Next up in our series of “Getting to know…” interviews is author Charles de Lint. Charles will be at Backbeat from 12 – 2 pm on Saturday, May 2nd as part of Authors for Indies. He will start his shift on a high note (literally), performing a music set with his wife, MaryAnn Harris. He will then do a reading and will be on-hand to pass along his recommendations, sign some books and if you’re lucky, you may be able to shake paws with his pooch Johnny Cash.
Charles is the author of over seventy adult, young adult and children’s books. He’s also from Ottawa, which means he had a smorgasbord of big-city bookstores to go to, yet he chose our little shop and we couldn’t be more honoured!
Read on to find out what motivated Charles to participate in Authors for Indies, find out if he has any unusual writing habits or superstitions and what he does with books he doesn’t like…
Christine (Co-owner of Backbeat): What motivated you to participate in Authors for Indies?
Charles de Lint (Much-award-winning-yet-humble-author): the globalization of pretty much everything these days, I can’t help but want to support smaller independent businesses, and that certainly extends to indie bookstores. Cheaper prices don’t beat the experience of shopping in a store run by knowledgeable people who love what they’re selling.
Christine: What are your top three favourite books of all time? If you have an absolute favourite one out of these, which one is it?
Charles: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham remains a real favourite, particularly the early edition illustrated by Ernest Shepherd, whose delightful pen & ink drawings graced the early Winnie the Pooh books as well. Unlike many readers, however, Mr. Toad was never my favourite character. I’d much rather spend my time with Ratty, Mole and Badger, messing about in boats and wandering in the woods.
After that I don’t have specific favourites, or rather I have far too many to narrow them down.
Christine: If you had to participate in a talent show, what would you do?
Charles: Play some music, preferably with my wife MaryAnn and some friends because making music is a much more enriching experience when you have others to play with.
Christine: Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you unblock it?
Charles: The last time it happened, I started a story about a writer who had writer’s block, and a few months later I had a first draft that eventually became my novel Yarrow (Ace 1986; Orb 1997). I think every writer has moments in a first draft when they feel stuck, but it only becomes problematic if you don’t push through.
Christine: Do you re-read books or do you just read them once?
Charles: I do re-read occasionally, but not as much as I’d like. There are always far too many intriguing new titles beckoning to me from the to-read pile. For many years I’ve had a monthly review column in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, so there are always plenty of books on my to-read pile.
Christine: Where do you find your best writing inspiration comes from?
Charles: I find that writing every day keeps the well of inspiration primed. I’m driven to tell stories and couldn’t stop doing it if I tried. The inspiration that sparks those stories comes from paying attention to what’s going on around me because there are stories everywhere if you take the time to watch and listen.
Christine: What did you do to celebrate when your first book got published?
Charles: Oddly, I don’t remember. No doubt I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I’d found a career where I was being paid to do what I loved. When my 50th book was released in 2002, we had a huge party at Patty’s Pub in Ottawa where we played a set of music with friends and celebrated with lots of good food and drink. The place was packed and it was great fun.
Christine: Do you have any unusual writing habits or superstitions?
Charles: I write every day to keep the characters and story fresh in my mind, and I start to get a little antsy if my day gets so busy with other things that it starts to look like I won’t get my writing time in. I like to write at home, but I’ll do it anywhere: on a plane, train—whatever it takes. As for superstitions, I never share or discuss what I’m writing until I have a first draft finished, but that’s probably true for many writers.
Christine: What’s the last book you read and/or what are you currently reading?
Charles: Long Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe. It’s the latest in a series of novels set in contemporary Appalachia that features a race of supernatural beings called the Tufa, who ride the winds and make the most wonderful music you can imagine. Bledsoe is creating a wonderful North American mythology with these books that feels both immediate and timeless.
Christine: If you start reading a book and find you don’t like it, what do you do: a) continue till the bitter end or b) give up and move onto the next one?
Charles: Life’s too short to read books one doesn’t like. I immediately go to another and hope for the best. The wonderful thing is that tastes vary. My favourite book might not be yours, but hopefully we’re both getting pleasure out of what we’re reading.
Christine: Pick up the book that’s sitting closest to you right now—no cheating. What’s the opening line?
Charles: “For breakfast on the morning of the day he disappeared, Brian Page ate most of two scrambled eggs, three pieces of bacon, and almost two slices of multigrain toast.”
—The World More Full of Weeping by Robert J. Wiersema (ChiZine publications 2009)
To learn even more about Charles and his books, head on over to his website!