Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with David Tucker

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July 27, 2012 - Open Book: Toronto's August 2012 writer in residence, David Tucker, tells us about the process of writing a story, future projects and his recently published collection of short stories, One Way Ticket (BookLand Press).

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, One Way Ticket.

DT:

One Way Ticket is a trilogy of short stories. Each one follows a different character struggling with his or her life narrative. One tries desperately to hold on to his, another outright rejects hers, while a third tries to rewrite his. Each character is an outsider, searching for authenticity in a world that remains stubbornly elusive to them. In a sense, each of the characters is a train wreck waiting to happen, the drama of their situations lying at the ironic intersection between fate and self-determination.

OB:

What was the most challenging thing about writing or publishing this collection of stories?

DT:

I find that I can only write when the muse strikes. Although I disciplined myself to sit down each morning to edit/write, it was easy to get frustrated with the quality of what I had written on the previous day. Being a bit of a perfectionist didn’t help either! I also faced the challenge of trying to break my old screenwriting habits and adapt to the new challenge of writing novellas. As far as the publishing side, I was fortunate to find a home with Bookland but the challenge ahead lies in promoting and marketing.

OB:

How do you know when the germ of an idea will be the right fit for a short story?

DT:

When that germ begins to multiply and spread like a virus into my every waking thought.

OB:

What do you enjoy most about the process of writing a short story?

DT:

I view a short story like a sketch. It allows me the freedom to experiment with a variety of styles and subjects that may not be as possible in a painting or novel. I liked to sketch as a young boy so I guess I associate the two. It can be very relaxing when the writing is going well.

OB:

What recurring themes or obsessions do you notice turning up in your writing?

DT:

As an only child and now without parents or extended family, I am clearly intrigued by the outsider. I want to know how the loner navigates life without ties or connections and finds meaning in the absence of shared experience. Perhaps from this yearning, I turned to filmmaking and writing as a way to document some aspects of my own thoughts and feelings around this theme. At the same time, I see the irony in creating a body of work that won’t be passed on. It also makes me mindful of the reality that in cosmic terms at least, we all come to dust in the end.

OB:

Is there such a thing as a perfect short story? What story have you read that comes the closest?

DT:

As in life, there is no such thing as perfection. For me a great short story has the same ingredients as all great stories, wonderfully drawn characters, compelling situations, lots of mood and atmosphere, a powerful idea or theme behind it, coupled with a reader’s sense of surprise, wonder and delight upon reading it. By way of example, I recently read “Clarence,” a terrific little miniature by Johanna Skibsrud in her book, This Will Be Difficult to Explain. It has a wonderful sense of atmosphere and mystery that grips you immediately. In terms of the classics, I would always have to include Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

OB:

What are you working on now?

DT:

I’ve applied for funding to see if I can adapt one of my short stories into a screenplay. I’m also gathering ideas for a new novella or perhaps a novel, depending on how the muse strikes. As usual, I’m also developing and pitching television documentaries. In short, I expect to be doing a bit of writing.