Author Joseph Boyden was at The Banff Centre in the spring, working in the Leighton Artists’ Colony on the final proofs for his new novel, The Orenda. He’ll be back this Saturday as part of WordFest, to read from the new book and do a live interview with Canmore-based teacher Jeff Horvath. To get warmed up, we asked him to answer a few questions off our Banff Questionnaire.
When was the last time you took a break from technology? Was it by choice?
I always get a much needed break from technology when I head to the James Bay lowlands to decompress with some dear friends from the area. No cell phones. No computers. Just the bush and hundreds of kilometres of natural beauty between me and the electrical world. We fish, we hunt, we talk around the fire. Perfect. Oh, and by the way, I haven’t been up in a couple of months, but December is pencilled in.
When was the last time you improvised?
I’m doing it now, I think. Every time I sit down to write, I’m improvising to some very large degree. This is the great secret of a lot of writers. Most of the ones I know don’t sit down with too stringent a game plan. Or if they do, it quickly changes as soon as their characters begin to act and speak.
Are you comfortable with vulnerability?
Only with someone I implicitly trust. But then again, I write books and stories and then ask strangers if they’d like to read them, strangers who will judge me, or laugh at me, or maybe like me, or maybe hate me, but who are strangers none the less. So I guess I am comfortable with vulnerability.
What are the risks involved in what you do? How do you deal with them?
Now that my days of naked shark diving off the coast of South Africa with raw meat tied around my waist are over, I think my greatest risk is the one related to the vulnerability question. As a writer, I put myself out there, with the understanding that maybe I will write something that doesn’t please enough, that I’m somehow failing in the job I feel I’m supposed to be doing. But to love and desire what you do, you must put yourself out there; you must expose your breast to the slings and arrows.