Thursday, September 25, 2008

Line of Inquiry: Steven Galloway

Steven Galloway is the author of three novels. His first, Finnie Walsh, was nominated for the 2000 in Canada First Novel Award. His second, Ascension, confirmed Galloway’s promise as a writer. His most recent book, The Cellist of Sarajevo (Knopf, 2008) is an international best-seller, praised widely for its clarity and courage.

His work has been translated into over twenty languages and optioned for film. He is currently the Cliff Writer-in-Residence at the UBC Creative Writing Program, and the fiction mentor at the Writer’s Studio at SFU.

Galloway lives with his wife and two young daughters in New Westminster, British Columbia.

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1) As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach performance? What do you get out of it?

There’s two ways to approach it. One is to be grumpy about having to find a way to take what is essentially a solitary act and turn it into a public act, and the other is to view it as an opportunity to bring a text alive for a group of people who may not be familiar with it. My natural inclinations are typically grumpy, but in this case I’m very pleased that people are willing to sit and listen to a bit of the story. If you can do a reading properly you can create an experience that is similar to that of reading the story. It’s a skill, and I’m still working on it.

2) What do you want people to know about The Cellist of Sarajevo?

That it’s not really about a cellist, or even Sarajevo. The book follows the lives of three ordinary people who are trying to survive a war, and looks at how they’re tested and inspired by a cellist who plays in the street after a massacre. Though the book is set in Sarajevo, I think that what happens applies to any number of places, from Iraq to Palestine to Georgia.

3) Will this your first time in Winnipeg? What have you heard?

This will indeed be my first time to Winnipeg. I’ve heard there are mosquitoes the size of houses, that the winter is colder than Jupiter, and real estate is reasonably priced. Much of this book was written while listening to The Weakerthans, who are quite possibly my favourite band, and I’m a huge fan of Miriam Toews and Daria Salamon. I was sad when the Jets left, but I follow the Manitoba Moose closely as they’re the Canucks’ farm team. I’m looking forward to the trip.

4) What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I’m currently reading Tim Winton’s Breath and Lee Henderson’s The Man Game. Both are excellent. I’m not writing much right now, but I’m trying to sit quietly and think about what I might write someday. Thinking is underrated, I believe.

5) In three novels, you covered small town hockey, circus life, and the war in the Balkans. What's your process when it comes to researching a topic for fictional use?

I do a lot of quiet thinking and planning. I’ll read and watch whatever material I can find on the subject, think and plan some more, talk to people who know the subject better than I do, think and plan some more, and then write a draft, throw it out because it’s bad, start again. It’s probably not the best way to do things, but it seems to work for me, more or less.

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Steven Galloway will be appearing at THIN AIR, Winnipeg International Writers Festival:

September 25 - Campus Program, University of Manitoba, with Gerald Hill.
September 26 - Mainstage, with Andre Alexis, Austin Clarke, and Maggie Helwig.


Brenda Schmidt said...

Great stuff! I love that novel.

Mike said...

I too have to agree that you are doing a great job here...