Interview: Craig Davidson, author of Cataract City

This isn’t my first interview with Craig, but it is my first as Craig (I’ll let you figure the other one out :-D), but I’m thrilled to welcome him back to talk about his new book CATARACT CITY, proves he’s a brave soul by re-reading Blood Meridian, and spills a bit about his next project!

CraigDavidson-credit-KevinKellyI love your work, and can’t wait to get my hands on Cataract City! Will you tell us a little about it, and what inspired you to write it?
It’s the story of two boys growing up in Niagara Falls, which is nicknamed Cataract City—the latin for waterfall is cataracta. So it’s a coming of age story at the outset, then it kinda segues into a story about what happens to these two boys once they’ve come of age, the ways they stick together and the ways they fall apart.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I don’t know that I’ve always wanted to be one—and now, in my late 30s, I often wonder how much longer I want to be one. It’s kind of a skill that, once you’ve got it, you’ve got it. You can improve it, sure, or it can deteriorate on you, but essentially you know how to string words together. So if I did decide to step away, I suppose I could come back to it years later when I’m in my 70s or something, provided my brain hasn’t turned to mush by then. As for background … pretty boring. Canadian, middle class. Dad was a banker and Mom a nurse. We moved around a lot. I got into writing because it seemed a job that wasn’t hampered by my physical shortcomings—I realized pretty quick that I wasn’t going to be a basketball prodigy so I needed to find something else to do with my ambitions.

What’s one of the first things you remember writing?
Oh, I think I wrote some war story for my Grade 3 class. My first and last war story. There were many other faltering steps before I got to the point where I was halfway decent as a writer. Some days I don’t think I’m even halfway decent! But then that’s the mentality of a certain type of writer, or person, and I guess I’m one of those.

cataractcityWhy do you think readers might connect with Duncan and Owen, two very different men that share a harrowing history?
Well, I don’t know readers will. Not all readers have—the book’s been out in Canada and the UK for awhile, and reviews have generally been positive but not everyone’s falling over themselves to praise it. Which is fine. I discovered long ago that no writer can please every readership. You’ve got to go with what means something to you, the stuff that pleases and enthuses you, write about that and hope to goodness it finds the readers who will be most receptive to it. So Dunk and Owe are very much cut from the people I grew up with and know well, cut from ME in a lot of ways, too. Whether they connect with a given reader will depend on their own background and proclivities, I think.

What is your writing process like?
Pretty simple. I try to get 1000 words down a day. That’s the floor. The ceiling might be 2k,3k,4000 words if things are really zinging along. But 1000 is the goal. I don’t always hit it—I didn’t today for the first time in weeks because I’m battling some kind of virus—but that’s the process. Butt in chair, churning out the words. If it’s rolling good, I might be done before noon (I write first thing in the morning). If not, it could be 11pm and I’m still struggling along.

Your characters are complex, quite flawed and very human. What are a few of your favorite flawed heroes from literature or film, and why did they resonate with you?
Yeah, flawed is good. I like flawed. I’ve always loved the characters in Thom Jones’ stories. Jones hasn’t put out much lately and that’s a shame because there’s nobody like him. Another book I read recently was Don Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling—almost all the characters in that one are flawed but sensitively so, and you can understand their plight and the sense that they’re constantly working against their worst impulses but often failing at it. Still, they’re trying.

What authors have influenced you the most in your writing?
Well, Jones is one. Carpenter had he written more. Stephen King. Robert R McCammon. Douglas Coupland. Dennis Lehane. Lorrie Moore. Alice Munro. I could go on and on. The work of a specific writer might really influence me on a given book. I’m writing a western novel now so it’s influenced by a ton of western writers. If I write a regency romance next (I won’t, but anyway) I imagine I’d be influenced by those I read in that arena.

confederacyIf you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Good question. I think A Confederacy of Dunces. So many books make the claim you’ll “lol” while reading them. I rarely if ever do. It’s very hard for a book to do that to me. But Toole’s novel, yes. A hundred times, yes.

What are you currently reading?
Rereading Blood Meridian. Rough read. Brilliant.

What’s next for you?
Well, the western but that’s a horror novel and may appear under a name other than my own. So as Craig there’s a short story collection and a nonfiction book, Precious Cargo, a chronicle of my year driving a special needs bus.

Keep up with Craig: Website

On the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, life beyond the tourist trade isn’t easy. Locals like Duncan Diggs and Owen Stuckey have few chances to leave. For Duncan, that means shift work on a production line. For Owen, it means pinning it all on a shot at college basketball. But they should know better; they’ve been unlucky before. As boys, they were abducted and abandoned in the woods. Though they made it out alive, the memory of that time won’t fade. Over the years they drift apart, but when Duncan is drawn into a chaotic world of bare-knuckle fighting and other shady dealings, Owen, now a cop, can’t look the other way any longer. Together, they’ll be forced to survive the wilderness once more as their friendship is pushed to the limit in Cataract City, a white-hot novel by the rising star Craig Davidson.

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