Giles Blunt: IFOA MARKHAM Interview

Interview by Sheniz Janmohamed


We had the great pleasure to speak to IFOA Markham author, Giles Blunt, about his journey in writing his latest novel, “The Hesistation Cut”. We delved into questions of life and death, poetry and prose and setting and character, among many other things.


1. "The Hesitation Cut" is a standalone novel-- how challenging was it to move from the beloved John Cardinal series to developing a new novel without, in your words, "someone to make it right"? Why is it important to write a character who can't make things right?


GB: I never intended to write an endless series—initially, I only wanted to write a single detective story, so it was not at all a hardship to move out of it. This is my fourth standalone, so I’m quite used to telling one-off stories. Of course, in a series you do have the advantage of developing your characters and their circumstances over a very long period of time, and there’s something very satisfying about that. But let’s face it, great stories are about the most crucial moments of the protagonist’s life, and they can’t be having crucial moments every five minutes. So there’s something even more satisfying, I find, in shaping one story and bringing it to its natural conclusion. Having a detective to “make things right”is one of the pleasures of the crime novel, of course, but in the real world we rarely get to do that—cops don’t, either—so it’s deeply satisfying to tack more closely to the world as it is. The challenge for a crime writer, in moving away from cops and robbers, isn’t so much the writing as getting the damn thing published—and bought by readers. 


2. Why did you pick a Benedictine monk as your main character? I thought of extremes-- the extreme paranoiac madness of New York vs. the quietude of a monastery-- but also the extremes in the mind-- being aware that you have this dangerous, obsessive side to you, and the only way to kill it is to go in the opposite direction-- to become a monk.


GB: Yes, definitely the extremes were appealing. I wanted the story to echo the shape of The Fall, that sense of losing one’s Eden—and what could be more edenic, more peaceful and serene, than a monastery? And I wanted an iconic figure—you know, where the very idea of him stands for something before you even know him.  Certain occupations lend themselves to that—a nurse, for example, a judge or a king or a cop. Monks are emblematic of asceticism, the renunciation of the self and the world. I wanted the monastery to be Catholic because of certain themes in the book, notably the obliteration of the self, but not so rigorous that a reader couldn't relate (which put Trappists and Carthusians out of the running). 


3. When you finished this book, how did you emotionally distance yourself from it? Was it possible to? Do the characters stay with you, or do you move on once the novel is complete?


GB: Well, this is a very sad story about characters who are in extremes of emotional pain, so it was a relief to eventually say “enough.”Also, I think certain types of novelists are to a large degree like actors. To write about certain types of pain you have to be able to recall or vividly imagine such pain day after day and it can take its toll after a while. I think it was worth doing—I don’t think I could’ve done any better for these characters and this story—but I’m glad to be writing in a cheerier mode at the moment.


4. The very idea of a "hesitation cut" is the walking of a thin line between death and life. Do you find that all the characters choose to walk this line, or are forced to walk it?


GB:  I guess they’re walking various kinds of lines: the line between addiction and devotion, the line between love and obsession, the line between humility and despair. Lauren, the extremely depressed poet, walks the line between choosing death or choosing to go on. It’s a terrible place to be, so it’s no wonder when someone offers her a helping hand, no apparent strings attached, she latches onto it.


5. You're also a poet-- does your poetic voice finds its way into your prose? How do find the balance?


GB:  I was absolutely delighted that Anne Collins, my editor at Random House, liked Lauren’s poems and wanted to keep them in the book. A lot of editors would’ve nixed that idea. And I’m very excited to have a volume of poems coming out next year from Exile Editions. But I don’t find the two pursuits intermingle much. With a poem I have much more a feeling of constructing an object that one hopes is worthy of a moment or two of contemplation. With a novel, you’re constructing an ongoing experience, so the thinking behind it has to be much different. That being said, there are some poets who write like novelists—Gary Geddes, Philip Larkin—and obviously narrative poems can be quite novelistic or cinematic. Why hasn’t anyone filmed The Ancient Mariner? It’s far more film-friendly than The Great Gatsby. The novelist I think comes closest to a poet would be Nabakov. Half of Pale Fire is actual verse, but even his prose has the fire-and-jewel quality of the finest poetry.


About Giles Blunt:

Giles Blunt grew up in North Bay. He spent 20 years in New York City as a writer and a scriptwriter for such shows as Law and Order and Night Heat before making his home in Toronto. He is the author of the six novels in the bestselling Cardinal crime series, which he is currently adapting as a television series for CTV. He is a two-time winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel and a recipient of the British Crime Writers’Macallan Silver Dagger. Blunt presents The Hesitation Cut,a psychological suspense novel about jealousy and obsession.


About IFOA-Markham

Markham Arts Council, in collaboration with Markham Public Library, proudly presents the Fourth Annual International Festival of Authors-Markham on Friday, October 30th, 2015 at the Markham Village Library.

Guests will be able to chat with renowned authors, Nino Ricci, Giles Blunt, and Owen Sheers at a Wine and "Tastes of the Mains" reception. They can also enjoy the exhibit One Thousand Words by Creative Photographers Markham and music by string quintet Euforia. Author Readings, Discussion & Book Signing follow in an evening meant to delight and inspire!

The authors will be reading from their new works:  The Hesitation Cut by Giles Blunt, Sleep by Nino Ricci, and  I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers.  For tickets and information, please visit or call Markham Arts Council at 905-947-9054.

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