Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Canadian Authors Association - West Coast

What a thoroughly bizarre evening! At 7 pm, Laura and I walked into the monthly meeting of the Canadian Authors Association at the Howe Street Alliance for Art and Culture building. Suddenly the room was a blaze and someone was shouting Flashpoint! Little had we turned to run when we were tripping over dead bodies that were not only being investigated by the Da Vinci code team but the Cold Squad as well. All the while the Edgemont High kids were popping bubblegum and trying to mate without moving out of their one location.
Thankfully, Ben Nuttall Smith, dripping blood and dressed like an Aztec warrior explained that Ian Weir was reading tonight. Ian had written screenplays for all those great tv shows. Meanwhile Ben's historic novel, Blood, Feathers and Holy Men had just been released. Spannish Conquistadores were slashing about behind him. When Ben began his reading natives and monks began interacting with colourful parrots flying about the room.
"It happens when you're a writer. Your characters and stories go every where with you," some writer whispered
Robert Mackie, the CAA president rode in on a horse wearing a WWI soldier uniform, his book Horse Soldiers to come out in March. He said Canwrite 2011 retreat was coming up in May and that next month at the CAA meeting here there'd be an open mike.
Publisher Perry Wilson wearing medieval garbs from her own other worldly ebooks then proceded to introduce Ian Weir. He'd actually been sitting behind me with Jane Hall, author of Red Wall which certainly explained why her RCMP characters were chasing the the Devil, the prostitutes and pugilists of the novel Daniel O' Thunder.
Ian Weir stood up and he didn't look at all like a writer. He was a rangy long drink of a fellow looking almost like Sam Elliott. He should be in front of the camera not scribbling at the back of some smelly stage.
Perry told us Weir's novel, Daniel O Thunder was already short listed for 4 major awards including the CAA Award for Fiction and Amazon's First Fiction award.
Despite his 30 years of self supporting writing and utterly obvious genius he was humble and gracious as well.
He read from his novel Daniel O'Thunder and it grabbed you. Later he'd describe how writing for television forced one to really get a hold of the audience because they had 250 channels to change to if you didn't. He had 4 narrative voices in this 1850's novel set mostly in London where Weir got his MA in English at King's College. Daniel, a retired boxer who preached the gospel, had challenged the devil to a fight anywhere in England. John a fallen preacher who just may have slept with the daughter of a wealthy parishioner had seen it wise to leave his church, change his name and come to Covent Gardens. The Devil was indeed a frightening character who trailed a faint whiff of sulfur. As Ian read a chill went through the room before the thunderous applause that followed his conclusion of such a heart warming piece of quite spectacular writing.
The question and answer period followed. The parrots alighted, the dead bodies sat up and the RCMP band quieted so you couldn't even here the Edgmonth High kids bubble gum as Weir shared the secrets of politic, business and craft.
Story, Protagonist, Obstacles and Goals, character monologues when stuck, the diference between American and Canadian agents, the budget for an episode of Da Vinci Code versus the budget for CSI, why camera positions, takes and shows decided by budget can make a faster Canadian tv show appear slow, while locations can take half a budget. Who is the protgagonist. What is he wanting to achieve. What is ongoing Story Arc? What's holding the centre? Has the character transformed? What to do when a show has 4 producers. How to write a peice for CBC and CBS when they really want the one peice to be two different stories. What is the story fundamentally about. Can you tell me what War and Peace or Lord of the Rings was about in 25 words or less?
Ian Weir could and did. We were all so astonished by what and how he told us that Bernice Lever simply apologised to him and all that we couldn't go on all night. Our parking meters were up.
But that's what happens with great story tellers. Ian Weir is one of the best. Even among his own, he enthralled. He could keep a room of story tellers entertained all night.
I left with an autographed copy of Daniel O'Thunder from Douglas & McIntyre publishers in one hand and a copy of Blood, Feathers and Holy men from Libros Libertad publishers in my other. I'll just have to put off writing the 'great canadian novel' myself since I simply must now read both these books.
When I got home I found I was bruised all over my body by some pugilist called Daniel O'Thunder and had parrot shit in my hair. What a bizarre night!

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