Liam Card has given the world a character it can really relate to in his novel Exit Papers From Paradise. Isaac Sullivan is a brilliant medical mind but is trapped in the body of a plumber in small-town Paradise, Michigan. (Link to my review) Now many people are eagerly waiting for Card’s next work. Card was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
1) How was Exit Papers from Paradise received by readers? Were there any memorable responses (either positive or negative) from anybody?
A: For the most part, Exit Papers has been received well by readers. I feel that the best gauge for that is to go on Goodreads.com and to take in the reviews written by those who have read the novel. By that metric, the response has been great. People seem to like the character of Isaac Sullivan. They get him. They know what it feels like to be frustrated with regard to one’s path in life, because many of the readers share the same frustrations, or have experienced those frustrations. The best response to the novel was from someone who direct messaged me on Facebook. She had been wavering back and forth as to whether or not to quit the job she hated and go to nursing school. In any case, she read the novel, connected with it, and it inspired her to take the steps toward living out her dream of being a nurse. She messaged to thank me. I loved that. How could I not love that? As far as negative responses go, people who disliked the novel seemed to also dislike the ending a great deal. The ending was meant to be polarizing, and it certainly lived up to my expectations in that regard. It was fascinating, to be honest. People either loved the book and loved the ending, loved the book and hated the ending, or hated the book and hated the ending. A great example of the second category of reader is the review I got from NOW Magazine: “Local scribe Liam Card wrecks a decent read by making the wrong choice in Exit Papers From Paradise, a novel that’s crept into the top 19 on Kobo under Psychological.” All in all, I’m very pleased with the reception of the novel. The reviews I received from authors whom I admire a great deal (Steven Galloway, Maureen Medved) were incredible. It was a thrill to know that they were writing about me. About the book I wrote. Robet McGill emailed me after he read the novel and thought that Isaac Sullivan was this generations Walter Mitty. I thought that was pretty neat.
2) Most of your bios. have you listed as being a screenwriter. Is there a big difference between screenwriting and writing fiction? If yes, is there one form you prefer to write?
A: I find writing for the screen to be very challenging. Likely for the same reason that people who love screenwriting hate writing novels. Storytelling on screen is a very tried and true formulaic animal. Certain events have to happen at certain times; whether governed by actual page number or by percentage of the entire script. Main characters should be introduced within the first ten pages. The inciting incident should present itself 10-20% of the way through. By the end of act 1, a new situation presents itself and the protagonist must accept this new situation and vow to solve the problem that he or she is being faced with. By 50%, complications and higher stakes. By 75%, the protagonist must suffer a major setback. All must seem lost. Then, the final push by the protagonist from 75%-100%. Screenwriters love it because there is such a sense of structure to the storytelling. However, I find it very claustrophobic. In a novel you have to following the principles of good storytelling, but you have such freedom in comparison to a script. For example, in Exit Papers, Goth Princess doesn’t even appear until half way through the novel. She’s a main character. She’s the love interest of Isaac. Not a single reader or critic made mention of it, but in a film, any story editor would tell you that was unacceptable. They are two very different platforms to tell a story. I love movies. I’m just not as comfortable writing them. Having said all of that, Exit Papers is in development to be a feature film, and I am writing the screenplay. Most days I think it’s going well. Then there are the other days.
3) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?
A: Vonnegut is God as far as I’m concerned. Which is funny, because Vonnegut is a staunch atheist. He does dark comedy better than anyone to ever play the game. I read his books and shake my head at how unfairly talented he was. If I could have a beer with five people who are dead or alive, Vonnegut would be one of them. I love Palahniuk. I love Irvine Welsh. I’m currently reading Irvine Welsh’s FILTH right now. Funny, I was on a panel of authors with him at the (International Festival of Authors) in Toronto two years ago and he was telling me about FILTH. I stood there, arms crossed, in awe at how insanely (and darkly) creative the concept was. I recall drinking a lot that evening. Open bar, and they had a collection of stellar single malts.
4) Have you participate in any public readings for Exit Papers? Are you aware of any book clubs that read and discussed the book? If yes, what was that experience like for you?
Exit Papers was selected for the (International Festival of Authors) , so I did a reading there. I’ve done a few readings for local author events along the way, and at my own book launch (of course). It’s a great experience, as far as life experience go … I just find it nerve-wracking. I’m terrified to bobble words and have someone in the audience think “… this writer can’t even read.” And then that fear spins and spins and becomes a thing. I’ve done several book clubs. They are terrific. Though, they are less about the book and more about the food and wine … which I am absolutely fine with. I’ve even done a book club over Skype, which was a blast. They basically dialed me up and huddled around a Macbook Pro with their glasses of wine and beer, and asked questions for an hour straight. That has to be one of my best memories surrounding the entire experience.
5) There are a number of people who follow my blog who are ‘trying their hand’ at writing. Do you have any advice for them if they are uncertain of what they are doing?
A: If you are trying to write a novel, my best advice is to write something your best friend would love. I think people try to write something that will be loved by all, and that is such a paralyzing undertaking. How could anyone start to write something with the pressure that it has to be a best-seller or something that has to be widely critically acclaimed and award winning. Forget all of that. Forget it. Write something that your group of closest friends would love to read. People say,”write what you know.” I think that has less to do with life experiences and more to do with audience. Write for the people you know. That’s my best advice.
6) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you are allowed to share with your fans?
A: I am working on something, yes. (As per above) If anything, I know my friends will like it. Very different from Exit Papers but still darkly comedic in places. My agent and I are going back and forth trying to get the first act straightened out. First acts are tough. Properly setting up the story is always the hardest part. Trimming all of the first act fat that is cumbersome or irrelevant. It really piles up into a stink heap, and quickly. I really can’t say too much more about the novel, but it centers around how terrible we are to one another on this beautiful planet.
7) You seem to be active on Twitter but you have let your Facebook account go dormant. Does being on social-media platforms help or hinder your writing and/or your work?
A: I like Twitter. It seems simple compared to Facebook. I didn’t like myself on Facebook. If I wasn’t wracking my brain in an attempt to come up with something clever to post that would garner “likes,” then I was pouring over everyone else’s self promotion and personal PR campaigns. One day it seemed crystal clear to me how everyone was using Facebook to push an image of themselves to others. You know? Like this: Friends and acquaintances, this is how I want you to think my life goes. This is how great I want you to think it is. Personal PR campaigns, with a peppering of pictures of feet and food. I’d been a part of it, yes. I just didn’t want to be anymore.
8) How do you like living in Toronto? Does it cultural scene provide you inspiration for your writing?
A: Toronto is a fantastic city when it is not all under construction (as it is right now). I love living here. You feel in the thick of the hustle. Everyone around you is trying to make it in something, and that is the fuel to keep driving forward. Motivation and inspiration can be caught like the common cold in Toronto.