Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Guy Thatcher

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Ten Questions with Guy Thatcher

Open Book talks to Guy Thatcher about his reading, writing and his book, A Journey of Days (General Store Publishing House).

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book.

Guy Thatcher:

I went to the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route, hoping to discover the reason for the compulsion that drove me there. What I found instead was the timeless land of northern Spain, beauty, silence, mountains and plains, rain and relentless sun, snow in May, heartbreaking climbs, fatigue and injury, friendly and welcoming people, new friendships, despair, transcendental joy, birth and death and churros con chocolate. I came away with a renewal of my belief in the remarkable goodness of ordinary people from all over the world as we shared an extraordinary journey.

I did not set out with the intent of writing A Journey of Days. In fact, I was strongly… and wrongly… opposed to even the idea of keeping a journal. But I did, and the journal became the basis for the book.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

GT:

Yes, I anticipated that the readership would be people approaching retirement or another major life event, people seeking meaning in their lives. What has delighted me is that my writing has resonated with readers across Canada and around the world. It turns out that readers from 22 to 90 find the book inspirational, as well as moving and funny. Here is one recent reader’s comment;

“If you liked The Power of Now, you will love A Journey of Days. Having just finished reading Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now, I had the good fortune to read Guy Thatcher's A Journey of Days. This is an extraordinary book that is a real life example of how the power of NOW (being truly present in the moment) can lead to spiritual enlightenment, renewal of a belief in the goodness in people, and how, when we let go of our ego, we see the truth and find the power and joy of the essence of our being. All that intertwined with a history of the Camino de Santiago.”

See it and others at http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Journey-Days-Relearning-Lifes-Lesson....

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

GT:

Ideally it would be a calm, peaceful space with books tastefully opened for research (and an assistant to look after me). Actually, it’s a nest of papers, coffee cup, bits and pieces of things that mean something to me, a favourite Calvin and Hobbes cartoon pinned up on the wall - it has to do with change and accepting new challenges, things I haven’t yet figured out what to do with, paper that should be filed but hasn’t been … you get the concept.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

GT:

A Journey of Days, published by General Store Publishing House.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

GT:

My retirement just before I set out for the Camino. Retirement is practically a universal Canadian cultural experience, either now or in the future. I was seeking something, perhaps meaning, although I did not then know what it was that I was seeking.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

GT:

A little background is necessary. Many new immigrants or visitors have no idea of the enormous size, grandeur and essential emptiness of Canada. Also many of them may find reading in either English or French to be difficult.

So the first book is a coffee-table book of images of Canada. A couple of good options might be Spectacular Canada or Over Canada. And you can find an equivalent book in almost any bookstore. In the same vein, a 50-minute film called Helicopter Canada was produced in 1966 for the Canadian centennial and is still a wonderful introduction to the country; “a big, beautiful and engrossing bird's-eye portrait of the country.” (It helps that I used to be a helicopter pilot, although I had nothing to do with this film.) It’s easy to find and view on-line.

The second book is The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are, by Andrew Cohen, who is an acquaintance. He explodes many of the myths about Canada and Canadians. The National Post calls it: “Breathtakingly paced and passionately written … the book is an unequivocal -- and unapologetic -- national manifesto of a reinvigorated brand of Canadianism …. A highly readable and persuasive tract.”

The third book is Pierre Berton’s Canada. His love of this country shines on every page of this work by one of Canada’s best authors and proudest promoters.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

GT:

I tend to read a lot of books concurrently, picking the one that suits my mood at the moment, so there are a bunch of them on my table. The first four are books I’ve read before.

Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Almost Everything, William Manchester’s A World Lit Only by Fire, Lewis Thomas’s Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, Timothy Ferris’s Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? , Chris Moore’s The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove.

OBT:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

GT:

It was from my publisher, Tim Gordon of General Store Publishing House. He said; “Just get the ideas down. Don’t worry about editing it. That will come later.”

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

GT:

Write about what you know, write about what you care about, be very honest; even more, be very, very lucky. I am extremely lucky in my choice of publisher.

OBT:

What is your next project?

GT:

I have three that I’m working on – off and on. One is a memoir of my 25-year eclectic military career. I was by times a tank officer, anti-tank missile instructor, helicopter pilot (and instructor), and a computer analyst.

The second is a fictionalized version of my mother’s life. Widowed at 27 in England with two small boys just before the second world war, she emigrated to Canada as the bombs started falling on London, remarried, had two more children, lost a second husband in her early 50s, suffered from cancer, heart disease, Bell’s palsy and survived, head unbowed, to age 90.

The third is another pilgrimage journey, a prequel to the journey from Pamplona to Santiago. It will start in Le Puy-en-Velay, in the Auvergne in south eastern France and take me 850 kilometres on a path across quite rugged and historic terrain to end south of the Pyrenees in Pamplona. This time I will happily take a journal with me and will blog the trip, whenever possible.


Guy Thatcher served in the Canadian regular armed forces from 1955 to 1980 as a tank officer, helicopter pilot, anti-tank missile instructor and computer analyst, serving in Germany, Belgium, Cyprus, Texas and Alabama, as well as at various bases in Canada. He then pursued a second career for a further twenty-five years as a management consultant, working primarily in the field of facility planning and management. He holds a degree in Computing and Information Systems from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, is a Fellow of the International Facility Management Association and is a lifetime Certified Management Consultant. He developed and taught postgraduate courses in Information Management for Facility Professionals at Michigan State University, delivered worldwide over the Internet. He has written or contributed to several business books and workshop manuals. He continues to teach in the Caribbean, successfully combining work and pleasure.

He continues to be married to Carroll Thatcher, with whom he has four grown children and one new grandson, clearly the most beautiful baby in the world. For the past seventeen years, he has been a home-support volunteer for the Hospice at May Court. He skis, travels as much as he can, gardens, scuba dives (occasionally), reads voraciously -- mostly history and science --, square dances, teaches and plays a truly dreadful game of golf.

All of this, however, has nothing to do with the walk he took across Spain . . . or perhaps it has everything to do with the walk he took across Spain. He lives in Ottawa, Canada, and you can contact him at journeyofdays@yahoo.ca.

For more information about A Journey of Days please visit the General Store Publishing House website.


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

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