Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Raincloud" by Richard Todd

Why I read it: Several weeks ago the author was at my local Chapters, sitting at a table, saying "hello" to the people walking by. So I wandered over and made some comment about "the glamorous life of the writer." After a while I let him sign a book for me. He looked like he figured I was going to ditch it in a stack on my way to the cash.

He asked me if I was a writer. I said that yes, I write computer manuals. He asked if I'd written the manual for his blender. I said no. He asked if I wrote other things on the side. I said yes, but my team leader says that TWs can't write anything fiction, and the other writer I work with gets grant money occasionally to write pilots of TV shows. And he said "That's all very interesting, but what do you write?" so I confessed to writing short stories that I keep in a filing cabinet, because they are crap. That's kind of sad, isn't it? I shouldn't tell people that.

Tastes like chicken: Reminded me of Andrew Pyper's "Lost Girls", but maybe just because both were about dead people in lake country (Ontario north of Toronto) and had protagonists who did too many drugs.

Bookmark: Clipping from the local paper with a photo of the author, saying he'd been shilling his book at the local Chapters. With absolutely no editorial comment on the book. That amused me.

What I liked: The setting was neat. One of the stories I have bubbling in my brain but as yet unstarted takes place in a more northerly-Ontario (I hate to say Northern Ontario, because people seem to think that starts around Sudbury, and that makes me uncomfortable) locale, and I haven't really been to any place like that or lived anywhere like that, so any information is useful, sort of like research. But annoyint to me was that the author didn't want to commit himself to any real place names. Like, he kept referring to the big city Hank the main detective was from as Fort York, and is that a real place, or is he referring to Toronto?

The town the story is set in has a dark history; 20 or 25 years ago they had a Jonestown-style massacre of 1st nations people in a local church. Everyone in the story was working through that history a little bit, which rounded the characters out well.

What I hated: Maybe this isn't the genre for me. Certainly it's not a genre I read a lot of. But it didn't seem very artful. The descriptions seemed sort of obvious. Like, a washroom in a seedy bar is described as smelling like urine. That's not very surprising.

I wish it had been edited more thoroughly, maybe. At one point it seemed like the characters were having two lunches in one day.

Also, the main character was writing I guess what I'd describe as a popular history of the local massacre. I always dislike when a character is conveniently a writer in order to bring facts or data into the story. It seems too neat. I wonder if I did this when I had the students at St. Praxis write homework assignments.

What I can steal: I got the feeling from talking to the author that you know, maybe I really can do this too. Write novels, I mean.


Your EG Tour Guide said...

Did you know that the last author we had our Friends of the EG library author reading just won the Giller Prize? Joseph Boyden.

Sometimes I wonder if Chapters lets anybody who has written a book sit in their stores and sign autographs.

Anonymous said...

Hi Robyn.

After reading your retelling of our encounter in Chapters I actually remembered you.

Thanks for reading 'Raincloud' and posting your thoughts here. I am especially pleased that you came away from our brief meeting thinking you could write novels too. I have visited many local writers' groups to read from my work and talk about my publishing experience. Encouraging (inspiring may be too strong a word here) people to see their creative writing in print is a big part of what I like to do.

Hopefully I'll see you behind a table selling your novel one day, if you haven't done it already.

As to the above poster from Friends of the EG Library, yes, Chapters-Indigo does welcome all published authors who have a novel in their system. And thank God they do.

'Raincloud' was my first novel and my Chapters-Indigo book tour for it was a great success. It's hard for first-time Canadian authors to get ahead in this highly-competitive yet shrinking industry and we appreciate any support we can get.

Even Giller Prize winners have first novels (although I'm not comparing my first novel to Mr. Boyden's). We just need a chance too. Fortunately there are bookstores, book festivals, and writers' groups out there willing to give us that.



Robyn said...

Wow, it gives me chills when an actual author of an actual book I've read comments here. Thanks for the words of encouragement. This post was written in that period when I was trying to learn to take my writing seriously. That's an ongoing process, of course.