Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

CBC Canada Reads Interview Series: Richard Wagamese

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Richard Wagamese

Every year, book lovers across the country tune in to CBC to cheer on their chosen title in our national literary throw-down, Canada Reads. Hosted by popular CBC personality and author Jian Ghomeshi, the contest pits five fantastic Canadian books against one another in a (mostly) friendly competition. Each book is represented in a series of broadcast debates by a chosen champion, with a title a day knocked out of the running. By the end of day four, one book emerges victorious, receiving the coveted Canada Reads bump.

The 2013 debates run from February 11-14, and as the dates approach, Open Book is thrilled to host interviews with the authors and panellists. So get ready to place your bets and cheer for your chosen book!

We begin by speaking with Richard Wagamese, author of Indian Horse (Douglas & MnIntyre), which will be defended during the debates by Olympian Carol Huynh. Richard tells us about how Indian Horse came to be, the "shining white glory" of a hockey rink and the Mystery to be found in quiet mountain trails.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book and when you wrote it.

Richard Wagamese:

Indian Horse started as a novella in 2007. But it became apparent that there was more of a story there and after percolating for a year or so, the notion that the residential school element needed to become more front and center. The writing of the full novel began in 2010 and was finished in early 2011.


What was most difficult about writing this book and what was most pleasurable?


The hardest part of writing this book was getting the spiritual and emotional quality of residential school survivors’ stories right without compromising the integrity of their stories. It was a very emotional process because my own family has been rent asunder by the legacy of those schools and it hit pretty close to home. The most pleasurable part was the hockey writing because I played the game all my life and understand fully ‘the shining white glory of a rink’. It was easy because I have also been a fan of the game for a long time too.


Tell us about the experience of meeting the panelist who will be defending your book.


I was working in First Nations schools in Laronge SK when the panelists and finalists were introduced so I have not met Carol Huyhn. However, we did speak on the phone and I was impressed with her love of the book and the story and the passion she displayed when discussing it with me. She’s a competitor and a winner, so I feel I bodes well for the book in the debates to come.


How would you describe the literary culture of the region your book is representing? Is there another book in addition to your own that you feel captures the spirit of the region?


Strangely, Indian Horse is not about BC or the Yukon. It’s about Ontario. But the theme of residential schools is a national one and BC has a long history of those schools too. I would say that the book is about redemption, about looking at a whole history so that you can hold the pain in it, recognize it, affirm and learn to let it go. In that, it is a Canadian story and epitomizes BC and the country although to this point I do not know of another book that deals with the schools in a fictional way from BC.


If your book wins the competition, how will you celebrate?


If the book wins, it will be the book that wins and not me. So I will not celebrate per se. I will likely do what I always do and take a long walk in the mountains behind my home and drink in the spirit of the land, fell the presence of the Mystery all around me and come home and write.

Richard Wagamese is an Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario. He is the author of four novels, including Dream Wheels, winner of the 2007 Canadian Authors Association MOSAID Technologies Inc. Award for Fiction. His autobiographical book For Joshua was published to critical acclaim, and One Native Life was selected as one of the Globe and Mail’s Top 100 Books of the Year. He lives outside Kamloops, British Columbia.

For more information about Indian Horse please visit the Douglas & McIntyre website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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