Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Weston Words, with Grant Lawrence

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Grant Lawrence

Tomorrow, October 25, will bring the announcement of the first-ever winner of the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Today we speak with the fifth and final nominee for the prize, Grant Lawrence, author of Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound (Harbour Publishing). Well-known for his role as a CBC radio host, Grant Lawrence won the 2010 BC Book Prize (Book of the Year) for Adventures in Solitude, his first book.

The Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction carries not only the name of Ontario's former Lieutenant Governor, but also one of the most significant purses for a literary prize in Canada, with $60,000 awarded to the author judged to have written the finest work of non-fiction.

Check out Open Book's interviews with all five finalists through our Weston Words series.

Open Book:

Tell us about the book for which you were shortlisted.

Grant Lawrence:

My book is called Adventures in Solitude: What Not To Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound. It's primarily a book about my love/hate relationship with a lonely and remote stretch of land and ocean on the wild west coast called Desolation Sound, BC, which has over centuries attracted an array of oddball characters who cling to that coast like barnacles. I've been told that I am now one of those oddball characters, having eventually fallen in love with the place I loathed so much when I was dragged to it by my parents as a child. In adulthood I became fascinated by the counter-culture weirdos the area attracts, and I humbly try to weave my own story in with theirs in what is ultimately a love story to a ragged, dangerous, beautiful place.


Where were you when you received news of your nomination?


I was walking across the CBC Plaza in Vancouver when I received the phone call from Don Oravec from the Writers' Trust. My phone isn't that great so at first I had a hard time hearing him, and didn't quite hear what he had to say. When I did understand him, I couldn't believe it, so I actually had to ask him to repeat himself several times, first from a bad connection, then from my disbelief. Luckily he didn't get too frustrated with me. It was an extremely surprising and very flattering phone call.


What unique experience or benefit does non-fiction provide for readers?


Quite simply that the stories are real ... that a reader could look up from the book and see that person on the page standing/wobbling in front of them, if they happen to be reading the book in the Lund Pub. Several of the characters still do very much exist, as do the places I write about. This type of non-fiction hopefully gives the reader a sense of understanding about a real Canadian place that may be way off the beaten track, but creates a romantic or adventurous interest because there is always the possibility of
the reader seeking out the places written about in a non-fiction book.


Tell us about a favourite non-fiction book.


I've always been thrilled by Jon Krakauer's books. I love the way he launches readers directly into the action, then pulls back, then launches back into again. Action/context/action/context. It's a great rhythm, whether he's writing about Mount Everest in Into Thin Air (a book I never put down upon opening), or Alaska (Into The Wild) or the Mormons (Under The Banner Of Heaven). I deal with a lot more humour in my writing style, but his sense of suspense, action and dark subject matters are a huge influence on me.


What can you tell us about your next project?


In Adventures in Solitude, there is a missing chunk of the story, my "lost
years", when I formed a rock band called The Smugglers in my teens and stayed in that band for a decade and a half for a low-budget worldwide adventure. This is the period of time when I refused to visit Desolation Sound. I have a lot of tour diaries from those rock n' roll years of touring North America, Asia, Europe and beyond, and I think that's the story I'd like to tell next. That or a book about hockey!

Grant Lawrence is a popular CBC Radio host based in Vancouver, who can be heard on all three CBC networks: Radio 1, 2 and 3. In October of 2010, Harbour Publishing published his first book, entitled Adventures in Solitude, an award-winning, critically-acclaimed national bestseller. Grant Lawrence is married to singer-songwriter Jill Barber, and is an avid kayaker, swimmer, beer league hockey goalie and former lead singer of The Smugglers.

For more information about Adventures in Solitude please visit the Harbour Publishing website.

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

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