Volume 95, Issue 19

Wednesday, October 3, 2001
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Wright does writing thing

Blue Rodeo mosey into town with their greatest hits

The Dears tell a Bedtime Story

Think outside the box with Natali's Cube

Wright does writing thing

Canuck author visits London for reading

By Molly Duignan
Gazette Staff

When Ronald Wright puts out a book, it seems he can't go wrong.

Currently on tour promoting his latest novel, Henderson's Spear, the Canadian author has returned from Ottawa and is en route to London for tonight's reading at the central branch of the London Public Library.

Although his busy schedule is demanding, Wright always finds time to read.

"I've been revisiting a lot of books I read years ago. I have an idea of what they are, but it's very interesting to read them again as an adult," he says. "1984, Animal Farm, A Brave New World – I mean those were books I always admired.

"I was always worried, even then, about the state of the world in one way or the other and wanted to write something in that tradition."

Good writing has always come easy for Wright. Although he first established himself as an award-winning travel writer with non-fiction works like Stolen Continents and Among the Maya, Henderson's Spear is only his second work of fiction, marking an important time in his career.

"The idea for Henderson's Spear was suggested to me by a real spear that still exists in my family and the fact that there seemed to be a hidden story behind it. Perhaps the greatest literary model or inspiration [for this book] is [Herman] Melville's Moby Dick," Wright says, adding his recent novel was more difficult to write than his first work of fiction, A Scientific Romance.

For his second novel, Wright felt a different kind of pressure. "A first book is usually something that's been bubbling away at the back of your mind for a very long time," he says.

"Every [subsequent] book is back to square one – you never know what you're doing. [Books] never get easier. You have to come up with something which perhaps requires the greatest touch of imagination because it hasn't been bugging you all this time."

Difficulties aside, Wright now has an opportunity to reflect upon his accomplishments.

"All I've learned that I didn't know at the beginning is it's possible for me and it was the right decision to spend all that time writing. It would have been much easier if I had known at the beginning that [my first book] would be a publishable book, but at the same time, if I had known that, I might not have worked so hard at it," he reflects.

When it comes time for a new novel, Wright always uses his home office. There he writes in the same chair at the same desk without fail every time, the same way he says most writers do it – by being anti-social.

Photo by Neil Graham
"The only way you get a book written is to shut yourself up in a tiny little space, not see anybody and just live in your mind." Ronald Wright might be anti-social, but you can meet him tonight at the Central Library and decide for yourself.

For Wright, the relief from such isolation comes from events like his current promotional tour. "It's a wonderful contrast – it's a period of sociability, sort of recharging one's batteries as a human being – before going back into the cave."

Before Wright heads back into his cave, he says it's definitely worthwhile to come to his reading or any reading for that matter.

"I think most readers are curious about the person behind the name they see on the cover of a book and I think everyone enjoys the experience of being read to. The advantage of being read to by the author is that you get a sense of how the author views his own work," he says.

While promoting his novels, Wright's goals succeed those of money and fame. "The goal is to have a successful book, not just in terms of making money or reaching the public, but a book you feel succeeds artistically. It takes a long time to get to that.

"Most writers want to have readers – the more, the better. Obviously [as a novelist] you want to be considered enduring and significant. Really, only time will tell."

With Henderson's Spear and many other books behind him, Ronald Wright is well on his way to becoming remembered.

Check out Ronald Wright tonight with Alan Cumyn as part of Autumn Writes at the London Public Library's Central Branch on Queens Ave.. The event begins at 7 p.m. and admission is free.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001