their experiences, and their anecdotes and reminiscences are given in their own words on the page. The result is a real, ground-level view of what it's like to serve Canada abroad.

OB:

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

MB:

The book is aimed at regular, civilian Canadians who are interested in Canada's history and our place in the modern world. Most Canadians are proud of our nation's peacekeeping history, but we rarely get a chance to learn what those peacekeeping missions entail. I'm hoping this book will give that chance any Canadian.

OB:

How did you research On Guard For Thee?

MB:

Through veterans groups, and through my own friends who served abroad for Canada, I contacted veterans and interviewed them about their experiences. Where possible, I met the veterans personally, usually in their homes; for the veterans who live outside Ontario, I interviewed them by phone.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

MB:

I like to write in public, and usually try to find a comfortable corner in a cafe or coffeeshop to work. There's something about having the buzz of humanity around me that helps me to focus. Writing alone in a silent room is more difficult for me.

OB:

What was your first publication?

MB:

In 2006, I published a novel, L.M.F. , with a small company in Burlington named Little Green Tree. The novel is about a Canadian bomber pilot in World War II who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and shows how such cases were treated by the Canadian Air Force at the time.

OB:

Is there one book you think everyone should read?

MB:

I think it's more important that everyone be reading something—anything that you can learn from, or that opens your mind to new perspectives and new understanding, is worth reading.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

MB:

I always seem to have a handful of different books on the go. I've been reading Gwynne Dyer's history of the Iraq War, The Mess They Made, and I just this week opened The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

MB:

While I am always humbled and gratified to hear from people who have read my books, the most memorable responses are from those who were involved in the book somehow themselves. One of the veterans I interviewed for On Guard for Thee, who recounted some very upsetting and painful experiences, told me he was very impressed with it, and he had given a copy to a friend of his who he had served with in the former Yugoslavia. That told me that I got something right.

OB:

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

MB:

That writing doesn't pay well, and I'd be better off getting a more stable profession. I've ignored that advice, but it made me think about writing as a business, first and foremost. It's the only way to be successful as a writer, I think: to know that it's both a business and an art. You have to learn, as a writer, to balance both.

OB:

What is your next project?

MB:

I've drafted my next novel, which is about the Hamilton mafia. I'm still working on the revisions, but I hope I'm not too far away from having it ready for publishers to look at.

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