Saturday, February 4, 2012

On The Shelf: My Chat with Gordon Kirkland

I had Gordon Kirkland to do an interview, he has been busy of late with his success but granted me an email interview.

I would like to discuss where you were born, your upbringing etc when I post this if there are some good memories from your childhood etc that you would care to share please do so.

I was born in Toronto. Diane and I moved to the coast in 1982.
 I was raised in a family where laughter was extremely important. We all learned to laugh at ourselves as much as at each other.

If you like also would like to have a brief summary of the accident where you were injured and this was the therapeutic process?

I suffered a spinal cord injury in 1990. Another driver was looking for a cassette tape on the floor of his car and didn’t see that traffic had stopped. My car was rear ended again in 1992, and again in 1994. (I was almost afraid to drive in 1996!) I guess you could say that writing is therapeutic. The creative process allows you to put pain signals into the background, and laughter releases endorphins that are significantly stronger than morphine. At the time of the accident, I had a very successful career that took me all over the world. Losing the ego boost and sense of achievement that job gave me was extremely difficult. Writing let me rebuild my feelings of being successful despite the disability.

 When did you start writing and what were your inspirations?

My entire working life has been as a writer, although some of the jobs were more functional than creative. They have ranged from writing catalogue descriptions for government procurement catalogues to marketing and strategic plans. I always say that my stint writing the letters of reply to complaint letters sent to Pierre Trudeau taught me how to write fiction.
When I started writing humor full-time in 1994, I had a number of inspirations. The late Lewis Grizzard was a huge inspiration. At the time Dave Barry was one of the few people writing humor consistently. Dave says we both owe our success to our being somewhat maturity impaired. Another inspiration at the time was Garrison Keillor. Of course the late Erma Bombeck blazed the trail for those of us who write humor. It was an honor to be named to the faculty of the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop from 2004 to 2008.

I know you had a column for a newspaper in Ontario any views on where the newspaper is headed in the next 5-10 years?

My column was syndicated to newspapers all over the United States. It got very little response from Canadian newspapers. I think at the height it was running in a few hundred in the states and three in Canada. It ran continuously every week from 1994 to 2007.
Newspapers as we know them are in trouble. There are so many sources for news today, ranging from the newspapers own websites, to sites created specifically to run news stories, such as The Huffington Post. I stopped writing the column when editors were trying to reduce the amount they would pay for features and at the same time delaying making payments.

 The Stephen Leacock Award of Merit for Humour , any thoughts you may have on the award itself and what it meant for you to be a recipient of the award for your first 3 books.

The Leacock Medal is the top award for humor books in Canada. The Award of Merit is given to runners up for the Medal. When you consider that they get over 50 submissions each year, receiving the Award of Merit is still not too shabby. Any form of recognition is great, receiving this award three times was a validation of my work

The Maple Ridge Act hosts a series of events for writers entitled Golden Ears Writers you are kindly going to host this event one night only(for FREE)Feb 21, 2012(in the lobby).

Why are you wanting to do this event? I think it's great that you are sharing your knowledge with other writers.

Katherine Wagner asked me to speak to the Golden Ears Writers. Over the last eight years I have been on the faculties of over 40 writer’s conferences, festivals and workshops. In addition. I have lectured at the University of Georgia, Ball State University. The University of Dayton, Lake Washington Technical School, Florida First Coast Community College, and Simon Fraser University. I have also taught in a number of Writer In The Schools programs with young writers. I was the founder of the Pacific Northwest Young Writers Camp in Seattle in 1999.
When I was starting out, one of the things that I found really helpful was talking to successful writers, at writer’s conferences. Many of them have since become good friends. For example Ridley Pearson and I met in 1996. Whenever Ridley puts pen to paper, the New York Times starts carving out a spot on their best sellers list. (I think his last grocery list might be on there.) Ridley has been a huge help to me not just as an inspiration, but as an advisor. It was Ridley’s idea that I should write a novel after our mutual friend Dave Barry had success with one. It took me another 7 years to get around to it, but he kept encouraging me.
At the event in February, I plan to just talk a bit about the life as a full time writer, but leave most of the time open for the members of the group to ask questions.
As I said above, I started writing the column in 1994. I think the first paper to carry it (The Moncton Times-Transcript) paid me $25.00 each week. I knew if I was going to make this a career, I would have to be in a lot more papers, and develop the book side as well. The column did well, and the early books did well enough to keep me satisfied, but certainly nothing like what I have been seeing in the past twelve months. On December 9th, I had five books in the top 15 best sellers in humor for the Amazon Kindle.
I mentioned to someone the other day that it has only taken me 18 years to become an overnight success. It’s taken a lot of work to get where I am today. Most people do not understand that there is a lot more to being a successful writer than simply churning out books. I often get those deer-in-the-headlights looks from writers when I tell them that they have to do the marketing, promotion, planning, and many other functions in order to make their books sell.
Oddly, I get very little recognition in Canada. It is the American market that has turned me into a best-seller.

Now with social media, I had posted a week ago that I was going to do this interview with you and asked any of my friends that if they had any questions to help with the interview , my friend Cheryl had 2:
Has the book(The Plight Before Christmas)been optioned for a film treatment yet?

The Plight Before Christmas was originally written as a movie treatment, and pitched to a number of networks for a Christmas made-for-TV project. Unfortunately, it is a book about building a relationship between a father and a son. At the time, they were looking for romantic stories of the boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back genre. I decided to pull the project back and turn it into a novel. We will probably float it as a movie project again down the road.

Was writing a Christmas book your idea or your publishers?

I write what I want, when I want. Thankfully, now that Amazon is my publisher, they are quite happy to have whatever I produce.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to write but never has?
I have four pieces of advice that I generally give when answering this question:
1.   1: Don’t quit your day job.
2.   2:Learn from others. Spend a lot of time reading other authors who write in the genre you want to work in. Study how they craft the story from the plotline to the choices of words they use.

3.   3: Write the way you talk (assuming you speak with a decent commitment to good grammar.) I see too many people trying to sound flowery or using overly inflated words when simpler ones would do the job better. Let’s face it, when Alfred Noyes wrote “the moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,” he was writing in a style used in literary circles of his day. You wouldn’t say that Lougheed Highway was “a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor” today.
        4:Don’t quit your day job

Who are your favorite authors past & present?

I have been very lucky to know and work with dozens of writers that I hold in great respect. Early on, while in university, I was taught by and mentored by some of the greatest writers this country has ever produced including Mordecai Richler, Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen and others. Today, when I have time to sit and read someone else’s work, I usually turn to one of my friends, Ridley Pearson, Jeffery Deaver, Barry Eisler, etc.

Upon closing what is in the future for Gordon Kirkland? Any plans for a sequel to Plight?

I don’t think there will be a sequel to Plight. It was pretty much a standalone story, although there have been calls for more, mainly people who would like to see the snowplow driver killed in a horrific crash. Right now I am writing the sequel to Crossbow, mainly because I really like the characters in that book and by my fan mail, so do the readers. Apparently Duke, the less than brilliant police dog in Crossbow is a real hit with the readers. He has even gotten his own fan mail.
I would like to thank Mr Gordon Kirkland for his time on this interview, was very kind of him to do so.

Thank you all for reading this
Written(& compiled from an email)by
Anthony Nadeau

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