Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Montreal by Edmonton by the bottom of Lake Minnewanka, filtered through Toronto

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In the last posting, I mentioned that I would be on Sounds Like Canada today, that is Thursday. Well... the media are more sophisticated than my assumptions. My interview is being taped this morning, to run on a later date. The magic of the digital age! If I discover the later date, I'll dish it. But I'm sure you listen to Sounds Like Canada every day, anyway.

So far, I have never set any fiction in Toronto. While I have spent a lot of time in Canada's first city, I have never lived in Toronto. At least physically. I currently live in the virtual Toronto, as you can read. These are Toronto words I am writing.

Writers are allowed to set their fiction in cities where they have not lived. Fiction is an imaginative art, and there are no limits or rules except: be convincing. I could set my next novel in Kinshasa, if I were so inclined (I am not so inclined). My friend and fellow Alberta novelist Thomas Wharton recently wrote a novel set in Mexico City, and he's never been to Mexico. In The Book of Stanley, Stanley goes to a sort of netherworld at the bottom of Lake Minnewanka, in Banff National Park, where he visits the Taj Mahal and King Solomon's Temple. Have I been to this netherworld? No.

The novel I am currently writing is set in Montreal. I lived almost four years in Montreal, but I currently live in Edmonton, Alberta. So I am recreating a Montreal of the imagination that is somewhat removed from the real Montreal — I'm not there to see it and smell it and hear it and taste it every morning, as I write. In a crucial scene late in the book, the protagonist drives from Montreal to Hoboken, a city I have seen but not visited. If I can afford it, or if the Canada Council thinks it's a good idea, I will drive from Montreal to Hoboken and describe the physical journey. If not, that's all right. Using research and memory, I will build my own Hoboken. Of course, since I have not written this scene, anything is possible between now and "late in the book" — a time I can only, from this vantage point, imagine.

All this imagining.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Todd Babiak

Todd Babiak is the author of the bestselling novel The Garneau Block (McClelland & Stewart, 2006) and the award-winning novel Choke Hold (Turnstone, 2000). His latest novel is The Book of Stanley (McClelland & Stewart, 2007).

Go to Todd Babiak’s Author Page