Interview with David Halliday

Published 2016-08-04.
What are your first memories of story telling?
This is before television. Even radio was unavailable in many parts of Prince Edward Island. My grandfather, after a long day farming would sit in the kitchen regaling everyone with his stories about different characters he had met, or who worked on the neighbouring farms, who worked at the nearby mill, or whom he met while visiting town. He had an Irish lilt and his stories would wander off onto a multitude of tangents but always he would return to the nub of his story. It wasn't just the interesting characters that coloured his stories but the lilt and music in his voice. It was like listening to a lullaby.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
In my early years I did some book tours. And readings. Posters of my work appeared on subway walls. But none of it sold much. If you are an artist, writer, painter, poet, any of the solitary arts and you're hoping to make a career then go into banking. There are some who enjoy doing readings. I've done a few. Hated it. But that's not to say some have not advanced their careers, or at least their reputations by doing such readings. Margaret Attwood was like a rock star in the 70s. Robert Priest was very good. But most readings are like listening to someone who is constipated and on the can. I did some television and radio interviews as well and perhaps with practice I might have become good at it. Leonard Cohen was and is wonderful at these.
Describe your desk
My desk is a mess. There are popcorn wraps, knives, glue sticks, socks, (a loaded gun I keep in the drawer), an assortment of letters that I"m supposed to respond to. Most of these are bills. I used to keep a collection of rejections but the pile got to large and one day they fell over and almost killed my cat.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in downtown Toronto until I was about 6 years old. Then we moved to Etobicoke (Islington), a suburb in the west end of the city. At the time it was fairly remote from downtown. (This was before the Bloor subway.) The area was a mix of peoples, Irish, Poles, Italians, Slovaks. There were no people of color. The only brown people I ever saw before I was about 14 years old, were Sikh students at the University of Toronto. Most of my friends were working class, 1st or 2nd generation immigrants. It was a great education.
When did you first start writing?
I was about 5 years old when my mother gave me a blank book. She told me to write stories. I did. If I didn't know a word I would draw it, or cut it out of magazines and stick it in my book. And I had a huge dictionary. I don't know what happened to that book or others that I wrote. Perhaps to an adult they wouldn't have made any sense. But they were like that box that the refrigerator comes in. It becomes your castle, your tunnel, your cape of invisibility.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The book I am working on is a collection of interwoven novelettes. Each novelette has an independent quality about it, 'coming of age', 'comedy', 'romance', 'mystery'. But they are all part of a large story. Maybe its my version of the Canterbury Tales. About 2 decades ago I started reading Latin American writers. What I loved about their writing was that they did not seem to be handcuffed by structure. They were not writing novels to be studied in high school. Their books were fun.
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