To regard reading and writing as, in a way, an exercise in the exploration of self is no revelatory concept for Brett Josef Grubisic. Growing up, he found his passion early and preferred the company of the written word and a quiet corner to the bluster and bombast of social gatherings in his family home.
Years removed from childhood, Grubisic occupies many roles within the writing world. As a professor of English at the University of British Columbia, a contributor to Maclean’s and other publications, and an editor and writer himself, Grubisic has turned his childhood passion into a sprawling career.
The editor of Contra/Diction: New Queer Male Fiction and co-editor of Carnal Nation: Brave New Sex Fictions, Grubisic’s debut novel, The Age of Cities, was a 2007 finalist for the Vancouver Book Award. His upcoming novel, From Up River and For One Night Only—due out in April 2016—is the next in a solid sequence of compelling prose that draws on experience-as-catalyst, attesting to the fact that to write is more than just an exercise in mechanics. To write is to reach back into one’s life, to pull at the past to create something entirely new.
I spoke with Brett about his influences, his upcoming projects, and how he approaches the craft of writing.
What inspired you to become a writer?
My oldest memory of “being a writer” takes place in St. Mary’s, a weird once-upon-a-time segregated half-residential elementary school near Hatzic Island, BC. A teacher granted a few girls and me a spare because we’d finished our work earlier. We were being handpicked as “accelerated” I think. Alone in a room we were allowed to do anything creative and we came up with a gory play about a giant chicken’s heart terrorizing girls who were camping. We made a monster/chicken’s heart costume out of red construction paper. My first rejection slip came in the form of the teacher’s disappointment with the direction our unfettered creativity had taken. She told us that we couldn’t perform it and that our spare classes were cancelled. I’m pretty sure the essence of that boy was still in me when I began writing my first novel a few decades later!