Meet the Author: Michael Winter

We at The Little Red Umbrella have been quite fond of author Michael Winter for quite some time now. We've been known to loudly exclaim: "Every word this man writes is gold!" while engaging in lively, pint-fuelled, late-night book discussions; countless copies of his books have been gifted to friends; and, when one of us was gainfully employed at a local bookshop, we cleverly arranged for his books to be displayed on tables and recommended them to anyone who would listen. Imagine our delight when Michael Winter agreed to answer our (sometimes silly) Meet The Author questions! Read on, and if you'd like to meet the author in person, come out to The Holy Oak Book Club this Saturday, March 26th, at 7pm.

How would you describe The Death of Donna Whalen to someone who hasn’t read  it yet?

If you havent read this book you havent lived. It's about a community who talk about a murder that happened to one of their own. It's a novel full of the voices of people who dont often get to speak. The text is based on court transcripts of a real murder that happened in downtown St. John's. I didnt write a word of it, which is pretty incredible.

What are you reading right now?

Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People, by Ann Allen Savoy.

What was the first book you ever bought? Have you re-read it lately?

My brother and I split the cost of a Scholastic version of Ulysses's adventures. I saw it recently on my brother's bookshelf in the bedroom we shared as kids. It's still a good book. It was illustrated and abridged.

Is there a book that you’ve read that you would really like to go back in time and un-read? Why was it so bad?

There was a biography of a famous person -- I dont want to say who that person is. But the biographer seemed to hate him. He was a good writer, this biographer. So I was gripped. But by the end of the book I felt soiled for having had so much pleasure at a real person's expense.

Did you have a favourite book to have read to you as a child? What made it so special?

I liked the nursery rhyme "Diddle diddle dumpling my son John, went to bed with his trousers on, one shoe off and one shoe on, diddle diddle dumpling my son John." I was fascinated with the drawing of John, in bed. He looked like he'd been up to no good for a long, long time.

What makes and/or breaks a live reading for you?

Brevity. Humour. Contrast. More Brevity.

You can choose one author to go drinking with. Who do you pick, and where do you take them?

I very much liked touring with Colm Toibin a few years ago -- we had books out at the same time. Terrific stories out of him. I'd take him to the Ship Pub in St. John's.

What’s your favourite opening to a novel?

I'm not that kind of enjoyer of books. I have friends who do that, and I really should brush up on my party tricks. Okay let me reach down to a bookshelf near my computer -- I've pulled up "The Story of My Wife" by Milan Fust. Here's the opening paragraph: "My wife's been unfaithful, this much I have long suspected. But that she should take up with a man like that... I stand over six feet tall, weigh 210 pounds, am a veritable giant, in short, the sort of person who -- as they say -- only has to spit on someone and the man is finished."
That's a pretty good opening.

If you could re-write the ending to any famous novel, which would it be? And what would you change it to?

Are you insane? That never occurs to me. Who would be so deranged as to add paint to a Rembrandt? People say Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night" is flawed. I say so what? The brokenness of that novel is part of what makes it so memorable.

Is there one big, famous book that you feel like you really should have read already, but still haven’t?

I'm not guilty in that way. I dont think people should read the "Iliad" or "Finnegan's Wake" or "Being and Time". It's not the end of the world. It's true that reading things which are difficult is good for you. But I'm not about to join the pompous twits who keep wanting to shove the canon down your throat.

What word do you love the most?


What word do you absolutely despise?


Photo: Michael Winter (by Miguel Invireno)

Michael Winter is the author of The Death of Donna Whalen, which is shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was also shortlisted for the 2010 Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize; The Architects Are Here, which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize; and The Big Why, which was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award and the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His first novel, This All Happened, won the Winterset Award. He is also the recipient of The Writers' Trust Notable Author Award. He divides his time between Toronto and St. John's.

You'll find the rest of our Meet The Authors here.


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