Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with K. Sawyer Paul

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K. Sawyer

August 7, 2009 -

Open Book: Toronto:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

K. Sawyer Paul:

My first publication was my novel, No Chinook. It was published in December, 2007 by my own imprint, Gredunza Press.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

KSP:

I pay a lot of attention to cyclist news, not just because I’m a cyclist, but because I find it intriguing how much people hate change. And I mean, change about anything. The idea that some streets would be far better suited with two car lanes and two bike lanes and a parking lane instead of four car lanes is, to some people, an attack on their rights as citizens. Bikes are better for the environment, better for the economy and better for your own personal health, but the looks you get from motorists; it’s as if I ran over their dog. I find it so fascinating that we grate our emotions so harshly against the slow grain of progress, and that’s been really affecting the way I write lately.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a "Welcome to Canada" gift, what would those books be?

KSP:

JPod by Douglas Coupland is one of my favourite all-time novels, so that’s definitely on the top of the list. Everyone in Silico by Jim Munroe would be next, because I’m so inspired by the work he does as an independent author and publisher, and the book is staggeringly good. Last, I guess I’d throw in something seemingly random but affected me deeply, The Plight of Happy People in an Ordinary World by Natalee Caple, which is this really small story that’s just wonderful and hits you with perfect emotional timing and care.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

KSP:

There’s really no such thing for me. Sometimes I’ll visit a certain café and throw down ten pages, then I’ll visit there again the next week and find myself procrastinating, playing Peggle, etc. It’s something I’m still figuring out, but I’ll say this much: Deadlines, even arduous, make-believe deadlines, help tremendously.

OBT:

William Faulkner was once asked what book he wished he had written; he chose Moby-Dick (with Winnie-the-Pooh as a close second). Is there a book that you wish you had written?

KSP:

Yeah, definitely. During a crazy random happenstance, I came across I Dream of Microwaves by Imad Rahman, which is a wild book of connected stories that carry so much. They’re hilarious but also tragic and they toss polite society right on its head. It tackles the idea of how people use other people for their entertainment right to the ground. But if I had to pick something more classic I’d say Great Expectations. That’s really the only one in the lot that caught me as a kid, then again as a student and still as an adult.

OBT:

Is there a book that you think you should have read by now but haven’t?

KSP:

Hemmingway’s A Farewell To Arms is sitting on my bookshelf. It’s a gorgeous leather hardback edition that was put out by the John Player collection, but I haven’t cracked it yet.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

KSP:

I’m trying my best to get through Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. There’s this great group online at Infinite Summer (google it) that’s trying to get through it all by the end of September. I don’t know if I’m going to make it, to tell you the truth. I’m also reading Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman, because we all need something light to read when we’re trying to get through something heavy.

OBT:

Do you have a specific readership in mind when you write?

KSP:

I try not to think about it too much. There’s a million reasons people pick up books, and many of the stronger reasons, like big-money marketing, viral word of mouth, awards and the like are not yet available to me, so I’m at the point where if anyone at all buys a copy it’s a big deal. Since it’s come out I’ve sold, if you were to space it out, one copy every four days, and all of those people have extremely different reasons for reading any one book. I ping ideas off certain people, and if they don’t ping back, I generally don’t include the idea. But that’s about the end of my critiquing process.

OBT:

What are you working on right now?

KSP:

I’m working on a novel about a paparazzo who lives in Las Vegas and gets swept up in a political scandal. It’s way out of my comfort zone, but I’m trying to challenge myself. It should be out sometime next year.

OBT:

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to get published?

KSP:

Well, that’s one of the reasons I’m here, actually. I’m compiling tons of reference material over at Gredunza Press, as well as trying to answer questions on the podcasts that we offer. We want to be the go-to site when people want to know something about publishing a book in the 21st century.

If you’re only going to take one piece of advice from us, though take this one: You have to be your own boss in this game. The rock star contract that comes with lots of money and fame and an editor who will turn your half-baked sludge into gold doesn’t exist. This is a business and you have to treat it like one if you want to actually make money (also, it’s totally okay to not make money. Becoming rich should not necessarily be your goal when you write a piece of fiction). It’s one thing to send your book off to various publishers, but make sure those people have your best interests in mind. Set schedules for yourself. Self promote. Everyone is expecting you to. Learn how to book yourself for events. Learn how business cards are made. Learn how much it costs to actually print a book, and learn the competing rates. If your publisher is charging you for anything, you should have the right to shop around for those services elsewhere to get the job done the way you want it to. You have to be in control of your art, because there are people all over the place trying to take advantage of the naïve.

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