March 28, 2014
Pantheon actually started as an entirely different novel where the backstory was set in Greece and the main story was set in Canada, but I discovered that readers found the Greek setting more intriguing. Even though I was reluctant to undertake the amount of research involved in writing historical fiction, I rewrote the story with a focus on Greece. There is just a lot of inherent drama in certain periods of Greek history—the 1920s, 1940s, and 1960s in particular—and I had a number of family stories to draw on as well. I then realized I had a lot of material for a novel.
I framed the new draft with a narrator who is in prison, which was also well received in workshop. The prison frame, while a convenient hook, has unfortunately turned out to be something of a curse. As the project developed, it grew harder to reconcile that narrator and framing device with the rest of the story. Research into how other writers approached this technical issue didn’t yield much that was of use to me. Interviews tend to focus on other aspects of their work. Process is seldom discussed. Sometimes I think that I should have created less of a challenge for myself, but it’s a challenge that I hope my mentor will help me with. I am reasonably confident about the rest of the novel as I’ve had a decent amount of writing experience at this point and success with grants, but I still need a second set of eyes. When I talk to friends who have published books, what I’m most envious of is the relationship they have with their editors, so it will be good to have a mentor who can fill that role.
My writing process is simple: consistency. I teach at a university, so a fair bit of my time is unstructured. That kind of schedule allows me to set aside some time each day for writing projects.
As for zany facts: I’ve been writing a series of satiric open letters to Rob Ford on Facebook since he was elected. They’re written in the tone of a supporter who—like Ford—is sometimes a bit too dense to understand the implications of what he’s saying. Ford is the perfect subject for satire, although it’s a bit too easy now. By now, there’s probably a book’s worth of letters, if anyone cares to read it.
In my ideal world there would be a lot more financial support for writers and other creative professionals. We have decent support for the arts in Canada, but it’s not enough for most to subsist on.
If you ask me where I’ll be in ten years, the only thing I can predict with accuracy is that I’ll still be writing. That’s when I’m happiest. I am definitely at the point where I’ve realized that writing is something I need to do, whether it gets read by anyone else or not.