How long have you been a member of NOWW?
I entered the NOWW fiction contest for the first time in 2008 and have renewed my membership every year.
What do you normally write?
I mostly write fiction, but I have been known to write a little poetry and the occasional self-indulgent essay.
Do you have a favourite book or favourite author?
As a librarian, I have found a kindred spirit in my favourite writer, Jorge Luis Borges (who served as director of the National Library of Argentina). I’m fascinated by his short stories, most of which blur the boundaries between history and fiction or reality and artifice.
Let’s get to know you a bit better. Tell us a bit about yourself and your first story:
My first published work was a plagiarized copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. With the assistance of my grandmother, I hand stitched and bound construction paper pages and beamed when I realized she made me author AND illustrator of this masterpiece! This experience served as a premonition of my future as a children’s librarian and author.
How did you get your start in writing? What were you drawn to?
During my teen years, I wrote a few dozen poems and song lyrics—I am still trying to decode those obscure verses today! The first thing I wrote after high school was a screenplay for a horror movie I co-wrote with a friend and bandmate. In between jam sessions for our fledgling metal outfit, we cranked out a first draft in a few weeks; I immediately became drawn to the process of creating a tiny universe on the page. Shortly after that I spent a summer crafting a novella loosely based upon my grandfather’s life. I then became fixated on short stories and reading books about the history of the form; most of my first stories were imitations of Carver and Hemingway’s sparse style. I took more narrative risks with my first novel, Hands of the Tyrants, in which a CSIS officer joins a troupe of rebel artists.
What does your writing look like today? What are you working on?
For several years, I’ve been working on a novel that is set in my hometown of Sioux Lookout. I’m starting to feel like the narrator of Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, in that I have an unfinished manuscript haunting my thoughts and plaguing my nights with regrets—here’s hoping 2017 is the year I finally figure out an ending! The protagonist is a man who bears a striking resemblance to his great-grandfather; he eventually becomes this man in a historical re-enactment as he discovers more about the Pinnacle Theatre, an abandoned building he’s inherited. I’m also drawing connections between episodes of the Twilight Zone, thought experiments, and literary fables as crafted by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Kafka, and Borges. I began this experimentation after exploring the essays of the philosopher Dan Dennett, who speaks of thought experiments and a philosophy of consciousness in accessible and humorous prose. I have plans to self-publish all my short fiction as a way of collecting everything together (my first phase of short fiction) and moving on to a new form. And after reading countless stories to my two boys and little people at the library, I’ve become inspired to write a picture book.
Will we see you at any upcoming NOWW events?
Living in Sioux Lookout and being the father of two young boys makes it difficult to attend readings and other NOWW events. I will do my best to attend the next gala in Thunder Bay—though I must admit I’ve been saying that for years—and would love to help host a reading in Sioux Lookout. In 2011, I co-hosted a writing workshop with Jenny Morrow at the Dryden Public Library and that’s something I want to revisit.
Where can we learn more about you and your writing?
I can be found online at www.micheallaverty.ca. I’ve posted a few short stories, poems, and essays there for your perusal
And to end things off, tell us something surprising about yourself!
I always write to a soundtrack. I’ve found the genre of trip-hop to be perfect for my process. These tracks often feature a driving beat, fluid bass-line, and just enough instrumentation to provide atmosphere. DJ Shadow, Massive Attack, and Thievery Corporation are favourites. I grew up in the 90’s and the lyrics of Axl Rose, Gord Downie, Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, Thom Yorke, and many others continue to influence my writing. I’m drawn to poetry that has the cadences of short fiction. Bronwen Wallace’s collection Common Magic is a continual source of inspiration. I think she’s among Canada’s finest writers. For the same reason, I love the poems of Al Purdy. Reading him is like sitting down for a drink with a cynical, yet sympathetic grandfather who doesn’t want to teach you a lesson about the world so much as illustrate a single truth in 40 or 50 mysterious, yet prosaic lines.