Author Dave Margoshes was kind enough to respond to some questions about writing, reading and his future work. I hope you enjoy his responses as much as I have.
JO: Dave, to my mind, many of these wonderful stories would be best read aloud. Why do you think that is?
DM: Ha ha, that’s a good question. I’m stumped. Best I can thing of is that there’s a sort of warm, familial tone to them, a sort of family-stories-told-around-the-fireplace tone I worked hard at.
JO: Did your feelings about your father change after you wrote about him so intimately?
DM: I don’t know. All of the stories were written after his death. This isn’t why I wrote them, of course, but they did serve to keep me in touch with his memory. And so much of the stories is fiction, I’m a little fuzzy myself about some aspects of the story – did that really happen or did I make it up? I think it’s safe to say, accurate to say, that the character of my father in the stories is a construct, not a depiction of the real man that a biographer or memoirist might conjure up. I like that character, that construct, a hell of a lot, but he’s a more perfect character than my actual father was.
JO: You work in several different genres. What is it about writing short stories that you like the most?
DM: The short story is the perfect literary form, in my view. It’s the sort of Reuben sandwich of the writer’s art. It’s got everything. Novels, on the other hand, are like a seven course meal, soup to nuts, sometimes leading to indigestion; poems are potato chips.
JO: Not many writers attempt the number of genres you do Dave. Why do you think you have done this throughout your career?
DM: Well, it’s not really that much. Fiction (long and short) and poetry. Lots of writers do that. A bit of nonfiction, but that’s an extension of my journalism practice, the way I made my living for years. Doesn’t really count.
JO: What are some of the issues with writing about your extended family and in particular, your father?
DM: I don’t think I had any issues. As I said above, the “my father” in those stories is a fictional construct. So are the character of “my mother” and the sisters. When you think of them that way, they’re no different really than any other fictional characters.
JO: You’ve written an excellent biography of Tommy Douglas. What were some of the biggest challenges writing about one of more influential politicians in Canadian history?
DM: OK, the Tommy book is the one example of nonfiction I do lay claim to. (I’ve written a couple other nonfiction books, commissioned, that I don’t put on my CV.) I’m not a biographer, really, and not a historian (though that is what I got my B.A. in). I approached that book as a journalist, following the story. Every action in that book happened, all the quotes mined from actual sources. The “challenge,” as in any piece of extended journalism, is in finding the story and sustaining the interest level.
JO: What authors have had the greatest influence on your work?
DM: I grew up in the States, so my earliest influences were mostly American writers: Faulkner, Hemingway, Saroyan. Later John O’Hara, the master of the short story. Poets Whitman, Frost, Williams. And later, too many to mention.
JO: What are you working on currently, Dave?
DM: I’m working on a new novel, but also tidying up a novel that’s been in the works for quite a while and will be published next year.
JO: Finally, what will you be reading over the summer?
DM: Right now, I’m reading Cynthia Flood’s new collection of stories, Red Girl, Rat Boy – not actually out till fall. She is amazing, one of my favourite Canadian writers. I’ve also just started David McFadden’s What’s the Score, which won the Griffin poetry prize last month. I’ve always liked McFadden, and he’s long overdue for some national recognition. Beyond that, who knows?