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Q&A: Christopher Gudgeon on his new story collection, The Encyclopedia of Lies

Chris Gudgeon

(Twitter)

Prolific author, poet, screenwriter (and former rodeo clown) Christopher Gudgeon launches his new story collection, The Encyclopedia of Lies (Anvil Press), tonight at Glad Day Books in Toronto.

Q&Q spoke to Gudgeon about his recent writing work and his new position as executive director of the affiliate organization, It Gets Better Canada.

Why did you decide to return to short stories?
Short stories are my favourite medium in terms of writing. I feel like I understand them better – I think it’s the narrowness of the focus. Even though structure annoys me, I do like structure. I like being contained in some way. Short stories make you pay attention to everything, and that really appeals to me.

Also, I know it doesn’t look like it, but I’m a really slow writer. There’s a story in the collection, “Jericho,” that took me 40 drafts, and it’s only 4,000 words. But I never go in knowing what I’m going to do as I start writing. And I never, ever do an outline. It’s like trying to find your way through the woods without a map or compass. I just have to keep going until I get there.

Did you actually set out with a story collection in mind?
I came out with a poetry collection, Assdeep in Wonder (Anvil), last year, which was more deliberate. With the short stories, I had just been working on them for awhile, without an eye to a collection. I really wanted a range of kinds of stories – I didn’t want to write the same story over and over again.

Do you keep returning to the same themes?
In the novel Song of Kosovo, it really became clear that the theme is history, but looking at the destructive nature of history, and how it imposes itself on us. History is a kind of narrative and therefore it’s an illusion, a lie.

I always approach a novel, a short story, or poem with a theme, because that’s how you raise a piece of writing to a higher level by imposing meaning on it. With every short story I have a theme in mind, but as I move along I often realize that I am exploring the same things or general range of things. The last story I wrote in this collection was “Jericho,” which summarizes all the themes of the book. This collection is about how most of the energy we expend in our lives goes into bridging the distance between ourselves and the people we want to be close to.

When you’re not writing, what is on your mind?
I have been working with the It Gets Better group in the States to bring it to Canada. I’m executive director of It Gets Better Canada. We had a soft launch here a few months ago. We’re now building up our social-media network, and working on a number of video projects. Outside of the writing, which takes up most of my focus during the day, I’m focusing on getting it up and running, expanding our audience, and getting the positive message of hope to Canada’s LGBT youth.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.