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20 Writerly Questions Series: Andrew Kaufman

abstract:The "20 Writerly Questions Series" is brought to you courtesy of Random House Canada who partners with BookBuffet. Look for this feature each Monday. The idea is we ask different authors the same set of questions designed to give readers a glimpse into the lives and writing mechanics of authors. It is fascinating to compare and contrast. Today we feature Andrew Kaufman. Check back for upcoming authors: Joy Fielding, Drew Hayden Taylor, and John Boyne.

ANDREW KAUFMAN's critically acclaimed first book, All My Friends Are Superheroes, was a cult hit and has been translated into six languages. Kaufman is also an accomplished screenwriter and has completed a Director's Residency at the Canadian Film Centre. He lives in Toronto with his wife and their two children. His newest novel is The Waterproof Bible.

The Questions:
1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence? A woman who projects her emotions, a man who meets a woman claiming to be God, and a mermaid driving a stolen Honda Civic are forced to ask themselves which is more important – faith or fact.

2. How long did it take you to write this book? It was a little under seven years. Or, more concretely, when I started I was single and renting a one-bedroom apartment and now I'm married with two kids and a mortgage.

3. Where is your favorite place to write? Beside the stereo.


March 08, 2010

4. How do you choose your characters’ names? I usually end up giving each character two or three names before one sticks. In the Waterproof Bible, Lewis was named Robert and James before I knew his name was Lewis. 5. How many drafts do you go through? It all depends what you call a draft: to me a draft is each time I put the book down honestly believing it’s finished. For The Waterproof Bible I did that seven times, although there were countless rewrites inside each.

6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be? Franny and Zooey.

7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?

Rebecca: Julianna Moore
Lewis: Robert Downey Jr.
Aby: Isabella Rossellina
Lisa(the one claiming to be god): Sarah Polley
Lisa(the wife and sister): Zooey Deschanel
Stewart: Steve Busemi

8. What’s your favourite city in the world? Barcelona, Spain. I love Gaudi!

9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask? I'd ask Salinger if I could have a couple of months with that supposed filing cabinet of his.

10. When do you write best, morning or night? Mornings! If everything's working right and the kids get off to school okay I can get as much done before eleven as after it.

11. Who is the first person who gets to you read your manuscript? Zach Picard, who I met in Halifax in 1993. He's brilliant and is somehow able to tell me exactly what isn't working in a way that doesn't make me feel a complete failure.

12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read? Richard Brautigan – I'm very embarrassed by my love of him. I know he's overly naïve, that he relied too much on metaphors, that he never really grew into his potential, still I can't stop rereading Watermelon Sugar, or The Abortion, or Revenge of the Lawn. I think it you ask a lot of writers who are working right now, and promise that you'll never repeat it, they'd admit Brautigan as an influence.

13. What’s on your nightstand right now? The City Man by Howard Akler.

14. What is the first book you remember reading? X-Men #140 – the one with Trudeau in it.

15. Did you always want to be a writer? Yes. I had a period where I thought I was a filmmaker in the 90's but it didn't last. I've certainly had long periods were I didn't think I could be a writer, but I've never stopped wanting to be one.

16. What do you drink or eat while you write? Coffee and my fingernails – gross but true.

17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper? Well it's complicated. For the first draft and if I'm really stuck I use paper and a Yard-O-Led mechanical pencil that my wife bought me. But if I'm feeling good and I want to make some progress I use a manual typewriter. I think it's the most superstitious part of my process, using the typewriters. I buy a different one for each project. They're literally stacked around my house. I know it's cliché, but I still need to be able to touch it. But then, after the first draft is done, I type it all into my MacBook and revise there. Computers are fantastic for revising but I can't compose on one or I just keep revising and revising, getting nowhere like a car stuck in the snow.

18. What do you wear when you write? Wouldn't you like to know.

19 How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from? I can only seem to write in third person. I do all my character sketches and background stories in first person and sometimes I even start writing the book in first person, but it always, always ends up being in third person. I think it's because I use a lot of allegory or magic realism so it has to be in the voice of God telling you the story. Who else are you gonna believe?

20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer? Time.


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