Five Questions with… Benjamin Wood

Benjamin Wood, author of The Bellwether Revivals, appears at IFOA on Saturday, October 27. He will also travel to Orillia with IFOA Ontario.

© Mark Pringle

IFOA: What was your favourite book as a child?

Wood: As a very young child it was a tie between Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl and Stanley Bagshaw and the Short-sighted Football Trainer by Bob Wilson. As an early teenager: The Thief of Always by Clive Barker.

IFOA:If you could have lunch with one author, dead or alive, who would it be—and why?

Wood: I’m going to say Paul Auster, because reading his novel City of Glass made me want to be a fiction writer, and I’d just like to thank him for that. Plus, I don’t think I could keep up with the drinking pace of Richard Yates or John Cheever. And I’d be much too in awe of Shirley Jackson or Carson McCullers to chew my food properly.

IFOA:You have a musical background, and music plays a prominent role in The Bellwether Revivals. What is your favourite instrument, and why?

Wood: The guitar is the only instrument I truly understand, so I’ll choose that. If I’m allowed to be picky, though, it would be an acoustic guitar in a DADF#AD tuning. Then I’d feel completely at home.

IFOA:You teach creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London. What’s one thing your students have taught you lately?

Wood: In today’s Intro to Fiction class we were discussing scene building in relation to ZZ Packer’s short story “The Ant of the Self.” It’s an exercise in scrutinising exactly what is on the page, line by line, seeing how Packer shapes and layers each scene through a confluence of differing techniques. We dismantle the first two pages quite forensically in order to understand how the author has assembled them. Then we sit back and marvel at the rest of the story’s magic.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: I write best when…

Wood:  I have a whole scene to tinker with from the day before. (The best part of writing, in my experience, is not the furious application of new words to the page, but the daily refining of ideas already committed.)

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

Wood: Essential.

For more about Wood, click here.