Monday, September 26, 2011

How to write Canadian

Hello everybody. This is Tom Chambers, from Expats Anonymous.  Today we are interviewing David Lloyd, a Canadian Expat, whose first novel - As I Died Laughing - has been published as an e-book. We thank David for allowing us to reprint this interview on his blog.

Tom:  From looking at your personal history, I see that you grew up in Canada but spent most of your adult life in Israel. Do you consider yourself, then, a Canadian author or an Israeli author?

David:  That’s a tough one. First of all, it’s strange to even think of myself as an author.

Tom:  Why is that?

David:  I’ve been writing bits and pieces all of my life. I think there was a time when I was young that I thought of becoming a writer. Actually, is there a difference in being called a writer or an author?

Tom: Well, I guess you are only called an author when you get a book published.

David:  I suppose so. Which still doesn’t necessarily make you a writer. I guess that depends on the reviews.

Tom:  Are  you trying to evade my original question?

David:  That obvious, eh? No, I’ll give it a go. I don’t think I could ever call myself an Israeli writer, or author. First of all, the book is written in English, not Hebrew.

Tom:  And that is important?

David:  Yes. The language that we speak is a part of the person we are, or who we are at that moment. I think I am two different people at times, when I speak Hebrew or English. But the more important point, I think, is that my formative years were spent in Canada. Writers always return to their childhood at some time in their writing.

Tom:  Have you done so in this book?

David:  I wouldn’t say that I have gone back that far. But it is there, nonetheless, in my writing. Israel is my adopted country. In a way, it is something like your in-laws. They are now family, but not the family you were born into.

Tom:  And you can always divorce your in-laws, but not your genetic family.

David:  Yes. Canada will never go away, even though I have been living on the other side of the world for more than 30 years. So, I guess if I had to choose, I would call myself a Canadian author / writer. I don’t know what Margaret Atwood would have to say about that.

Tom:  I suppose the irony, then, is that your book was not published in either Canada or Israel, but in England.

David:  Actually, it was published in cyberspace, since it is an e-book. But yes, it was published by a UK publisher. And you can get it on Amazon and Smashwords. Sorry, I couldn't help but give it a bit of an advertisement.

Tom:  Fair enough. Tell me, without my mentioning your age, why is it that you came out with your first novel at such a later age.

David:  I guess I had not much to offer until now.

Tom: Really?

David: No. I think I always had a lot to say. But for a long time it was enough for me to just write for myself and the people around me. Getting published really wasn’t on my mind. But at some point, things changed. 

Tom:  What was the cause of the change?

David: I realized my own mortality, and felt the sudden and urgent need to leave something of myself behind.

Tom:  And this is  your legacy.

David:  A part of it, at least.

Tom:  Do you see the book as something of a self-biography?

David:  God no. If I admitted to that I would have to constantly worry about dodging silver bullets. Of course there is a mixture of fact and fiction, and as the author, I have the luxury of not saying where the fiction begins and ends.

Tom:  Much like the theme of your book.

David:  I see that you have read it.

Tom:  Does that surprise you?

David:  I’m still getting used to the idea of it being out there.

Tom:  What about the people in the book. Are any of them real?

Tom:  I take it by your silence that you aren’t comfortable with this question.

David:  Well, you have to understand that certain characters will always be inspired, in some way, by real people and real circumstances. However, once they enter into the book, they take on a life of their own.

Tom: Nobody threatening class action?

David:  Not yet.

Tom: I have been looking at the book cover.

David:  You don't like it.

Tom:  Well, it is a bit strange. The guy that is sitting there and the things surrounding him.

David:  Believe it or not, the cover was meticulously thought out. The positioning, the way each item is displayed and depicted, has a direct connection to the underlying themes in the book. The problem is that you usually see a downsized copy of the cover on the book sites, and don't get the full detail. I could talk about this at great length, but it would be too much of a spoiler.

Tom:  The interaction between the various plots in the book is quite complex.

David:  Yes.

Tom:  Aren't you afraid that people won't get the book. That they won't understand what you are trying to say?

David: They will get what they will get. The main thing is that they get something. I guess that the success of the book depends on that.  I still discover new things in the book even after ten rewrites and reading it over endless times.

Tom:  Things that you didn’t see when you wrote them in the beginning?

David:  Things that I discovered in retrospect. Some which turned out to be quite clever. But then, I am not your most objective reader.

Tom:  How will you feel if people interpret your book quite differently than you do yourself?

David:  I have no problem with that. I believe that once a writer has released his work, his work no longer belongs to him. Who am I to say what interpretation is right and what is wrong. As an English teacher, I told my students that they could present whatever interpretation they wanted of a piece of literature, just as long as they built a conclusive argument using examples from the text. I informed them that the highest mark would go to the interpretations that surprised me the most, as long as they backed it up.

Tom: And did they? Surprise you?

David:  A few did. Not an easy thing to do. I remember writing a paper about Wuthering Heights, while studying English Lit at university. I set out to prove that Nelly was evil, and that most of the things that went wrong in the novel were the result of her subtle and misguided intervention. The professor had MA assistants who marked the papers. Mine came back as an 86, and with all types of comments in red expressing astonishment at my claims, but not relating specifically to what I wrote. Normally I would have let such things pass, but I really did think that my paper was a masterpiece and that the assistant couldn’t see past her own traditional concept of the book. So I went straight to the professor and asked him to read my paper.

Tom:  And what did he say?.

David:  He crossed out her mark and gave me a 98.

Tom:  Why not a 100?

David:  Now you sound like my mother.

Tom:  Getting back to authors and their works, how do you think Emily Bronte would have felt about your analysis of Nelly in her book?

David:  I hope she would have learnt to let go of her book, just as I have mine.

Tom:  Have you really? It has only been a few days since it came out.

David:  That long?

Tom:  And on that note, it looks like our time is almost up. Is there anything you’d like to add before signing off?

David:  Only that I have set up a facebook group for people to post comments about the book. I’d like to say that the writing of the book was satisfying in itself, and that I really don’t need anything more, but I do feel the need to hear what people think. Not simply whether they like the book or not, but how they relate to different parts of the book, no matter how harsh their criticism. Especially after the second or third reading.

Tom:  Do you think a second or third reading would help?

David:  It certainly wouldn’t hurt.

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