25th Trillium Award

On the Road with Bill Gaston: The IFOA Ontario Interview Series

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Bill Gaston (photo credit: Clownbog Studios)

Many of Ontario's most passionate and dedicated readers live in communities spread across the province, so the International Festival of Authors (IFOA), now in its 33rd year, is taking its show on the road to bring its exciting program of literary events to 14 locations throughout Ontario. From October 16th to November 2nd, outstanding authors from Canada and across the world will visit Barrie, Brantford, Burlington, Hamilton, Markham, Midland, Parry Sound, Picton, Orillia, Owen Sound, Thunder Bay, Uxbridge, Windsor and Woodstock.

Today Open Book chats with Bill Gaston, who will be reading in Orillia on Sunday, October 28, along with Linda Holeman and Benjamin Wood. Bill Gaston's new novel, The World (Hamish Hamilton Canada), has been described by the Globe and Mail as "an emotional, spiritual and intellectual experience, so involving and engaging that it almost kidnaps you."

For more information about IFOA Ontario: Orillia, visit our Events Page.

Open Book:

Tell us about what you’ll be reading at this year’s IFOA Ontario festival.

Bill Gaston:

I’ll be reading from my new novel, The World. As always with a novel, it’s difficult to choose exactly what parts to read. Sometimes I’ll do a sly scan of faces in the audience, and make a spontaneous decision based on what I see in these faces, or even one face. It’s pure guesswork, of course, but I think I sometimes get it right.


What are you most looking forward to about reading in the town of your IFOA Ontario event?


Though I’ve heard good things about it, I’ve never spent time in Orillia. I love exploring new places, so I look forward to wandering around with my eyes open.


How do you manage the shift between being solitary writer and a public reader?


It can be a bit of a thrill, actually. We’re intensely alone for a year or two or three, staring into this screen-full of fantasies of our own making, and it can be great to be invited outside once more, into reality and people. It’s an act of kindness, I think, to be invited someplace. And, as people who attend readings might already have noticed, once you let a writer read from their work, they tend to be difficult to shut up.


What is one luxury you allow yourself when you go "on tour" with a book?


Basking in the glow of the couple glasses of wine I’ve had at the reception, I will lie on my hotel room bed with a TV remote, flipping through channels at a pace and for reasons that would drive my wife crazy. I’ve never had a TV in my bedroom, so it’s an empty-headed luxury to drift off to a horrible movie. I know I should say I’ll be drifting off to Tolstoy or Alice Munro, but this will not be the case.


What book (aside from your own) will you have with you in your bag while you travel to the location of your IFOA Ontario reading?


Whirl Away (Thomas Allen Publishers), by Russell Wangersky.

Visit litontour.com for more details about IFOA Ontario.

Bill Gaston is a novelist, short story writer and playwright. His short story collection Gargoyles was nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and won the ReLit Award and the City of Victoria Butler Prize. Gaston has also been shortlisted for the Giller Prize and was awarded the Writers' Trust's inaugural Timothy Findley Award for a body of work in 2002. In his latest book, The World, Gaston weaves together five heartbreaking stories tied to a book of the same name, which tells the story of a historian who unearths a cache of letters written in Chinese.

For more information about The World please visit the Hamish Hamilton Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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