5.20 Pubslush Interview with the Author

This interview was conducted by Pubslush, the platform handling the campaign for The Walking Man.

Why did you write the book?

My background is in filmmaking, which is a collaborative process involving many professionals. A number of years ago, I started writing something other than a script, which turned from a short story into a novel. That book is currently sitting at the bottom of a very dusty drawer and with any luck, no one will ever read it. However, I loved the process of working on something that did not require tons of people. In the end, I had written exactly what I wanted to say, without having so many outside influences.

Immediately, I started working on another book. I had an idea to use the concept of walking as a metaphor. An avid walker myself, I tend to sort out many problems with steps. I took the novel to the Humber School for Writers where I was in a class with the Giller Prize nominated author Wayson Choy. After a week with Choy, his belief in me as a writer inspired a complete re-write. Wayson took me under his wing and pushed my writing to depths that I didn't know were possible. Into the realm of the authentic. Why did I write the book? I wrote it because I had to. Expression is a necessity for me and I believe in bridging that gap between the reader and writer, a space where we exchange stories and understand that we're not alone. It's happened to us all, but a severe breakup forced me to re-evaluate everything in my life, which included the book. I needed to write more truthfully than ever before.

The second part of the book finds the character walking from Toronto to Niagara Falls. In this new authentic realm, the only choice was for me to actually experience that walk. It was not easy and I was very ill-prepared. But then the manuscript as it exists now was re-written in a couple of weeks. It has been quite a journey, both figuratively and literally.

What was your inspiration for the book?

Perhaps due to being a visual person, I work from images. Those unexplainable images that pop into your brain after going on a long walk or seeing something that triggers a memory. Working a job in the Yonge and Eglinton area of Toronto, I walked from the subway through a shopping centre everyday. The surrounding buildings - condos, library, transportation, shopping centre - were all connected via pedestrian tunnels. I envisioned someone living in this complex, never having to go outside. And then I imagined, after living inside this complex for many years, that person finally being pulled back into the outside world and going on a long journey.

This original concept changed quite a bit over subsequent drafts. The shopping complex morphed into more of an internal isolation. There was a character in these early drafts named Mary, a ninety-three year old neighbour who was based on my grandmother. Mary quickly elbowed her way from a few paragraphs to a few pages to a main character. And then I had another image: one day I was out for a walk when an old woman in a scooter designed for the elderly scooted by along the side walk. Instantly, I saw the main character walking along a lonely highway with Mary riding in a scooter beside him. When I figured out how to get Mary on this journey with the main character, the book finished itself.

What do you do when you're not writing?

My career has taken many twists and turns. I started out as an editor in television, working on everything from documentaries to commercials to episodicals to films to music videos. During the evenings, I produced my own films and even got one into the New York Independent Film Festival.

After a few years, I decided to move on from editing. Disappeared for a while or, as I put it, exiled myself. This was where I discovered writing and spent a lot of time on my own working on the craft. I needed to get back out into the world again and the filmmaking itch returned. Moving into producing and directing, I've now worked all over the world, most recently for the Olympic Broadcasting System at the Games in Sochi, Russia.

In addition to writing and television work, I co-host and co-produce the Open Kwong Dore Podcast with CBC commentator Pj Kwong. We interview a broad range of people including: musicians, actors, theatre professionals, writers, professional athletes, scientists and many others with interesting stories to share.

I'm not content with sitting around. I am curious by nature and am always up to something new and creative. However, the one constant has been writing - it's what I always return to!

What do you plan to do with the funds you raise?

I am very excited to be participating in this new model of publishing. To me, this provides the opportunity to connect my work directly with readers and share in the publishing process together. From the moment my publisher Iguana Books and I decided to go this route, the process of putting together this campaign has been a lot of work but a lot of fun.

This Pubslush campaign has allowed me to stretch my creative muscles and come up with incentives that directly reflect the concept behind the book. In addition, readers can join in on the fun and get involved in this publishing journey. The incentives we've come up with are special editions of the novel, bookmarks, character cards, DVDs of my films and CDs of 100 episodes of the podcast I co-produce and co-host. Perhaps the most exciting are The Walking Man Tours, which are walks that follow the same journey through Toronto that the character walked in the novel. The tours will be guided by me, followed by a lunch at Tall Boys or dinner at Scaccia Restaurant.

After the campaign is has ended, the funds go towards publishing the book, which includes editing, proofreading and marketing. Publishing a book is an expensive process, but by going with the Pubslush model, the financing is accessed through many contributions. This allows the readers to be directly involved with the process and provides the opportunity for me, the writer, to publish and distribute the book.