Interview with Larry Swatuk

What do you read for pleasure?
I read a great number of writers from the UK: Roddy Doyle, Martin Amis, Hilary Mantel, Graham Swift, James Kelman, Pat Barker, the list goes on and on. As a Canadian, I take great pleasure in reading our own writers. Of course Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields (I once received 3 copies of 'Larry's Party' for Christmas - people thought it was clever). But newer writers too like Michael Crummey whose River Thieves just blew me away. Further afield, I love Doris Lessing's early stuff, and most of what J.M. Coetzee has written. But I think my favorite writer of all time is Patrick White from Australia. His books can be very difficult to get into, but once you are in it is impossible to get out!
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use kindle on my ipad.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on the waterfront of the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario. My family owned a huge roadhouse tavern and we all lived on the second floor - my grandparents, my mom and dad and my sister and I. I remember when I was just a little person, in the summer time, after our parents had sent us to bed, I would sneak into my sister's room and we would stay up watching the freighters wend their way up and down the river. It was magical. I also grew up during the hey-day of global economic development, where the 'Motor City' was the place to be, but it was not all 'the days of wine and roses': I still remember watching Detroit burn from the upper floor window of our hotel. Racism, the Vietnam War, all of that. I think growing up in this place in this era leads me toward a style of writing that always looks for the best in humanity, how to make things better, and how we need to struggle for what it is that we believe in.
When did you first start writing?
My first published work was a poem written in Grade 4. From that point onward everybody always said, 'He can write. He's going to be a writer.' And I guess that's true. Though it wasn't fiction that I wrote, until The Last Cup.
What's the story behind your latest book?
This book reflects on my life in hockey. I have played hockey on 3 continents - Africa, Europe, North America - in a variety of leagues and contexts. I was a member of the Mukwa Leafs inline hockey team while I lived in Botswana. Imagine that: a hockey rink in the desert?! Fantastic. So, I've accumulated all these stories over the decades and I felt that the 50th anniversary of the last Maple Leaf Stanley Cup win would be a good time to try and put those stories into one place and tie them into a narrative not only about hockey, but about how hockey is a sport that brings the generations together, that even the old and slow can share space with the fast and young.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, I'm quite possibly doing one of any number of things. My 'day job' is as a professor at the University of Waterloo where I teach in the international development program. That takes up a lot of time, but the young are our future and I consider it a great honour to be able to help build the critical and analytical capacity of the next generation. I might also be playing pick-up hockey, or, if at home, cooking a meal for my wife and I and listening to CBC radio. Writers and Company, Ideas and The Next Chapter are my go-to radio podcasts.
What is your writing process?
Strike while the iron is hot! If I have to write something serious and academic, I often warm-up by writing a book review, just to get into the right frame of mind. If it is fiction, I will try and work through the entire morning before going stale or getting distracted by the real world.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I was thinking about this the other day. My wife, Corrine, and I were talking about influential books and one that always stood out for me - still stands out rather - is John Howard Griffin's non-fiction book Black Like Me. It's about a man who alters the color of his skin through chemicals and whatnot (it's been 45 years since I read it!) in order to be 'black' in America at a very difficult time in that nation's history. I was about 11 or 12 when I read it, and it had a profound impact on my thinking, particularly as it also came at the same time as Martin Luther King was assassinated, and just after the Detroit riots.
How do you approach cover design?
When you write non-fiction, academic books the covers are mostly out of your hands. The publisher tells you what the cover will look like. What I like most about Smashwords and e-publishing is that you can hunt around for an image that tells the story of your book. You are in control (mostly, subject to copyright and all that). So, for The Last Cup I had this image in my mind of two players facing off, which could mean more than just a hockey game: it could mean a man confronting the facts of his aging life. It could symbolize the endless debate between which city is better - Montreal and Toronto - an argument further fuelled by the recent Economist article stating that both were in the top 4 cities in which to live in the whole world. I worked with some great people at www.ebooklaunch.com
Describe your desk
I have two desks: one at home and one at the office. They are schizophrenic spaces, like the beach: at high tide they are flat and neat and full of purpose. But eventually, there comes low tide: the space now awash in bric a brac, flotsam and jetsam, the unseen now seen, papers and books and used coffee mugs, an endless array of notes to myself. Eventually, however, as I complete one project I sweep everything away, as the sea sweeps in, eventually to start again.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I'm an early morning person. I love the sunrise. In the summer, I love the sound of the birds, of the world waking up around me. I'm a 'glass half full' sort of guy. There's plenty of ugly problems in the world, but there's plenty of beauty and possibility. Carpe diem!
Published 2015-03-13.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Last Cup: Hockey, Life, Lord Stanley and the Toronto Maple Leafs
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 84,440. Language: English. Published: March 13, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Sports, Nonfiction » Relationships & Family » Family relationships
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
Jack is 80 years old. He’s just suffered a heart-attack while playing shinny down at the local arena. Jack’s wife, Mary, is on a Middle East peace mission and cannot be reached. Jack’s nephews Logan and Andrew play for the Toronto Maple Leafs who are in the finals for the first time in 70 years. Will Jack survive? Will Mary bring peace to the Middle East? Will the Leafs win the Stanley Cup?