Podcast Interview

by Jo-Ann Tremblay
See: http://www.canauthors-ottawa.org/archivedpodcasts.shtml

APEX INTERVIEW

 

INTERVIEW FOR VISUAL ARTS JUNCTION

by

Shelagh Watkins

Now published in Literature & Fiction Interviews Volume II

By shelagh watkins

 

Best Fiction Writer: A. Colin Wright

Colin Wright’s  first novel, Sardinian Silver, was a finalist in the 2009 Indie Awards. It received an honorary mention in the fiction category of the San Francisco Book Festival and was one of two runners-up in the fiction category of the New York Book Festival. It has recently won a Pinnacle Books Award for the best fiction.

Shelagh: Please tell us a little about yourself, Colin.

Colin: I was born in Chelmsford, Essex, England. After serving as a linguist in the British Royal Air Force (learning Russian), I attended Cambridge University, where I earned M.A and Ph.D degrees. In 1962 I lived for six months in Sassari, Sardinia, followed the next year by a longer period in Reggio Calabria. I speak five languages reasonably fluently, and can stumble along in two more. In 1964, after a year’s study at the Herzen Pedagogical Institute in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), I was appointed professor of Russian at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. I remained at Queen’s until retirement in 1999 and still reside in Kingston. I am married and have two grown sons.

Shelagh: When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Colin: At a relatively early age, I read a book on English history from the local children’s library. I decided to dramatize the kings of England, using paper cut-outs as puppets. The project didn’t get very far, but I still have a few pages of elementary dialogue, such as William II dying by an arrow in the New Forest, with him falling off his horse and saying “Oh blow!”

I was also fascinated by sailing ships and wrote the following at the age of six:

ST. MARIA
By A.C. Wright
IT IS TROOY BOAT BOOK
Aorgust 28th 1944
St. Maria
CHAPTER 1
The St. Maria was made on janyouvery 8th 1931. Made by W. Higham. The St. Maria was the ferst saling ship that was made by W. Higham.
CHAPTER 2
The St. Maria has got two booms like all ships have. One is a sall boom and the other is an orderry boom that is rearly calld the latean boom.
CHAPTER 3
The St. Maria has got fuor salls rearly five salls becools of the one on the sall boom.

Well, you get the idea.

And then … when I was young I enjoyed Enid Blyton’s “adventure” series (Castle of Adventure, etc.) and I remember wondering what it would be like to write a book: looking at one paragraph and thinking how difficult it would be to produce so many words. I even copied it down to see what it would look like.

Shelagh: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Colin: Encouraged by a teacher at grammar school in England, I just wanted to write, trying short stories — which were so terrible that I haven’t the courage to reread them. Then, when I was teaching at University, I published academic articles on Russian and comparative literature, including a major book on Mikhail Bulgakov. But I still wrote novels, short stories and plays.

In my fiction, the idea of a message only came later, but for me it is essential. I am interested in “what life is all about” — in a serious, religious sense — although combined with a good story.

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book.

Colin: My first published novel is Sardinian Silver. An English tourist representative in Sardinia seeks a Sard girl-friend, but is frustrated by local attitudes, with “continental” freedoms considered “immoral.” Eventually he finds a girl who’s unaccepted at home, but she falls for his friend, an introspective lawyer. Among others, he meets a tempestuous local maid, a pedantically Catholic schoolteacher and a flamboyant American woman. Included, of course, are many of my own reflections about life.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

Colin: Whether the young man hero will finally find love.

Shelagh: How do you develop characters? Setting?

Colin: In a sense, both were already given. In Sardinia and elsewhere I met a whole range of characters, whom then I developed in my own (fictitious) way. Sardinia itself was fascinating. My approach is similar in my other works: starting with people and places I find interesting.

Shelagh: Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Colin: Other than my three major protagonists, I’d have to say Isabelle, the crazy American who constantly offends local susceptibilities.

Shelagh: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Colin: I wish I did. Plot is where I have most difficulties, although in the case of Sardinian Silver the actual events of my time there helped.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style?

Colin: I aim for precision and accuracy, with no superfluous words, so I spend a great deal of time editing. However, I sometimes enjoy fantasy and experimentation, including “unreliable narrators,” particularly in my stories. I vary my POV according to what seems to work best. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (which I didn’t much like) taught me that one can do absolutely anything in a novel if one can discover how.

Shelagh: How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Colin: There was an insistence at my school on good grammar. Then the study at university of great Russian, German and French literature was a strong influence.

Shelagh: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve even had.

Colin: “It’s a fantastic short read, to tell you the truth, like discovering a lost Graham Greene story… Wright takes his time here with his story, making plot a dim second to the mere establishment of time and place and mood, gently exploring the back alleys and side daytrips of this remarkable island with a kind of grace and ease that only comes with maturity. And in this, astute readers might be reminded as well of the “Alexandria Quartet” by Lawrence Durrell … This novel is without a doubt as good as one of Graham Greene’s minor works, and in fact could easily be mistaken for some forgotten Greene tale.”

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Colin: To publish my short stories as a collection; then my somewhat fantastic long novel Veronica’s Papers; to get some of my plays performed professionally; and to complete another novel I’ve been having problems with, set in post-war Berlin. Finally, to publish a non-fiction book based on some of my articles on what I personally believe about God and life.

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Colin: For my career in general, see www.acolinwright.ca. And for a selection of some of my stories plus articles and literary blogs, see www.authorsden.com/acolinwright.