8-Ball Interview with Keith Cadieux

Keith Cadieux is the co-editor of the weird fiction anthology The Shadow Over Portage & Main, published by Enfield & Wizenty and recently shortlisted for a Manitoba Book Award. During the day-job hours, he is the administrative coordinator for the Winnipeg International Writers Festival. 

I met Keith Cadieux through the Manitoba Writers’ Guild mentorship program, where he excelled under my tutelage (possibly because he didn’t need my help).

Keith kindly included “Waiting Room,” a short story by my pseudonym Richard Crow, in  The Shadow Over Portage & Main.

1. What do you want to talk about, but nobody ever asks?

I haven’t done many interviews so I’m not sure how I can offer much here. One thing I have noticed in quite a few interviews with authors is that there usually isn’t much discussion of the work itself. There are always questions about the writing process, something I value as a writer, and occasionally some talk of inspiration, but that’s usually it. There isn’t much talk of thematic fixations or intention versus the final outcome. I suppose I would like someone to ask me what are some themes I’m trying to work through with my writing. That’s something I don’t think anyone has asked me, in my limited experience. 

2. What advice do you wish you’d received, but didn’t, when you first started to take writing seriously?

Probably not to take every piece of advice you’ll receive. I’ve that found picking and choosing advice, tips, criticism that particularly resonate is far more effective than having to accept something in its entirety. This is true for everything in life, really, but particularly true of writing advice. A writing manual, for instance, may offer some great thoughts, but it’s unlikely that one author will be able to take every single item in that manual and apply it effectively to their writing. Much like writing itself, you need to be a bit of a scavenger and only hold on to the bits that are pertinent or helpful to you at that moment or for that specific project.

3. What are your regular habits as a writer?

These tend to change depending on the writing project. When I first started trying to write seriously, I did so almost exclusively at night. I would put on a pot of coffee, re-read what I had written so far, making adjustments and corrections along the way, and then blast forward with new material once I’d gone through all of the older stuff. Eventually, what I had written got to be so long that this became a serious problem and I wouldn’t get to the point of writing new material. More recently, I’ve taken a tip from Stephen King’s On Writing and set a daily word count for myself. I also tend to do a lot of pacing and wandering around when I write, so I usually try to do it when I have the house to myself.

4. What is your editing process?

Usually, I write my first draft by hand. The first revision comes when I type it up, making corrections and line changes along the way. After that, my stories usually need some kind of overhaul, like new scenes or removing scenes, changes to characters, voice, narration, verb tense. So I write it out by hand again, making these substantive changes. Then, when I type it up again, it’s usually pretty lean so the only revision still needed is typographical.

5. What is your greatest difficulty as a writer?

Definitely discipline. You may have noticed that a lot of the “habits” are things that can quite easily be interfered with or thrown off track. Sometimes, having an empty house simply isn’t an option so I need to just sit down, be a little hard on myself, and get the work done.

6. How do you decide which book to read next?

This is pretty random. As I assume is the case with most writers, my to-be-read pile is a chaotic and unruly beast. It’s simply not humanly possible to read everything that I would like to in one human life span. I’m usually reading more than one book at a time and I make an effort for them to be different types of books, say a novel and a story collection, or nonfiction. Sometimes poetry but pretty rarely. I also tend to alternate between moods. I usually read mostly horror but eventually I need a break so I’ll lean into things that are more lighthearted. 

7. What is your greatest single ambition?

I suppose it would be to write something that earns some real money. Like a five-figure payday from one book. In Canadian publishing, I think that’s about as ambitious as it gets. 

8. Why don’t you quit?

I doubt I could, even if I wanted to. It’s definitely a compulsion. Sometimes I’m more into it, more productive, more passionate. But even during periods of low productivity or when I’m feeling disheartened, the drive to write never completely goes away. It might dulled. Usually, it comes roaring back if I’ve seen something that really gets to me, that connects to the core of me as a person somehow, and I feel a drive to write something that good, to contribute something of equal substance. Or, sometimes I encounter something so bad that I can’t shake the feeling that I could write something better and that rage drives me to actually get back to work.

The War with the Dead

A Short Story on Halloween

In celebration of Halloween, here is a short story for you. Thanks to Poetry Is Dead for publishing an early version of this story

THE WAR WITH THE DEAD

Its History

Early in the history of the war with the dead, the living invented their gods. Soon these gods were dead. Some rose again in doomed defiance, but at best were brittle zombies. Those the living had imagined as their heroes, the names they thought would secure immortality, soon joined the ranks of the dead.

This is the history of the war with the dead. Every weapon the living invent turns upon them. Yet they keep inventing new gods, new heroes, new weapons. Each new thing arising in response to the death of the old. Yet for the dead, there is no newness, no age. Only death, a gift held aloft, which the living first refuse and then reach for.

Which will one day be given. Where all gods one day go. In which all heroes, all weapons, are enfolded. To which all is destined from birth.

Its Battleground

Yet the living resist. They drag their resistance into the future, where they die, and join the ranks of the dead. They turn on one another in their fury, when they do not willingly turn traitor, marching into the past in defeat.

The great battleground in the war with the dead is time. The dead now hold the past. The living hold the present, though the dead maintain their territories. The future is the realm still in dispute. As the future draws into the present, it is colonized by the living, and then ceded to the dead.

Each secure in their stronghold, the living and the dead both turn their faces to the future. Their weapons turn with them. What complicates the battle is that neither may enter the territory they dispute, only cast things there — their weapons, their resistance, their desire. They set events in motion, chain them forward.

The living set their explosives in the present, sending their explosions into the past. In this way, they plan to take the future. The dead, by contrast, revel in these explosions. They glory in the wakes of their ruins, create objects from the rubble. They launch these into the future, and laugh when the living drag them down into the present. In this way, the dead wage war.

Its Weapons

The dead create dead objects from once-living objects. These objects do not interest the dead. The dead do not know their names. They return them to the living, after radiating them with time. The living should resist them, should destroy them, cast them back into the past. But they do not. Instead, they treasure them and seek their forgotten names.

The living seek to revive these objects, not knowing the mistake of this, not understanding the nature of death. Unknown objects, archaeological objects, these missives from dead cultures, constitute and embody a threat. Dead objects, which are pure objects — without names, without utility for the living — are the greatest possible threat to present concepts, present order.

Testaments to a world which was once, but is no longer. The presence of these dead objects threatens the living, threatens to unravel their world. To void its uniqueness, its consistency. Kill its future. This is why the living put ancient vases in museums, rather than destroying them or putting them to use. Like all dead objects, they must be isolated and categorized, castrated. The threat they pose must be removed.

Its Art

Art, like all else, is a weapon employed by both the living and the dead. The living use art to comprehend dead objects, to imbue them with a living mystery, and in this way exorcise the demons that the dead trapped in these objects. The dead laugh. The dead use art like any other dead object. They take it from the living, draw it into the past, and cast it forward to the future, so that it ends up in the present to destroy.

Thus the art of the living becomes the objects of the dead, alien documents, incomprehensible. The dead imbue these things with death, and then return them to the living. The living, not understanding the nature of art, nor of death, make the same mistake that they make when approaching all dead objects. They attempt to enliven them, to incorporate them into the realm of the living. They interpret, analyze, over-interpret, study, proclaim the undying, universal, classical nature of the dead’s art.

All of these actions are designed to defuse this art, to dampen its disruptive power. To cut the red wire, stop the bomb. But the bomb has already gone off. Life crosses into its continuing explosion.

Its Meaning

For the living, immortality means to walk through then return from the land of the dead, so they build their art on the models they have drawn from the dead. They then cast this art into the past. The dead recreates it for the future. To destroy the future, to disrupt the present. The dead create with violence, to do violence, so craft art as they craft all things — with pleasure.

The future is filled with objects, like art, with traps the dead have laid. The art of the dead, like all of its objects, bears no message. Its presence is its message, its violence. The dead reshape the art of the living so that, after it is returned, its shapes might resist the living’s attempts to understand and defuse them.

What the living do not understand, when they look to the future, is that it may not yet belong to the dead, but it can never belong to them. The future will not be won, except by objects. Their weapons, whether skyscrapers or poems, will be the true victors of this war.

Its End

The living shall never defeat us. We shall enfold the sun in our arms. Already the stars come to us, one by one, dwindling.

We the dead shall defeat our unborn. They shall fall gentle to the earth from ancient storms.

Come out to Weird Winnipeg where Daria Patrie and I will read IN A HAUNTED HOUSE to promote the horror anthology The Shadow Over Portage and Main!

Date: September 25, 2016
Time: 9:00 p.m.
Event: Reading at Thin Air: Winnipeg International Writers Festival
Sponsor: Thin Air: Winnipeg International Writers Festival
Venue: Dalnavert House
Location: 61 Carlton Street
Winnipeg, MB
Canada

Check out this amazing anthology of weird/horror fiction!

New Short Fiction in JOYLAND!

Joyland Magazine
5 May 2016

I have a new short story in Joyland! It contains the best sentence I ever wrote:

“Dudes are always fucking with other dudes in Shakespeare.”

Read it!

The Nightmare Ballad of the Drunken Brand Identity with a Cameo by Shakespeare and a Title that Cannot Get Worse

(Thanks to Kathryn Mockler, William Neil Scott, and Natalee Caple for their feedback on its drafts. And thanks to Jessie Taylor for her poem about King Lear, which inspired me to write this story in the first place.)

Here’s an excerpt for you:

“Gimme a gun, I need to kill myself quick.”

The clerk blinks and squints. “You can’t just walk into a gun store and say something like that and expect to get a gun quick.”

“Why the hell not?”

The man spits. “Permits.”

“Goddamn.”

“You don’t need to tell me, buddy.”

“Look, I gotta end this thing. Drinking yourself to death is too slow and requires too much storytelling. A gun would be nice and quick, you just need a motivation, and I’m the kind of character that pops his own head off with a gun so I don’t even really need much in the way of that.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, which is another reason I can’t sell you a gun today.”

“Shit. Well, I gotta go then.”

Frosty the Existentialist Snowman

Once upon a time some children were playing outside in the middle of the winter, near Christmastime. The day was warm, and the snow sticky, and so the children decided to build a snowman.

They rolled three balls of snow, each smaller than the other, and stacked them up. They found a carrot and placed it in the centre of the top ball, as a nose. Then, they used lumps of coal to suggest eyes and a wide smile. They found some leafless branches for arms, and wrapped a scarf around the snowman’s neck.

The children agreed that the snowman needed further decoration. On the street nearby, half-submerged in the snow, lay a discarded top hat. One child dug the hat out of the slush and, brushing it off, placed it upon the snowman’s head.

As soon as the hat had been laid on its head, the snowman began to stir as it came to life. The children were startled, but, as children do, they accepted the event without question or fear.

The snowman was disoriented. He looked around at the children gazing up at him, then down at his thin, fragile stick-hands.

“Who are you?” the snowman asked.

“We are the children of the neighbourhood,” answered the oldest, “and we have built you out of snow on this warm winter day.”

“Who am I?” the snowman asked.

“Your name is Frosty,” the child answered, “and you are our friend.”

“Then play with me,” said Frosty to the children, mouth frozen in a smile. “The day is warm. The sun is shining. Soon, I will melt. Play with me now, while I still live. Hurry.”

Lovecraftian Comedy at The Rusty Toque

The Rusty Toque
30 June 2015

The wonderful Kathryn Mockler over at The Rusty Toque has republished my Lovecraftian comedic short story, originally published in Matrix back in 2006. Everyone thinks the “Guy” in the story is Guy Maddin for some reason — but it’s not, sadly, just “some Guy.”

David Annandale writes Warhammer 40,000 and Horus Heresy fiction for the Black Library, including the recent novels Yarrick: The Pyres of Armageddon and The Damnation of Pythos. He is also the author of the horror novel Gethsemane Hall (Dundurn Press and Snowbooks). For Turnstone Press, he has written a series of thrillers featuring rogue warrior Jen Blaylock (Crown Fire, Kornukopia, and The Valedictorians). His short fiction has appeared in such anthologies as Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters and Occult Detective Monster Hunter: A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests. David’s non-fiction has appeared in Black Treacle and such collections as Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film: Essays on Belief, Spectacle, Ritual and Imagery and The Meaning and Culture of Grand Theft Auto. He writes film reviews for The Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope. He teaches film, creative writing and literature at the University of Manitoba.

Follow David at his website, www.davidannandale.com, and on Twitter @David_Annandale.

My favourite of David’s novels is Gethsemane Hall (McNally | Amazon), followed closely by The Damnation of Pythos (McNally | Amazon).

David Annandale on Writing Tie-In Fiction (Interview)

A Warhammer 40,000 Author on Playing in the Coolest Sandbox

David Annandale writes Warhammer 40,000 and Horus Heresy fiction for the Black Library, including the recent novels Yarrick: The Pyres of Armageddon and The Damnation of Pythos. He is also the author of the horror novel Gethsemane Hall (Dundurn Press and Snowbooks). For Turnstone Press, he has written a series of thrillers featuring rogue warrior Jen Blaylock (Crown Fire, Kornukopia, and The Valedictorians). His short fiction has appeared in such anthologies as Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters and Occult Detective Monster Hunter: A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests. David’s non-fiction has appeared in Black Treacle and such collections as Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film: Essays on Belief, Spectacle, Ritual and Imagery and The Meaning and Culture of Grand Theft Auto. He writes film reviews for The Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope. He teaches film, creative writing and literature at the University of Manitoba.

Follow David at his website, www.davidannandale.com, and on Twitter @David_Annandale.

My favourite of David’s novels is Gethsemane Hall (McNally | Amazon), followed closely by The Damnation of Pythos (McNally | Amazon).

Here’s the interview!