Novelist Lynn Coady's one trip to Whistler came when she was living in Vancouver years ago and a friend invited her on a road trip "to see B.C."
Coady, who won the $50,000 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize last fall for Hellgoing, her book of short stories, is making her second visit on Friday, May 23, as part of the Points of Departure Reading Series.
The series is a collaboration between the Whistler Writers Festival and The Point Artist-Run Centre, and the evening will include readings by writers Bill Gaston and Katherine Fawcett.
In an interview with Pique, Coady talks about how life has changed in recent months, following the win.
Pique: I wanted to ask you about what you're doing now. Has the post-Giller Prize glow lessened? How have the last few months been?
Lynn Coady: They've been good. It's funny; I was really busy during the whole Giller thing. I was taking a television-writing program in Toronto, and it was incredibly intensive because I had planned for nothing to be going on in the fall and spring, because I figured I'd be publishing a short-story collection and it wouldn't get a lot of attention! I wouldn't have to worry about PR.
The program kept me really busy; it kept my feet from lifting too far off the ground after I won. It didn't end until the first week in March.
Pique: Was TV writing an avenue you meant to go down ?
LC: Yeah! I'm really into TV writing and I started work on a show at the end of May. I am inching out into a whole new genre (Coady was not able to be more forthcoming other than to say it was a drama).
Pique: Has this been a dream of yours?
LC: It kind of was. I was feeling in a rut with fiction for the last couple of years, ever since I published The Antagonist (in 2011). It was part of being a full-time fiction writer for the last decade, and whenever I sat down to write another novel I knew exactly what I was in for — which would be two or more years by myself in a room. It was getting harder and harder to face that.
I realized I needed something other than fiction in my life. I was feeling really restless and all this creativity, but it wasn't collaborative. I wasn't working with other people but I wanted to be.
Pique: The difference between fiction prose and TV writing is vast. You are showing rather than telling.
LC: Yeah, exactly! One is so driven by solitude and the other demands a high level of sociability. To have them both in my life is a really nice balance, actually.
Pique: Is the TV scene in Toronto pretty busy?
LC: It seems to be. In my limited experience in the Canadian TV industry, it is constantly dealing with highs and lows. The success of Orphan Black is a shot in the arm because it is doing so well south of the border.
But then, of course, the cuts at the CBC feel like a big blow for a lot of people. No one knows what could happen there. It could end up being really good for scripted programming. People in the TV industry have to roll with the punches, but it strikes me as a burgeoning industry.
Pique: What does winning the Giller do for a career? Did book sales go stratospheric, or is there a higher international visibility?
LC: In this day and age I'm not sure how much it does for your international visibility, and that could be a function of my book being a book of short stories. It is so much harder to sell a book of short stories overseas. It's a bigger issue now. If I had won the Giller a few years ago, it would have gotten a deal overseas. But right now the industry is so depressed these days that it's no guarantee.
But book sales in Canada, yeah. I probably sold more copies of Hellgoing than I have of all my other books combined.
Pique: Was that surprising? Is it one of the favourite books you've written?
LC: I wouldn't say that, necessarily, because I like all my books! (Coady laughs) With a novel, you tend to feel more like you deserve a prize at the end of writing one because it's such an ordeal and you've spent two straight years just on this single project. Even on the days that you don't want to work on it and you are sick of the characters and you are sick of the world, you have to get to the end. Then you have to revise it, then edit it.
With the collection of short stories in Hellgoing, it felt like I was cheating because I had written them individually over 12 years. They had all gone through their own, individual editing process. They didn't need a lot of editing. I didn't have that feeling of working my ass off for two straight years to come up with this book. It was kind of weird.
Pique: Talking to people who are novelists or short story writers who then flip it into writing for something that is performed or filmed like theatre or TV, do you find your experience of writing short stories lends itself better to TV writing? Whenever you see an adapted novel, there is so much jettisoned.
LC: I've had to write a couple of pilots; one when I applied for my program and one that was a requirement of my program. In both cases, I cannibalized my short stories for ideas... What I learned from that is that the two genres are very, very different. With the one I adapted for my application I thought it would be great because I already had my characters and my narrative, just turn it into a pilot. But I quickly realized that one doesn't necessarily lend itself to the other.
But I will say that I think there is something in the brevity of a short story, where it feels like it would be easier to turn it into screenplay than a novel. A novel feels so complete, in my terms anyway. My short stories are very elliptical, anyway, and elusive. I think there is something about short fiction that lends itself to adaptation.
Pique: The plan for your show must be exciting for you.
LC: Yeah! It's really exciting.
Pique: I always ask Canadian writers how they make it work in terms of being able to have a career. It's not easy.
LC: I know. For me it was a case of figuring it out as I went along. I wanted to be a writer since before I knew what that involved, and when I decided it was what I was going to do, one of my tasks that I put before myself was finding out what meant. What did writers actually do? How did they get paid and go about their day?
In seeking out mentors and people who were a few years ahead of me I was able to figure that out, people apply for grants, people can try teaching... figuring out a day job that allowed you to still have some pepper at the end of the day to write.
Tickets for the Points of Departure Reading Series are $20 and can be purchased online at www.whistlerreadersandwritersfestival.com.