Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Michael Lewis MacLennan

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Ten Questions with Michael Lewis MacLennan

Open Book talks to award-winning playwright Michael Lewis MacLennan about writing, Canadian culture and his latest play, The Good Egg (Playwrights Canada Press).

OBT:

Tell us about your latest book, The Good Egg.

MLM:

The Good Egg is a comedy about this ultimate couple — attractive, smart, and successful — who have been trying in vain to conceive a child. When complications force them to consider alternative methods of conception, the husband tracks down a handsome young art model, who seems to be the perfect solution to their problems. But as this unlikely trio gets more intimate, secret agendas surface and threaten to destroy not only their hasty deal, but everything the couple has so carefully built for themselves.

In a way, the two men are shadows for one another, while Robin the wife comes to realize her power at the peak of this triangle, as a reluctant mediator and ultimate holder of power. The play is a highly theatrical funfest that also questions the role of men in creation, the nature of family and the profound transformative power that unexpected intimacies offer.

OBT:

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

MLM:

People who have been involved with any aspect of fertility or the new wave of family planning, for sure — and it’s astonishing how many folks have faced this issue (as I have). There are embedded levels of meaning, but ultimately, it’s a comedy, and comedies need to appeal to a broad audience, I say.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

MLM:

Because I travel so much I've had to learn to write pretty much anywhere. For example, a lot of the revisions to my new play The Good Egg were done in my hotel room. I work in cafés, friends’ houses and once even wrote the “book” to a musical on a cruise ship. But my favourite place to write is a tiny 9’ x 10’ renovated garage that I use as my studio. It's simple and cozy and all about writing.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

MLM:

It was my first play, entitled Beat the Sunset, which was also published by Playwrights Canada Press. With one exception, they have done all my plays, and I couldn’t be happier.

Or wait — there was also some erotic fiction I wrote for some anthologies before that, but that’s another story, right?

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

MLM:

Robert Lepage’s plays have been very influential to me lately. I appreciate how what he creates manages to be both literary and theatrical... intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding. He’s not afraid of spectacle, and I appreciate that.

I have also been inspired by the freshness of voice by novelists Brian Francis and Darren Greer. They have both inspired me in my attempts to meld heart with humour and find substance in unlikely subjects.

OBT:

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

MLM:

Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief
Margaret Atwood’s Wilderness Tips
Maggie Siggins’s Revenge of the Land

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

MLM:

Four things on my bedside: Elizabeth Hay’s Late Nights on Air. Daniel MacIvor’s His Greatness. David Mamet’s Bambi v. Godzilla. And Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which I haven’t been able to get very far into. The Russians kind of scare me, and I need to just get over it.

OBT:

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

MLM:

Read. I need to know the work of those who have come before me, and the work of my contemporaries.

OBT:

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

MLM:

Make your writing as strong as you can before you show it to the wider world. It’s an enormous leap of faith to keep working and reworking what you’ve written, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. If you even have an inkling of how you might make the writing better… you need to undertake those revisions first.

OBT:

What is your next project?

MLM:

Adapting some Canadian novels into features, developing a new TV series, writing an opera libretto, as well as starting a new play. Not much can be said about the last one, except that involves a Revenue Canada audit. Now doesn’t that sound FUN?




Born in Vancouver, Michael Lewis MacLennan now divides his time between Toronto, Vancouver and Los Angeles, working as a playwright, screenwriter and TV producer. He is a two-time finalist for Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award and the only playwright to win the Herman Voaden National Playwriting Award twice. His first play, Beat the Sunset, garnered Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Award for outstanding emerging playwright and won the Theatrum National Playwriting Competition. Grace won the Theatre BC National Playwriting Competition and has been produced across Canada and internationally. His next two plays, The Shooting Stage and Last Romantics both won the Voaden Prize and were Governor General’s Literary Award nominees. His most recently published play, Life After God, was an adaptation of the Douglas Coupland book. As a screenwriter, MacLennan has been nominated five times for the Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award. Credits include co-executive producer of Queer as Folk, creator and executive producer of Godiva’s and co-creator of jPod. He has written pilots for ABC and CBS, CBC and Germany’s RTL network. For more information, visit www.michaelmaclennan.com.

Read more about The Good Egg at the Playwrights Canada Press website.

Buy The Good Egg at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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