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The nominees for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize discuss the art of storytelling

Rachel Cusk. Siemon Scammel-Katz

Rachel Cusk

Author of Transit

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I think any writer hopes they can give their reader a deeper knowledge of self and others.

What are you like to be around when you're writing?

Pretty maddening I should think, since two-thirds of the time I appear to have nothing to do. I hang around and complain of boredom and depression and interfere in everyone else's affairs, and then suddenly I'm gone, like a horse that's bolted.

If you were not on the short list, who would you vote for and why?

I believe it wouldn't be polite to answer that question! These situations are something of a test of character, and since writing is not in essence competitive, the best way of dealing with it – for me at least – is to find the value particular to each book, rather than comparing them with one another.

What are you working on now?

A screenplay. My work has moved a long way away from conventional dialogue, so it's an interesting position to be in.

What's the weirdest book you read in the last year?

I've been reading a lot of Thomas Bernhard, who I suppose some people might find weird. His novel Woodcutters is such a strange creation, narrated by a man sitting by himself in a wing chair at a dismal bourgeois dinner party: It takes a marginal position in relation to human beings, and then performs the most annihilating moral condemnation of them.


Ed O'Loughlin

Author of Minds of Winter

Ed O’Loughlin.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

A sense of the awful mystery and beauty of our planet and our universe, and a new appreciation for the miracle of central heating.

What are you like to be around when you're writing?

The best I can manage is a small degree of strained politeness. I don't think people should be around me when I am trying to write.

If you were not on the short list, who would you vote for and why?

That's a hospital pass. Next question.

What are you working on now?

One of those clever questionnaires that the literary media sends out to authors to drum up some content. I think this one is for The Globe and Mail. Apart from that, a newspaper piece, a book review and another novel.

What's the weirdest book you read in the last year?

Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey, by Richard Ayoade. A masterpiece of anti-autobiography. I highly recommend it.


Michael Redhill. Cylla von Tiedemann/The Canadian Press

Michael Redhill

Author of Bellevue Square

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope my readers will come away from the book with a new take on the "real" world. Not to mention astonished and delighted.…

What are you like to be around when you're writing?

I'm almost always alone when I'm writing, so I don't know! I'm easily distracted, though, and sometimes I seek distraction to see what might happen.…

If you were not on the short list, who would you vote for and why?

Whoever was in my spot on the short list.

What are you working on now?

I'm revising my next novel, Mason of Tunica, coming from Doubleday Canada in 2019.

What's the weirdest book you read in the last year?

Pen Sketches of Historic Toronto – a weird Toronto drawn mostly from memory by J. Clarence Duff. One drawing reveals that in the late 19th century, the Grey and Bruce division of the Grand Trunk Railway displayed weather-forecast symbols on their trains as aids to farmers in their "plowing, seeding, cultivating and harvesting."


Eden Robinson

Author of Son of a Trickster

Eden Robinson

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope the reader takes away that my characters are just regular people trying to survive extraordinary circumstances.

What are you like to be around when you're writing?

Distracted. Half my brain is noodling around my fictional world while the other half is Mr. Magooing through the grocery store and coming back with a lot of crackers and hummus.

If you were not on the short list, who would you vote for and why?

I plead the fifth! Each of the shortlisted works is spectacular in its own way, in its own world. I don't envy the jury.

What are you working on now?

Finishing up the second draft of the sequel, Trickster Drift, and putzing around with the third novel in the Trickster series. I have a general idea of how to end the trilogy. I tell people to let their first drafts be messy but I keep ignoring my own advice and cleaning it up, so it's going very slowly right now. I call that beginning-itis. Hopefully, the story will start to flow soon and I'll stop fussing.

What's the weirdest book you read in the last year?

Martin John, by Anakana Schofield. Couldn't put it down, even though the narrator was someone I never thought I'd feel sympathetic toward. The author does ridiculously clever things with perspective and structure.


Michelle Winters

Author of I Am a Truck

Michelle Winters.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope the characters stick with them like people they've gotten to know.

What are you like to be around when you're writing?

While it's generally an impulse of anger or frustration that sends me to the computer to write, once I'm there, I like to listen to the soothing soundscape of the engine room of a submarine or Rick Deckard's apartment from Blade Runner (you can get these on YouTube), so I'm pretty blissful and focused – while also mad as heck.

If you were not on the short list, who would you vote for and why?

For the sake of the French-speaking, poetry-spouting fireflies, I'd have to say Eden Robinson's Son of a Trickster. The juxtaposition of the mundane with the magical in that book is just so uplifting. And such gorgeous writing.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on my next novel, which will take place along the Bay of Fundy. The range of possibilities – and character opportunities – when you're writing about the ocean is intoxicating. I also look forward to frolicking with marine terminology. There's so much good stuff there. Transom.…

What's the weirdest book you read in the last year?

I found myself a copy of The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, which is so effective, you almost become Crowhurst, on board the Teignmouth Electron, slowly losing your mind. At the same time, I was also doing a painting of a bear onboard the Teignmouth Electron. When I think back, I feel like I spent 2017 on that boat.


The winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize will be announced at a gala Toronto ceremony on Monday, to be broadcast live by CBC Television and live-streamed on CBCBooks.ca, starting at 8 p.m. ET. CBC Radio One will also be airing a broadcast special at 8 p.m. ET.