Coffee with Mariel Hemingway (not kidding)

September 2nd, 2016

TF and Mariel Hemingway 2 (Aug 2016)

A week or so ago I received an email from Linda Leatherdale, the former Business Editor at the Toronto Sun who is now running marketing for Cambria Canada, a major international supplier of natural stone surfaces for kitchens. Linda kindly wrote that she’d read and loved all my novels and had an interesting opportunity to propose. Mariel Hemingway, the Oscar nominated actor who took Hollywood by storm in Woody Allen’s classic film, Manhattan, is a spokesperson for Cambria and was coming to Toronto on a media tour. Linda then suggested that I join the two of them for coffee and that I bring a copy of my Hemingway-themed novel, No Relation for Mariel. I gave her kind invitation careful thought and due consideration and then, four nanoseconds later, responded with “Where and when?”

Given my longstanding fascination with Ernest Hemingway as a literary titan of the last century, it was an incredible thrill to spend time with his granddaughter (Yes, Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter!). I did my best to simulate a calm and collected demeanour and we had a wonderful time in the restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel. Mariel was lovely in every way possible. She was down-to-earth and thoughtful and seemed genuinely interested in my writing and me. We talked about the audio versions of our respective books as both she and I recorded them. She kindly inscribed a copy of her memoir for me and I signed No Relation for her. Then we took photos. As you can see, I look a little like a starstruck idiot, but then again, I doubt people will spend much time looking at me in the photo.

She seemed interested to learn that No Relation is currently in development as a feature film. Wouldn’t it be cool to have Hemingway’s granddaughter appear in a film driven, in large measure, by the iconic writer’s life. Hmmm…

One Brother Shy is finished!

July 26th, 2016

Typewriter2 (The End)

True to my pledge, I’m doing my best to keep you all up to date on the progress of my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. I started the actual writing of this manuscript back in early March, having spent the preceding six months or so conceiving the story and then mapping it out in what eventually became an 80 page chapter-by-chapter outline. I’m now pleased to report that the novel is finished!

I sent the manuscript to my editor, Doug Gibson, about a week ago. Since then, he’s read it a few times and worked his editorial magic. He complained that I’d left him little to do, which I took as a good sign. I received his editorial suggestions on the weekend and have been working my way through them, page by page, ever since.

And now, it’s finished! One Brother Shy is finished, at least until the manuscript is put through the copy-editing process at McClelland & Stewart. Having made this journey on five previous occasions, I know that copy editing will yield more little changes thanks to minor discrepancies, inconsistencies, and typos that neither Doug nor I caught, even though we’ve both been immersed in the manuscript these last few weeks.

But the important point here is that, at least for a while, the novel is out of my hands while the wheels of publishing grind on. This frees me, and my addled mind, to consider what story might be told in my seventh novel. I have a few ideas, but none has yet grabbed my throat and refused to let go. Soon, I hope.

Still no formal word on when One Brother Shy will be published, but stay tuned. It will be sometime in 2017. When I know, you’ll know.

One Brother Shy is, among other things, the story of identical twins discovering one another some 25 years after they were born. While there is virtually no autobiographical content in this novel, as you can see below, I do know what it’s like to have an identical twin brother. I’ve dedicated this new novel to my identical twin brother, Tim (on the left, below). He’s been big supporter throughout my writing odyssey. This shot was taken when we were about fifteen. I just wish I still had that much hair.

T&T twin photo

 

Thrilled to sign on with M&S for two more novels

June 27th, 2016

M&S logo

This has been in the works for a while now, but it’s just being announced today. I’m happy to report that I recently signed a contract with McClelland & Stewart for two more novels. The first, One Brother Shy, will be published sometime in 2017, while the second, (whatever it ends up being!) should be out sometime in 2018.

M&S is the only publishing home I’ve ever known and I’m thrilled to be with them for the next two novels, and I hope many more thereafter. As for all of my novels thus far, Douglas Gibson will be my editor on One Brother Shy, supported by Bhavna Chauhan.

I’m just finishing the manuscript for One Brother Shy so we’re on track for number one. I’ll keep you posted as we work our way through the editing, designing, and publishing process.

My deep thanks to M&S for keeping me around for another two novels, and to my stalwart literary agent, Beverley Slopen for all her efforts . It’s a happy day.

A wonderful evening with Margaret Atwood

June 15th, 2016

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I’m a little tardy recording this memorable event, but better late than never. Back in May, Margaret Atwood invited me to be the speaker at an annual fundraiser in Windsor in support of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, an organization to which Margaret and her husband, Graeme Gibson, are deeply committed. I was honoured to be there. Margaret introduced me, which was a surreal experience. I imagine it would be similar to a rookie singer-songwriter being introduced by Paul McCartney, only more so.

I managed to get through my talk and it all seemed to go well. I noted that two very big highlights of my writing life had been when Margaret had tweeted favourably about my first novel, The Best Laid Plans, and then again about my current novel, Poles Apart. It was not just extraordinarily gratifying when she did this, but it gave me a big sales kick as she currently has over 1.2 million followers.

Margaret Atwood tweet re TBLP

Atwood Tweet re Poles Apart

I sat with Margaret for dinner and then again after the event for a signing. An experience I’ll not soon forget.

Susan Juby wins 2016 Leacock Medal

June 13th, 2016

Susan Juby Leacock winner

What a weekend we just had in Orillia. For the first time in the 69 year history of the Leacock Medal, the winner was not announced until the night of the annual Leacock Gala this past Saturday. The three finalists, Susan Juby, Sarah Mian, and I, were stressing out the entire evening as the crowd leisurely enjoyed their dinner. Then after about 34 speeches (I’m kidding… well, a bit, anyway) Leacock Associates President, Nathan Taylor, announced the winner, Susan Juby. I regained normal respiration and heart rate a short time later and rose to join in the standing ovation for Susan’s victory.

Susan is a great and worthy winner. It was her third time shortlisted. Her book, Republic of Dirt is hilarious and poignant. I’m just thrilled for her. We all hung out after the big event and helped Susan come to terms with her newfound and well-earned status as a Leacock Medalist. I congratulate Sarah Mian on her brilliant first novel, When the Saints. It is so assured and so funny, too. We’ll be hearing more from both of these writers in the years ahead. I suspect it will not be the last time either of them will be attending a Leacock Medal announcement. I was honoured to be in their company.

Congratulations Susan and hope to see more of you on the circuit. Sarah, I’ll see you in Cape Breton in the fall.

Poles Apart is a Finalist for the 2016 Leacock Medal

May 6th, 2016

2016 Leacock shortlist

I’m having trouble breathing right now. I just discovered that Poles Apart is one of three finalists for the 2016 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. I can hardly believe it. I was thrilled to be on the long list unveiled last week, but had convinced myself that I would not be among the finalists this year. (I think it’s a natural self-defence mechanism that just kicks in.)

The Leacock Medal changed my life as a writer back in 2008, so this means a great deal to me. My pal from out west, Susan Juby, is also a finalist for her hysterical novel, Republic of Dirt. She’s on a roll having just won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. I’ve read Susan’s novel and loved it. In fact, when I finished it, I remember visualizing Susan accepting the Leacock Medal. And Sarah Mian is the other finalist for her debut novel, When the Saints. I haven’t read it yet but it sure made a splash when it hit bookstores last year. I’ll be reading Sarah’s novel next. I look forward to seeing, and laughing with, both Susan and Sarah in June. Wonderful, wonderful…

2016 Leacock Long List includes Poles Apart

April 26th, 2016

PA-border

I was thrilled to learn yesterday that Poles Apart has been long listed for the 2016 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. I’m in great company this year with Patrick DeWitt, Charlie Demers, Stuart McLean, and Susan Juby all in the running, along with some other fine writers. The short list of three will be unveiled on Friday, May 6th, with the winner to be announced at the annual Leacock gala in June. With all these other wonderful writers in the play, I’m truly grateful to have made the long list.

As for what may lie ahead, I’m studiously not thinking about it. What will be, will be…

Writing Update

April 18th, 2016

It’s been many weeks since my last post where I revealed that I’d started writing the manuscript for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. I figured I owed you an update. As of today, I’m more than 30,000 words into the new novel and all seems to be going according to plan. Finding the time to stay on schedule is the challenge. I’ve been trying to complete one 5,000-6,000 word chapter each week, and for the most part, I’m on track. At any rate, I’ll have the manuscript finished sometime in the summer.

I’m currently writing Chapter 6. When it’s finished later this week, I may send the first six chapters to Doug Gibson, my principal editor at McClelland & Stewart for his initial take on the story. We’ve learned from the last two novels that comments he might have are much easier to accommodate at this early stage, rather than waiting until I’ve finished the entire manuscript.

So there you have it. It’s about one third written. So far, so good (I think!).

 

I’ve started writing the manuscript for novel #6

March 5th, 2016

Starting blocks

Yes, it’s time to dust off my traditional starting blocks metaphor, that I think I’ve used for nearly all of my novels. How very creative of me. It may be tired and shopworn, but it feels like the perfect analogy for my writing process. Olympic sprinters train for a very long time just so they can then run the big race. In the same way, other than the Olympic part, I spend many months creating, shaping, and mapping out a new story in anticipation of the chance to write it. Only when the very detailed outline is finished (for this novel, it took a year and is 79 pages), can I slip into the starting blocks and begin to write the manuscript itself. Well the gun just sounded and I’m out of the blocks.

I’ve now finished the first of 17 chapters of the manuscript for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. While I love the story-mapping and outlining phase, it always feels good to start writing the real sentences of the manuscript. In this new novel, as is my custom, I’m writing about something I know a thing or two about. It’s the story of a pair of identical twins. You may or may not know that I am an identical twin. One Brother Shy is not in any way autobiographical, but I can certainly write about the experience of being a twin with some authority and authenticity (at least, that’s the plan).

In One Brother Shy, a loved one dies, secrets are revealed, mysteries are solved, oceans and continents are crossed, the lost are found, closure is gained, and someone is nearly made whole again. Oh yeah, and it’s funny, too (at least I hope it’s funny).

We’re in discussions with Penguin Random House/McClelland & Stewart right now about timing and hope to have something to report on that front shortly. In the meantime, it’s back to the manuscript…

A new edition of No Relation

January 12th, 2016

IMG_0792

I just received a few copies of the new edition of No Relation. It’s due to hit bookstores in the next couple of weeks. I’ll miss the bears on the front cover of the original edition, but it seems the folks at McClelland & Stewart are trying to create a common look for my novels as this cover matches in general format of the cover of Poles Apart. Looks good to me!