Todd Babiak pleasantly stunned fans last year when he released Come Barbarians. (Link to my review) . The gritty novel was a total change from Babiak usual style but it was greatly acclaimed. Now, a year later since it’s release, Babiak has answered a few questions for me here.
1) Am I right in assuming that Come Barbarians is a bit of different novel than what you had previously wrote? How was it received by your fans? Was there any memorable reactions to it you care to share?
A: My other novels were blends of sad and funny. They were set in places like Edmonton, Banff, Montreal. They had satirical elements but they were gentle books about the regular problems of average people. I mean, in one of them a man acquired magical powers. But he was an ordinary man. Come Barbarians is very different. I’ve had plenty of memorable reactions. Some people are worried for me, that my funny brain could be so suddenly full of darkness.
2) Outside of novels, you also do journalism, essays and screenwriting. Is there a preferred type of writing you enjoy doing? Is there a difference between these styles of writing?
A: I don’t do any real journalism, to be honest. I was a newspaper columnist for some time and I am not anymore. I admire genuine investigative journalists. I was always more of an entertainer. I think that is what binds all my writing: I want to please and entertain and poke readers, ultimately. There is a big difference between media: the way you write it, the way it’s edited and received, the way it’s published and distributed. I definitely like novels the best, as a reader and as a writer.
3) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?
A: Right now I’m reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. My favourites change all the time. Hilary Mantel is certainly one of my favourites: the Cromwell novels are extraordinarily good. I like all styles, though: I can be equally (though differently) pleased by John Le Carré, Richard Ford, and David Sedaris.
4) Are you working on anything new in the fiction front right now? If yes, are there details you can share with your fans?
A: I’m writing a sequel to Come Barbarians. I don’t have a title yet.
5) How do you like living in Edmonton right now? Does the city’s cultural scene help you with your writing at all?
A: Edmonton is an extraordinary city for an artist or an entrepreneur, and I’m both. It’s a city of inventors and builders, without any established hierarchies. People are interested in your ideas, and they’re keen to help. The economy is weird: people are moving here from all over the world, in great numbers. But it’s not a massive city so they’re changing the place, in their ways. It’s fun. But I’m a restless person. I find myself Googling France, where I lived a few years ago, more than I should these days.
6) How do you like reading your fiction works in public? Are you aware of any book clubs that have read and discussed your work? If yes to the latter, did you partake in the discussion at all?
I go to book clubs quite often, whenever I’m invited (if I can). I don’t mind reading from the novels in public but I prefer speeches, conversations and presentations that reference the novel. A speech is an art form too, and I try to be true to it.
7) You are the first writer that I am aware of that is active on Pinterest and I know you are active on both Twitter and Facebook. Does being on those social-media platforms help or hinder your fiction writing? If yes, how so?
A: I would like you to teach me how to actually use Pinterest. Twitter, certainly. Facebook, a bit. And gosh: to be honest, I should turn off my internet before I sit down to write fiction. Social media are fun, but they’re distractions like good weather and that friend who calls to go for a beer.
8) How much of your fiction is based on personal experience? Do you rely on other people’s stories for your fiction or does a lot of the material come from your imagination?
A: It’s a mixture, for sure. My wife rolls her eyes a lot, as places we’ve been and people we’ve met and body parts like her neck and arms show up in my novels.