Five Questions with… Iain Reid


Iain Reid, author of the comic memoir The Truth About Luck: What I Learned on My Road Trip with Grandma, answered our five questions.

IFOA: What inspired you to write about your grandmother?

Reid: I’m not entirely sure what inspired me but I think it had to do with her impressive age and demeanor. She’s lived through so many eras, and changes, that are all just part of history for me; to her they’re strands of her life. I’m interested in how perspectives shift and stay consistent over the course of (nearly) a century of experience. We had a lot of long discussions on our trip, on a variety of topics. Both her long life and the way she still lives inspired me.

IFOA: Like One Bird’s Choice, The Truth About Luck is a memoir with you at its centre. How is this Iain Reid different than the Iain Reid we encountered in your first book?

Reid: Well, I’m definitely older. How else I’ve changed is a little harder to know. I’ve moved away from the farm. I live in a different city. I probably spend more time writing now. I cook more the last few years. I don’t feel tremendously different though, just a little older.

IFOA: What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Reid: The History of Iceland by Dr. Gudni T. Johannesson.

IFOA: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Reid: Probably finishing grad school. Study interests me. But maybe something completely different. My great-grandfather was a baker and I think I’d enjoy that. Like most jobs, I’m sure it would be more taxing and stressful than the excessively placid image I’ve built in my head. But it would smell great all day and I could wear really comfortable clothes.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: It works better if you…

Reid: …go for a walk first.

Reid will appear at Authors at Harbourfront Centre as part of the Ben McNally Travellers Series on March 13.

Five Questions with… Andrew Pyper

Pyper, AndrewAndrew Pyper will share his new book, The Demonologist, at the Gladstone Hotel on March 4. He took a few minutes to tell us about demons, Venice and his childhood tales.

IFOA: Your latest book has been described as scary, terrifying and thrilling. What scares, terrifies and thrills you?

Pyper: I’m terrified by anything that might harm those closest to me, my children, specifically. I’m thrilled by doing what I do for a living: making up stories that surprise myself. And I’m still a little scared of the dark.

IFOA: Why did you decide to set The Demonologist in Italy?

Pyper: The section of the novel set in Venice had to be set in Venice for a number of reasons. First, without giving too much away, the canals and water were necessary to the staging of an important scene. Second, Venice’s beauty and art—as well as its history of corruption and violence—was precisely the thematic marriage the book required. Finally, Venice has a long relationship with the demonic. The devil literally made me do it.

IFOA: Did you write as a child, and if so, what did you write?

Pyper: I’ve written stories for as long as I’ve been able to spell. Back then, I favoured the action-packed, the suspenseful, the shocker ending. Not much has changed really.

IFOA: Tell us about one book you read that changed your life.

Pyper: Every book has left its mark, even the bad ones (especially the bad ones?). But likely the most influential book to my own writing was Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. It’s a literary ghost story where the reader is never quite sure if the ghosts are “real” or whether the narrator is unreliable to the point of psychosis. I loved walking that razor’s edge of undecidability, the uncertainty of perspective. It’s also deeply unsettling and ambiguous and nightmare-making—effects I like to have a go at pulling off.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: I always forget to…

Pyper: …get milk on the way home.

Andrew Pyper will read from The Demonologist at the the Gladstone Hotel on March 4, followed by an interview with the Globe and Mail‘s Russell Smith.

Five Questions with… Dwayne Morgan

Morgan, DwayneDwayne Morgan, spoken word artist and social entrepreneur, will launch his new book Everyday Excellence at Authors at Harbourfront Centre on February 1. He took some time to tell us about the book, why he loves Oprah and his childhood shyness.

IFOA: Why did you decide to publish this book now?

Morgan: 2013 marks the 20th year of my career. Over the past two decades, my work has brought me many experiences that I would have never imagined. Ten years ago, I started sharing the things that I had learned over the course of my career with high school students across the country. I wanted them to see me as an example of someone starting young, and living life on their own terms. After publishing six books of poetry, I wanted to commemorate the 20-year anniversary by looking back at my career and some of the defining experiences that have made me the artist and person that I am.

IFOA: You describe yourself as an introvert. When and how did you know you were also a performer?

Morgan: Most people who see me on stage are amazed by how different I am off stage. It is always my preference to be at the back of the room observing than socializing and interacting with people. In high school, I would do skits, and later poems, in school assemblies. Many of my friends had talent, and I wanted to fit in, so I did what I could. Even then, I had no idea that my life would be what it is today. By the time I had graduated from high school, I had already started my production company Up From The Roots, and not wanting to be shown up by any of the other artists in my events, I ensured that I performed in every show. Over time it started to feel more normal, though even today when I get off the stage I begin the countdown to when the the lights go off and the people leave—so I can exhale.

IFOA: Who is your hero?

Morgan: I would say that Oprah is one of my main heroes. When you look at her childhood and upbringing, you wouldn’t figure that someone with so much against them would end up becoming the woman that she is today. I grew up as a shy, black kid from Scarborough who somehow found poetry. No one who knew me as a child would ever figure that my life would involve standing and speaking in front of people, but somehow I ended up on posters in Budapest, and in German clubs. Like Oprah, I feel as though I’ve defied the odds.

IFOA: What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Morgan: My perfect day would include Jamaica, a beach chair, and an alcoholic beverage, but since writing that has already made me depressed, I’d say that the perfect day is any day I spend with my daughter, doing whatever her imagination cooks up! She’s currently five, going on 50, so her imagination is in overdrive and I am constantly trying to keep up physically and mentally.

Morgan, Everyday ExcellenceIFOA: What do you hope people will take away from Everyday Excellence?

Morgan: This is the first of my books where I pre-released a copy of the book prior to the official launch, because I wanted to get people’s feedback on it, and I must say that the feedback I’ve received has been absolutely amazing. The greatest hope is that people identify with the book and realize the power that we have to shape our lives. When I speak with young people, I always say, if I have achieved what I have with something as boring as poetry, just imagine what you can achieve with the gifts and talents that you have.

For details on Morgan’s free February 1 event, visit For more about Morgan, check out his website.

Five Questions with… Russell Wangersky

© Ned Pratt Photography

Russell Wangersky, author of Whirl Away, will appear in three IFOA events this weekend, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize event.

IFOA: Your new short story collection has been shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize (congrats!). What is it about short stories that appeals to you?

Wangersky: I like short stories for a simple, greedy reason; they are short enough that I can hold the entire story in my head while working on it. With novels, you end up going back and forth sometimes, trying to remember just exactly where something happened. The legwork is incredible, and, frankly, not much fun.

IFOA: Which of the characters in Whirl Away is most like you?

Wangersky: I think I have to say Tim McCann, the ambulance driver/paramedic in the story “911,” because he drives around with the same passle of self-doubt I do.

IFOA: When and where do you write?

Wangersky: I write at a computer in my kitchen in St. John’s, during whatever time I can steal between a full-time newspaper job and magazine freelance work.

IFOA: If you could time travel, where and when would you go, and why?

Wangersky: I honestly like the right now—but I think that’s mostly because I’m naturally unsettled with new things. I know where I fit in the familiar.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: The best part is…

Wangersky: Dinnertime.

IFOA: Bonus question: International Festival of Authors in one word:

Wangersky: Kaleidoscopic.

For more about Wangersky at IFOA, click here.

Five Questions with… Ned Beauman

Ned Beauman will share The Teleportation Accident in two IFOA events this weekend. He will also travel to Parry Sound with IFOA Ontario.

© Dylan Forsberg

IFOA: If you could be teleported anywhere right now, where and when would you go, and why?

Beauman: I wish I was attending Frieze Art Fair in London. I can’t really justify the flight from Istanbul, because I have nothing to do with the art world, although like many novelists I am always looking for a way to wheedle my way in.

IFOA: There’s been a lot of talk about the fact that you were longlisted for the Man Booker Prize at age 27. Tell us, what’s age got to do with it?

Beauman: I’d like to make a remark here about how I wouldn’t even have been the youngest person ever to made it to the shortlist. But that would make it easy to infer that I’d gone to the effort to check that on Wikipedia. So I had better move on.

IFOA: You’ve been writing since you were a child. What was the subject of the first story you remember writing?

Beauman: I don’t remember. The first story I got published, in a university creative writing magazine, was a sort of Pale Fire knock-off in the form of a DVD director’s commentary on a bad film, also inspired by some of Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell’s similar pieces on the McSweeney’s website.

IFOA: What are your favourite and least favourite words—today, at least?

Beauman: Favourite: “simit”, because it’s one of the Turkish words that I can remember. Least favourite: “afedersiniz”, because it isn’t.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: The Internet is…

Beauman: Peaking.

IFOA: Bonus question: This year’s International Festival of Authors in one word…

Beauman: Junket.

For more about Beauman at IFOA, click here.
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