Iain Reid is the author of two critically acclaimed, award-winning books of nonfiction, One Bird's Choice and The Truth About Luck, which was one of Globe and Mail's best books of 2013. Reid’s work has appeared in a variety of publications throughout North America, including The New Yorker. In 2015, he received the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. His debut novel, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, is a national best-seller and has sold in fourteen territories to date.
How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
I didn't change my life much at all. This book feels very different than my first two. Both of those books were non-fiction, and about (mostly) pleasant experiences for me. This book is fiction and was much harder to write.
How did you come to memoir first, as opposed to, say, fiction or poetry?
I think because non-fiction felt a little easier for me. It was a better place to start. It's more reactive. With fiction everything is possible, and that's hard. That's also one of the reasons why it's interesting, and why I enjoy it. I'm sure it will always be a challenge for me.
How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
It's a slow process. I don't feel like much comes quickly or easily. It can be a bit of a struggle, especially early on. But that's just part of the process, I think. My first drafts are always very rough. They require lots of work and revision.
Where does a work of prose usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I'm not entirely sure. I think I know I'm working on a book from the beginning. But I also don't plan everything out. It's more about the ideas for me, and having questions. Then I start writing and see what happens.
Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
What I like most about public readings is the chance to meet readers and to thank them for their interest. I'm appreciative of the opportunities and invitations when I get them.
Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
The questions are always changing for me, but I always have a lot of questions. It's all about questions. Most go unanswered.
Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Go for a walk.
When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I like to read a lot. So that helps. But if I've set aside a chunk of time to write, I try to keep going, even if I feel like I've stalled, or it's not going well.
What fragrance reminds you of home?
David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Yes, for sure. All of those to varying degrees: music, science, film. There was a lot of biochemistry in this book that ended up being cut from the last draft. But it was fun and interesting to learn more about and write, even if it didn't make it in.
If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
Maybe a baker? Or some kind of cook. I like food and eating. Maybe a farmer.
What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I've just always enjoyed it. Maybe because I find it difficult. I like solitude. I'm not a very adventurous person, so writing actually feels exciting for me.
What are you currently working on?
A new novel.
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