Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Cary Fagan

Share |
On Writing, with Cary Fagan

Cary Fagan talks to us about reading, writing and his latest book, Valentine's Fall (Cormorant Books).

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your book, Valentine's Fall.

Cary Fagan:

The novel is set off by the return of Huddie Rosen to Toronto after an absence of some 25 years. A bluegrass musician, he's been living in Prague. But when his marriage begins to breakdown he heads to Toronto to see his mother and attend a memorial for the anniversary of the death of Valentine Schwartz, his best friend in high school.

In Toronto, Huddie gets involved with his old friends and tries to find solutions to his own troubles. It's a serious book but with a lot of humour, I think, in both the situations and the talk.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Valentine's Fall?

CF:

I didn't have a specific readership in mind other than people who like to read good, involving novels. If it turns out that the readership is Jewish mandolin players I might be in a little trouble.

OBT:

How did you research your book?

CF:

I'm not a systematic researcher at the best of times. I follow my nose, doing whatever sparks my interest. For this novel I used, first and foremost, my memory of my own high school years, although I did actually look at my old essays and yearbooks which were somewhere in my parents' basement. Because Huddie's been living in Prague, of course I did a lot of reading about the city and did visit, although only for a brief time. As for him being a musician, that gave me permission to learn to play the mandolin. I took lessons on and off for two years with Andrew Collins, a brilliant Toronto player, and workshops with some of the bluegrass greats such as Roland White and Mike Compton. I went down to music camps and festivals in Massachusetts and Tennessee and Colorado. I talked to working musicians. I listened.

OBT:

Does the writing that you do for children influence your writing for adults and vice versa?

CF:

I know that my children's writing and my adult work influences each other a lot but I haven't looked too closely at how. Some of the playfulness of the kid stuff, the outrageousness, has seeped in. I've embraced the idea of wanting to write a real 'page-turner,' a story that keeps you wanting more, something that I readily accepted for my kids' novels but thought was not artistic enough for adult work when I was younger.

OBT:

When did you decide to become a writer? Was there a writer or a book that you read that made you want to write?

CF:

I decided quite early, when I was about ten. I think what influenced me was the very warm reception my writing always got in school. Teachers would make a big deal of a poem or a story I wrote.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

CF:

I can't think of a thing! But I do know that I'm a Canadian through and through and feel it whenever I travel. I think that's the biggest thing, not any single experience but whenever I visit some other part of the world--that's when I feel my Canadian self.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

CF:

Right now I'm reading Moby-Dick. I've been meaning to for about thirty years and I'm finally getting around to it. And you know what? It's a great book.

OBT:

What’s the most memorable response you've received from a reader?

CF:

There is one woman, she must be in her eighties now. I've run into her two or three times at events and she always wants to talk about my little novel The Doctor's House. She read it years ago and she's still thinking about it. That's amazing to me.

OBT:

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

CF:

Learn about the world. Talk to people. Open your eyes.

OBT:

What's your next project?

CF:

For my adult work it's a collection of stories, my first in many years. But I've fallen in love with the short story all over again.


Cary Fagan has been a writer for twenty years. He is the author of such books as The Mermaid of Paris, Felix Roth and The Animals Waltz. In 1991 he, along with Robert MacDonald, received a Toronto Book Award for editing Streets of Attitude: Toronto Stories. Cary has also received two Jewish Book Awards and a Mr. Christie Silver medal. He has lived in London, New York
City and currently resides in Toronto.

For more information about Valentine's Fall please visit the Cormorant Books website.

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

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications

Dundurn

Open Book App Ad