The Ravine

Paperback $16.50

Vintage Canada | Mar 10, 2009 | 304 Pages | 5-3/16 x 8 | ISBN 9780307356154

  • Paperback$16.50

    Vintage Canada | Mar 10, 2009 | 304 Pages | 5-3/16 x 8 | ISBN 9780307356154

  • Ebook$12.99

    Vintage Canada | Feb 05, 2010 | ISBN 9780307375544

Awards

Scotiabank Giller Prize NOMINEE 2008

Author Q&A

What first inspired you to write this novel?

To be perfectly candid, I was inspired by a therapist who asked, “Have you ever written about your mother?” “Nope,” I replied, so I went home and started writing about a memory I had, specifically when my family got our first television set. I was fairly old when this happened, perhaps eight or nine, and it occurred to me as I was writing that it really had a profound effect on me, the arrival of that hulking piece of furniture with its black-and-white dreams. Other things occurred to me as I worked on that first piece — how my memory was faulty, how much I loved The Twilight Zone, my relationship with my younger brother — and by the time I was finished, I kind of had the idea for the whole novel. This section was, for many drafts, Chapter One, but I believe it got down-shifted to Chapter Four or so, and it marks my mother’s only appearance in these (or any other) pages.


How would you describe the connections between Paul Quarrington and Phil McQuigge?

Phil and I share certain characteristics and tendencies. Let’s face it, we’re the same guy. None of the specifics are true — the incident in the ravine, the marital demise, etcetera — but we have lived through, fundamentally, the same experiences.  


How did writing The Ravine, your tenth novel, present different challenges from writing your other books (or in what ways was it similar)? What was the biggest difficulty, and how did you get through it?

Because The Ravine was not completely fictional (as was, say, Galveston), the main problem the writing presented was that it demanded a kind of emotional nakedness. I don’t think of myself as a very artistically courageous writer (and I greatly admire those that are) but I mustered what little nerve I could to write the book. The similarity with my other work is . . . writing it was a blast! I always think, “If I don’t have any fun as I’m writing this thing, no one’s going to have any fun reading it.” And even though I can be quite serious-minded, I try to be as entertaining as possible!


As well as being an award-winning novelist and screenwriter, you’re an acclaimed filmmaker and musician, among other things. How do music and film and your other work inform your writing, especially in the case of The Ravine?

Well, Phil fears that he too easily abandoned the novel (this is his first attempt) and the theatre for the world of television, and I sometimes feel that I have applied too much energy to non-novel — related projects. As for the music, Phil’s brother, Jay, plays piano in a bar, and I intended his music to work as a kind of soundtrack for the book. I have made a short film, Pavane, with a producer named Judith Keenan who has a company called BookShorts. Even though the film is only six minutes long, I think it manages to draw all of these things — the characters, music, film, etcetera — together. I’m really proud of it.


What’s next for Paul Quarrington?

I’m writing a book about my involvement in music. I used to say my “career” in music, but until I manage to actually get a career, I’m going with “involvement.” It is called The Song and I talk about a lot of songs, and songwriters, that I feel are influential. A kind of companion piece is a novel, The Songwriter. It’s an odd kind of murder mystery, and in many ways it’s sort of a country & western Whale Music.


From the Hardcover edition.

 

What first inspired you to write this novel?

To be perfectly candid, I was inspired by a therapist who asked, “Have you ever written about your mother?” “Nope,” I replied, so I went home and started writing about a memory I had, specifically when my family got our first television set. I was fairly old when this happened, perhaps eight or nine, and it occurred to me as I was writing that it really had a profound effect on me, the arrival of that hulking piece of furniture with its black-and-white dreams. Other things occurred to me as I worked on that first piece — how my memory was faulty, how much I loved The Twilight Zone, my relationship with my younger brother — and by the time I was finished, I kind of had the idea for the whole novel. This section was, for many drafts, Chapter One, but I believe it got down-shifted to Chapter Four or so, and it marks my mother’s only appearance in these (or any other) pages.


How would you describe the connections between Paul Quarrington and Phil McQuigge?

Phil and I share certain characteristics and tendencies. Let’s face it, we’re the same guy. None of the specifics are true — the incident in the ravine, the marital demise, etcetera — but we have lived through, fundamentally, the same experiences.  


How did writing The Ravine, your tenth novel, present different challenges from writing your other books (or in what ways was it similar)? What was the biggest difficulty, and how did you get through it?

Because The Ravine was not completely fictional (as was, say, Galveston), the main problem the writing presented was that it demanded a kind of emotional nakedness. I don’t think of myself as a very artistically courageous writer (and I greatly admire those that are) but I mustered what little nerve I could to write the book. The similarity with my other work is . . . writing it was a blast! I always think, “If I don’t have any fun as I’m writing this thing, no one’s going to have any fun reading it.” And even though I can be quite serious-minded, I try to be as entertaining as possible!


As well as being an award-winning novelist and screenwriter, you’re an acclaimed filmmaker and musician, among other things. How do music and film and your other work inform your writing, especially in the case of The Ravine?

Well, Phil fears that he too easily abandoned the novel (this is his first attempt) and the theatre for the world of television, and I sometimes feel that I have applied too much energy to non-novel — related projects. As for the music, Phil’s brother, Jay, plays piano in a bar, and I intended his music to work as a kind of soundtrack for the book. I have made a short film, Pavane, with a producer named Judith Keenan who has a company called BookShorts. Even though the film is only six minutes long, I think it manages to draw all of these things — the characters, music, film, etcetera — together. I’m really proud of it.


What’s next for Paul Quarrington?

I’m writing a book about my involvement in music. I used to say my “career” in music, but until I manage to actually get a career, I’m going with “involvement.” It is called The Song and I talk about a lot of songs, and songwriters, that I feel are influential. A kind of companion piece is a novel, The Songwriter. It’s an odd kind of murder mystery, and in many ways it’s sort of a country & western Whale Music.


From the Hardcover edition.

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