Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Yeah, it was a "Hot Stuff" comic. I don't remember the plot line, so I guess it was not a classic.
What is your writing process?
Mind mapping and elaborate outlining are always taught in writing classes, and I think they are bad advice. Firstly, they can easily become excuses for not writing. Secondly, they never survive the actual writing process. Third, if they do, they result in something wooden and inorganic. Writing is very different from outlining.
Working from a basic outline, I write a short draft, and keep expanding and rewriting it.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I won the NDG Arts and Letters Festival in Grade 3 for "The Best Friend I Ever Had." It was about Shep. He was a good dog.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
My idea of a good time has always been to browse in bookstores. A fine bookstore is a great cultural institution, and I have been lucky enough to know many. I have to think, for example, of "Beggar's Banquet Books," in my home town of Gananoque. It is the real centre of that community.
But now we can browse online, any time we want.In a way the Internet and the WWW is the One Great Bookstore.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I am on a mission from God.
No, really. We all are. I believe I have an obligation to use whatever gifts God gave me to make things better in the world. We're all in this together.
What are you working on next?
I am working on what looks like a magnum opus, The Truth about Dragons. It is an examination of the causes and solution to depression, and perhaps a rethinking of what we call "mental illness" generally. It has become apparent to me that we have it all garbled, and the answers are in plain sight. This is the central issue of art and religion generally, and the entire matter has been well outlined in tragic drama, hero legends, and fairy tales around the world and for time immemorial.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favourite authors are poets. When it comes to sheer working with words, poets are top of the heap. W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, Leonard Cohen. Shakespeare, of course. Hans Christian Andersen.
I keep abreast of things online with Mark Steyn, David Warren, Kathy Shaidle, Glenn Reynolds, Kate McMillan.
Barbara Tuchman is my favourite historian. I have reread William L. Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich several times. Love Shelby Foote's writing on the US Civil War.
George Orwell and Jonathan Swift are two heroes when it comes to political writing.
How do you approach cover design?
Brain Grebow, of BG Communications, did the cover of Playing the Indian Card.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Researching, editing, and polishing. "Not writing" in the broader sense? Teaching.
What do you read for pleasure?
For pleasure, I mostly read current events: David Warren, Mark Steyn, Andrew Coyne, are each in their own way masters of prose. Next, unsurprisingly, history is my mug of ale. Next to that, poetry, mythology, and fairy tales.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have an Android tablet, an Apple iPad and iPod, and a Kindle Fire. Love them all, and choosing one would feel like a betrayal. I'd say the Kindle app on the Android tablet gets most use.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Standing on the corner of Bloor and Yonge with a tin cup.
Describe your desk
Black, rickety, and crowded. Lots of wires. I see a laptop, a desktop monitor, an external hard drive, a printer/scanner, a tablet, two power bars, a reading lamp, a coffee mug, an extension clamp to hold an iPod, a modem/router, a telephone, and a stack of papers. This is my world.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up half-and-half in West Island Montreal and in Gananoque, Ontario. Both were, in their way, Catholic milieus, the one French (with some Irish), the other Irish (with some French). I always felt that Toronto or Kingston, the two Anglo Protestant neighbours, were bereft of beauty or culture by comparison. I have since come to feel a deep affection for Toronto, but Toronto now is not what Toronto was then. They let in the Portuguese.
When did you first start writing?
I always wrote.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My father suggested it. The First Nations/Indians/indigenous people have become a central concern in contemporary Canadian society. When my father suggested there was a need for such a book, clarifying the history behind the issues, I was deathly ill, with encephalomyelitis, and could not teach. It became a kind of therapy for me. It forced me to regain control of my fingers in order to type. It was an ordeal, certainly. For months, I had little motor control, and I swore at the keyboard. For a time, I could only work lying on my back. It feels as though the book was written with my blood.
At the same time, it was and is an important issue to which I feel I can offer some clarity. We have gotten things terribly muddled. It is costing us a lot of money, and making things worse and worse instead of better for Canadian Indians. We need to break this cycle.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I feared the book would face some stiff political opposition, making it hard to get it published using conventional channels. As a past president of the Editors' Association of Canada, I am only too aware that leftward politics and political correctness rule almost unchallenged in Canadian publishing. It would have been hard to impossible to find an agent, a publisher, an editor prepared to let this book see the light of day. Even though it is, I think, and to the best of my ability, thoroughly researched and factual. And written with malice towards none.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It is premature to comment.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The best thing about writing is rewriting. And the best thing about rewriting is rerewriting.
What do your fans mean to you?
I think of them like my mother. Since they are my mother, after all.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Let's limit this to novels. Otherwise apples are jostling oranges.
1984 Crime and Punishment Lord of the Flies Through the Looking Glass Heart of Darkness
As this list demonstrates, I am no fan of literary pyrotechnics. The best writing is straightforward. Simplicity is a virtue. The author should be as nearly as possible invisible. He or she should not be waving "Look at me! Look at me! I'm so clever!"
I am omitting novels read in translation, because it is too difficult to compare on this basis. But I still had to include Crime and Punishment. Other novels that probably belong here are Kafka's Metamorphosis, Don Quixote, and Hesse's Demian. Were I able to read German and Spanish.
The two great Canadian classics are Anne of Green Gables and Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. They are twin cornerstones of Canadian culture. And yes, there is a Canadian culture, and I love it.
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