|Born||Vancouver Island, British Columbia|
|Notable works||The Sisters Brothers|
I'm never doing anything by rote. I'm only on thin ice, and I think that that's a good place to be. I feel like when you push yourself like that, the rewards can be pretty great.
The question of likability is a bit of a puzzler for me. You know, I don't write people with likability in mind. It's more whether or not I find them compelling.
When you're 8 years old, and you've become subconsciously familiar with the layout and design of Black Sparrow books, and you know the difference between Miles Davis and John Coltrane, something is bound to stick.
I've got a publicist at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who's been working little miracles for me, but it's true the budgets aren't what they once were in terms of advertisement and book tours.
One of the nice things about writing is you can take essentially painful things in your life and turn them into something that might be useful, or at least entertaining, to somebody else.
I wouldn't want to write a biography of anyone. I'd feel too inhibited by the facts and too much pressure to do the subject's life justice.
Certain writers look down their noses at plot, and I think I might have been one of them until I tried it.
The theme of luck comes up a lot. It's something I thought about before, why some people are lucky and some people aren't lucky. It seems like some people you meet can sort of cultivate luck, and I've always been fascinated by that.
I'm either enjoying myself or I'm not. And if I'm not enjoying myself, something's gone terribly wrong.
All the books I was reading as a teenager were about individuals having adventures. So I thought that was what writers were supposed to do: to go out on the road.
I was halfway through a rough draft of 'The Sisters Brothers' when it came time to start the 'Terri' adaptation.
I don't know that happy people are interesting to write about – or to read about.
I'm not an enormous proponent of plot as a reader. It's about other things; my reading has become specialized over the years.
By the time I left the bar, I was 30. I was a dishwasher. They call it a bar-back, but essentially, I washed dishes for a living. I had no high-school diploma, I had no agent, and my literary successes were non-existent… but it was the only thing I ever wanted to do, so I did feel trapped.
I carry a small spiral notebook with me at all times and have been doing this for many years. There's a shoe box in my closet filled with these notebooks, each riddled with notes and impressions, ideas, schemes, and soup recipes.
I was reading my son some fables; it made for good nighttime reading. These stories were very vivid and very strange and occasionally bizarrely violent. It was a very free landscape.
The idea is this: It's important to upset one's work habits, to topple the cart for each project.
'The Sisters Brothers' started out as a little bit of dialogue between these two men who became Eli and Charlie Sisters.
I wrote for so many years in a bubble, the way everyone does, and there were large swaths of time where you think you're doing this for nothing. An audience is crucial, a back and forth with the invisible readers.
A lot of authors, judging by their list, will put anything out that they finish… That's the worst model I've heard of in my life. It's just idiotic. Why wouldn't you just wait for the good ones?
Many's the dead author whose body of work has been marred by overzealous publishers or family members. If this happens to me, I vow to seek out the responsible parties and haunt them to the point of death.
Looking around, I saw so many unhappy adults, people who loathed their jobs, and I didn't want to be one of them.
I've fallen in love in my life a few times. It's the most exciting part of being alive – that I've experienced, anyway.
Humorous writing is often thought of as substandard in comparison to work with a more dramatic or tragic intent. I don't know what to say to this except that I disagree wholeheartedly.
The nice thing about writing at home is that it's almost as though I'm doing it already. I get out of bed thinking of my work, and I don't have to go anywhere to do it.
The question about my Canadianness comes up a lot, and I'm never quite sure what to say about it. I've carved a life out for myself in Oregon, and it feels like home, not because it's the States but because that's where my friends are and where my son is.
After 'The Sisters Brothers,' I tried to write a contemporary story dealing with an investment adviser in New York City who moves to Paris. I did all this research, but after about a year and any number of pages written, I was bored stiff.
Especially if you're endeavouring daily to write your own books, you read with a degree of – well, it's hard to forget you're a writer when you're reading.
I was intentionally curbing the impulse to be funny and hiding the ability. I wrote any number of very serious attempts at poems, short stories, novels – horrible. At a certain point, I recognized that it was fun to write dialogue that had a degree of lightness and humor.
I had no plan to write a western novel, and when I realized it was happening, I was pretty surprised by it. But you have to go with what feels right.
I kept trying to write these books that were sort of outside of my realm, and I kept failing.
If you're not riddled with doubt, you've probably done something wrong.
Often the starting point for characters, for me, is finding a little, most minor detail, and I'll go from there.
The hardest thing in the world for a writer is to amass a readership. So many good books come out, and so many good books disappear.
As a reader I want to be present and entertained. I don't want to be taught lessons, and I don't want to be spoken down to. I want to be treated as a peer and to be made to feel welcome.
All of my close friends are emotional train wrecks. This is what makes our lives interesting – constantly doubting ourselves, worrying, wondering if we've made a mistake. Could we have done better? Are we good people? Are we bad people?
My interest in words and literature is always changing. And every day of work is different, and it doesn't feel laborious in the way that, say, washing dishes did. I'm quite happy to be doing what I'm doing, and I feel very lucky.
My first book didn't even have a Canadian publisher. And that upset me, because I so wanted a readership up there.
I felt like love has been underrepresented – unironic love, just actually really falling in love.
The impetus for 'The Sisters Brothers' was it occurred to me that there was no neurosis in westerns, or there's a minimal amount of it.
Some deeper part of me wants to write comical dialogue; I'd be foolish to not follow that impulse. Now I recognize that if there's energy to a section of work, you go where the energy is. It's a living thing, and you just follow it.
I understand the desire to write and read about the death of publishing. It's a perversely and universally appealing topic.
A lot of my favourite books – I should say, not much happens in the books! It's much more about the points of view of the author more than anything else.
Lies can be wonderful things, and when a lie is told artfully, if it's done with a degree of craftsmanship, I can't help but admire the liar.
I've been surprised at how much an unknown like myself can accomplish just by reaching out to people and pleading my case. Quotes for the book cover, reviews and interviews, readings and radio appearances – all this by simply moving ahead and making contact with folks I thought might enjoy the writing.
Whenever we changed schools, we had to make a new set of friends. At the time, of course, I hated it. But looking back now, I'm really glad I did, because it forces independence on you.
I think of myself as somebody who, in a moment-to-moment way, I'm quite happy. But I think I am a bit doubtful and wary of true happiness, and, like a lot of my friends, there's been a good degree of self-sabotage.
'The Sisters Brothers' has endeared so many prize juries because the Western format has more of a broad appeal and is familiar to readers.
I am a bit prudish, I think. It's hard for me to write about sex, and I don't really care to read about it, either.
The initial spark, your affection for the characters, all those things can disappear. It's a perilous thing.
More and more, I find myself turning away from everything relating to contemporary society. I don't know how healthy it is, but I am creating a very private bubble that I live in.
At the age of seventeen, I decided I would spend my life writing fiction. I didn't know what this entailed, exactly – a room, I supposed. A room and books and paper and solitude.
I don't necessarily want to make people stomp and clap. I simply want to engage people.
I don't consider Los Angeles home anymore; ultimately, it was pretty negative, but I did spend my formative years in the Valley and all around L.A. proper. Through my teenage years and into my young adulthood, up until the age of 30, I spent a good amount of time there.
I have a paranoia that 'Ablutions' is the best thing I'll ever do.
I haven't read a lot of Westerns. But I wrote a Western. The influences were all cinematic.
I've stopped reading about the death of books because it's wasteful and morbid and insulting to the authors, agents, publishers, booksellers, critics, and readers that keep the world community of fiction interesting.
I've always felt so fortunate to have writing to turn to every day. I'm obsessed with it.
When you meet someone you love, whether or not they love you back, something occurs in you that makes you want to improve yourself.
I come by writing dialogue fairly naturally, I've got a chatty family; I'm a bit of a voyeur, and if I'm ever in a public place, I automatically find myself listening.
Love is dangerous; it's not something to be trifled with. As good as it feels on the way in, it feels that much worse on the way out.
I know a lot of people who use the Internet really wisely. It enriches their lives in some way.
I am increasingly unimpressed by works of art that require a college degree to understand. I think that art should be for everyone. And people should be moved by it.
The reason I like Portland is the idea of going to a supermarket and knowing there's no way to be recognized. L.A. is so social.
If I were to continue to work in an established mode, it stands to reason the work would be limited by this – that it would never surpass the prior work in quality.
Bernie Madoff is probably more nuanced then I'm giving him credit for, but I just couldn't get under his skin.
After school, I got a job in a shop in Hollywood and shared an apartment with a friend. I promptly lost my job and got evicted from my apartment, and that happened several times.
I heard somewhere that whenever you write a book, people will ask you One Question about it over and over. And while I'm no expert in these matters, this is proving to be true. My first book dealt with a not-that-pleasant degenerate type, and the One Question was, 'Is this an autobiographical story?'