Excerpted from Playing Through by Curtis Gillespie. Copyright © 2002 by Curtis Gillespie. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1) Can you tell us how you became a writer?
From my early teen years I thought being a writer would be a great and wonderful thing, a thought that was mostly related to my love of reading. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and would often stay up deep into the night with my book. I remember thinking that if it was so much fun to read, then being on the other side of the page would probably be quite a bit of fun, too. Of course, it took me a long time to do anything about it! I scribbled here and there, but it wasn’t really until I’d had my fill of university that I started to write with any degree of application. My wife, Cathy, who was then my girlfriend, was very encouraging and motivating, and that was certainly a key factor in giving it a serious effort.
2) Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?
I think the book is there to be enjoyed on many different levels; at least, that’s my hope. If a person likes travel, there is an element of that. If the person is interested in families and how they operate, there is that. If the person likes golf, there is that. What I tried to do in Playing Through was write something that had a great degree of ‘connectedness,’ in that I wanted to show how all the elements of our lives -- family, friends, love, death, play -- are part of the same tapestry, that each informs the other. That’s certainly the way it is in my life, and I suspect it’s the case with most people. I would think that a book club could have quite a bit of fun discussing the ways Playing Through makes them think of the ‘connectedness’ of their own lives.
I suppose another way to do the same sort of thing, would be to go through the book and note those scenes and moments where I’ve tried to capture some of this complexity, this poignance, in our lives. It was something I was shooting for, and I hope it worked!
3) Is there a routine that you follow when you are in the midst of writing?
I’m always in the midst of writing! I view writing as something that I am continuously immersed in, whether it’s taking notes, writing in a journal, finishing a short story, doing a travel piece, writing a political profile. For me, the variety and constancy means that it’s actually difficult to find a routine, which I consider a good thing. From a purely technical standpoint, I try to get my day going by about 8 am, work throughout the day, spend time with my family, and then if I have the time and energy (which is not something I count on!), I’ll try to do a bit more work in the evening.
4) Do you have a favourite story to tell about being interviewed about your books?
Not really, but I have had some funny things happen during readings. When Jessica was younger she came to some readings for my first book, The Progress of an Object in Motion, and occasionally we had to stop and remove her because she seemed to enjoy making herself the centre of attention! During one reading, I became aware of a rhubarb in the background, and soon heard her shout back to Cathy, “I will not be quiet!” We’ll have to see how it goes during the readings while touring for Playing Through!
5) What question are you never asked in interviews, but are desperate to answer?
I can’t honestly say I’m desperate to answer an unasked question. Most of the things I’m burning to say, I say in my writing.
6) Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?
Not really, but I can say that when they have appeared they do give me pause for thought, in that I stop and realize, “Wow, I actually am a writer.” It’s a nice feeling, if a little bit disorienting.
7) Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?
Albert Camus, George Orwell, Cynthia Ozick, Don DeLillo, Jonathon Raban, Graham Greene, Alistair MacLeod, Margaret Laurence, Richard Ford, Raymond Carver…the list is just too long! I think every piece of writing I’ve ever enjoyed, as well as the ones I haven’t enjoyed, have been influential to me as a writer; they have all shaped the way I think and feel, whether I’m conscious of it or not.
8) If you weren't writing, what would you want to be doing for a living?
I worked for many years in the social services, first with persons with mental illnesses and then with persons with mental disabilities, and I always found that gratifying. I’m still involved in that field in some ways, sitting on boards and doing projects here and there. I love working with my hands, carpentry and plumbing and wiring, though I’m not that great at it. It’s a good question. May the crossing of that bridge never occur!
9) Besides golf what are some of your other passions in life?
Golf is actually quite far down on my list of things in life that I’m passionate about, which is as it should be, since it’s nothing but a sport, and sport, while great fun and endlessly diversionary, isn’t all that important. It’s what golf has brought into my life that makes the game so meaningful.
I’m very passionate about (in general order of importance!) my wife and children, my family, my friends, reading, writing, eating, drinking, travelling, exercising, music and being in charge of the remote control when I watch TV with my wife.
To give you a more concrete answer, I really enjoy spending time with my daughters, Jessica and Grace, I enjoy travelling to different parts of the world (often on assignment) and especially deviating from the beaten path, I enjoy a vodka martini on a hot summer day, I love dry red wine, I am intensely passionate about curry and particularly hot curry (a love I developed in St Andrews, incidentally), I love cooking, I enjoy playing squash, I enjoy watching and playing soccer (I was a goalie on the University of Alberta soccer team).
10) If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
The Stranger, by Albert Camus.
From the Hardcover edition.