Posts by Chris:
“And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”
I’m glad it came through. It took two months to get permission, and with the manuscript going to the printers in February it arrived just in time. I suppose it wouldn’t have been the end of the world had I not got it. But I’m happy it’ll be there – the cherry on the sundae.
I came to Slaughterhouse-Five late in life, after I began writing this book. It was recommended to me by a friend who saw parallels with what I was trying to do with my central story line. I had wanted my book to be nonlinear, to jump back and forth through time. Because that’s what happens when your heart breaks. You no longer live in the present.
Slaughterhouse-Five is unique and powerful. It poses some interesting questions about our perception of time and the nature of death. I’ve read it numerous times and my own dog-eared copy is filled with underlined passages that blew me away.
The quote I chose particularly resonates with me. This question that Billy Pilgrim poses is the same one Will wants answered too. What in this world can I consider my own? What do I not have to fear losing?
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The pace of the New Year is staggering. Between work and preparations for the book there doesn’t seem to be much time for anything else (although I am doing my best to squeeze in as much in as possible).
The 15-year-old me would be so pleased. I was so bored as a teenager, waiting for the excitement and opportunity that would come with age. When I had a place in the world. When I finally had friends.
I turn 40 in a month and am feeling good about it. When I look back things are pretty sweet. I have a kind partner who loves me and who I love. We live together in a spacious apartment with our docile cat. I have my health and a good close relationship with my parents. I have great friends. I have a job that I really like. My first book is about to come out… I feel blessed to be so busy. If you had told the 15-year-old me what he could expect 25 years later I’m sure he’d be beaming.
Last week was all about copyedits. I got the manuscript back from the copyeditor. There wasn’t much work to be done. After 14 years it’s pretty clean. But she did catch some important things: word misuse, some inconsistencies, missing commas. I even caught one or two things she missed. This stage is frightening. You want everything to be perfect, but you’ve read the text so many times you no longer see your mistakes.
I’m told that the manuscript goes off to the printer now. There will be one final revision once it comes back (as it will appear on the page). This should happen by mid-February I am told. And then the book will be out by the end of April (more time to plan the launch, thank God!).
I have many ideas for the launch, probably too many. Am I overthinking things? It’s in my nature to, I suppose. But I want it to be fun. Special. A celebration. God knows I have been to so many boring book launches. I want mine to be different, unique, memorable.
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Last night I took Vincent Fortier out for dinner to thank him for allowing us to use his photograph for Pluto’s cover. We met up at Barbounya, a Turkish restaurant on Laurier West, and ate stuffed calamari, ceviche and fried kale.
I had never met Vincent before. He’s an Instagram friend whose pictures I adore.
I had resisted joining Instagram for so long, but relented last year. I didn’t want another social media account to manage. But once I began to explore it, I was hooked. I love the glimpse it gives me into the interesting lives of (handsome) people I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like I should know them, that if we lived in the same city I would.
Vincent is another Montrealer. He takes amazing pictures of the city (particularly in fall and winter). In many ways I feel I am rediscovering Montreal through his images. God knows I haven’t had much time to wander the city lately. Thankfully, I can with his photos.
When it came time to discuss the book cover with my publisher, I didn’t know what to suggest. What one image could sum up the story I’d been writing for the past 14 years? Would it be a shot of Will’s face? A map of Montreal? An illustration of the solar system? I knew, however, what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a half-naked man on the cover, and I didn’t want it to look like a sci-fi novel.
Then I saw Vincent’s picture. Immediately I knew it’d be perfect. The image is quintessential Montreal. The metal spiralling staircase is something you see behind most homes. It’s the kind of staircase I picture Will climbing to peer into Max’s apartment. And then there is the clothesline – another evocative image from the book. I’m not sure what’s on that wire – a bird or a clothes peg – but whatever it is reminds me of Will’s mother.
And then there is the pink/purple sky, as bright and open as the most beautiful days in winter. Night falling. Invisible stars. The heavens. The more I looked at it, the more I saw my own book. And now it’s the cover. All this, from a great new friend on Instagram.
I had my first interview for the book last night. It was with Rob Sherren of the Montreal Review of Books. We met on one of the coldest nights of the year and sipped whiskey in the back of Sky Bar (fitting, given it is one of the settings of the book).
Rob was great. He was smart, charming, thoughtful, well-prepared. He had notes, questions, and impressions to share. And what’s more, he really liked the book. We talked for two hours – about Will, and Max, and Angie, and James, and the Mother. It felt great to talk to another person in depth about the characters, their actions, their motivations.
It was also the first time someone I did not know read the book. What’s more, he is a married man with three children. Not exactly what I thought my demographic would be.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. Who will read this book once it’s out? Rob and I talked about this, about how the reason we read books is to bring us out of ourselves, to expose us to experiences and lives that we know nothing about. We read to look for points of connection, to find things we can relate to.
And Rob was able to do that. He saw what I was trying to do with the novel and got it.
Last night was a great pleasure. Here’s hoping all other interviews will be as enjoyable.
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For the past two weeks I’ve been burning through a book written by a friend of mine: The Traveller by Daniel Baylis. I’m two chapters away from the end and am putting it down so I can savour the remaining pages. It’s been a great trip so far.
At the end of 2010, Daniel put all of his worldly possessions in storage and took off on a self-directed voyage around the world. He visited 12 countries in 12 months, looking for meaningful ways to engage with the local communities. All throughout, he wrote about his (mis)adventures and they are collected here in this book – one chapter for every country visited.
Daniel does a great job of letting us inside his journey. I felt like I was along for the ride: herding goats in Israel, rebuilding a castle in the French countryside, getting close with the locals in South Africa. I felt his elation, his disappointment, his anxiety, his wonder. Daniel is also extremely witty and his sense of humour shines through. On several occasions I even laughed out loud.
When it came time to release this book, Daniel wanted his publishing experience to be as self-directed as his voyage. He opted to pursue self-publishing (or, as he calls it, team publishing) and it’s been fascinating to watch the project evolve.
Daniel did all the right things – took time off to write, hired a professional editor, got an award-winning cover designer, researched different typesetters and printers. And he promoted the thing out the yin-yang, achieving his Indiegogo goal in 3 just days (read about that here).
I’m super proud and happy for him. The Traveller is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time.
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