Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Nick McArthur

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Ten Questions with Nick McArthur

Nick McArthur's writing has appeared in Matrix Magazine and Pistol Anthology and online at joyland.ca and xtranormal.com. His book, Short Accounts of Tragic Occurrences, was recently published by DC Books under their Punchy Writers Series imprint.

OBT:

Tell us about your book, Short Accounts of Tragic Occurrences.

NM:

Short Accounts of Tragic Occurrences is a collection of short and very short stories that engage absurdist, sci-fi and horror narrative traditions. There’s also a healthy dose of poop jokes, if you’re into that sort of thing.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Short Accounts of Tragic Occurrences?

NM:

Specifically, I had in mind my brothers and a couple old drinking buddies — my earliest educators in preposterous story-telling. A little more generally than that, I had in mind anyone who likes short-short stories.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

NM:

I published a poem called “Things I Can’t Seem to Let Go of” in Concordia’s Headlight Anthology, during my first year as an undergrad. I still like the poem, but I hate the title.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

NM:

Peace, quiet, a few close friends to suffer my early drafts, a twelve-pack of highly-caffeinated beverages, a good public transit system, a good local library, a fun local dive, drinkable tap water, Jamieson Whiskey and a three-speed rotating plastic fan with an adjustable head and a one-year warranty.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

NM:

I’m not too sure. Does Degrassi Junior High count as a recent Canadian cultural experience? I suppose that, after growing up in Ontario, the past few years living in Quebec have been a sort of formative cultural experience for me.

OBT:

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

NM:

I noticed that some of your Toronto-local interviewees were asked to compile a “Welcome to Toronto” gift box, so I think I’ll answer similarly, if only for the sake of narrowing it down. My Montreal three-pack would include: Attention All Typewriters by Jason Camlot, Sitcom by David McGimpsey and something by Richler. Either Solomon Gursky Was Here or St. Urbain’s Horseman.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

NM:

Two books: Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess and Fish Bones by my Punchy launch-mate, Gillian Sze. I’m enjoying both immensely.

OBT:

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

NM:

A friend and former classmate once said to me, “every decent writer drops a load in his own pants once in a while.” I’m fairly certain he intended this as a metaphor, but I find it comforting either way.

OBT:

What is your next project?

NM:

I don’t actually have one yet. I’ve begun some new stories and finished a few poems, but nothing that could be called a project. I’ve been toying with a sitcom pilot for several months now, but that’s really more of a fun distraction. Unless you also happen to be a high profile television producer, in which case I’m all business, baby.

OBT:

What advice do you have for a writer who is trying to get published?

NM:

I guess I would say, don’t worry too much about getting published. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep seeking out honest feedback from wherever you can find it. Most of all, try to be a part of your community: attend all the readings, go to every book fair, and just see where that takes you.


From the book jacket: Funny, smart and sharply composed, Nick McArthur’s debut book is just what the title suggests— a one-off tome on brevity and heartbreak, and an all-out exploration of weirdness. At its heart, Short Accounts of Tragic Occurrences is a full account of failure, and an inventory of loss. The trials and deprivations probed in McArthur's fiction are of the direst variety: a promising sandwich goes completely uneaten, an elderly woman devolves into a ball of flesh, and a high-ranking government official falls madly in love with his fax machine, only to find that his love unrequited. With a wry manner and quick gait, Short Accounts of Tragic Occurrences is a bold gambit from a unique voice in Canadian writing.

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