Joseph Boyden is a pen-wielding champ

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This literary beauty shares some insight and inspiration

Boyden gives thoughtful answers while Michael tries his best not to fanboy. / Laura Billett

Boyden gives thoughtful answers while Michael tries his best not to fanboy. / Laura Billett

On Thursday, Oct. 16,the U of R was graced by one of Canada’s foremost literary figures. Joseph Boyden, the author of Three Day Road, Through Black Spruce, and most recently the critically acclaimed The Orenda, came to read from The Orenda, amongst other things. He read some of his non-fiction, as well, and signed books for hours while chatting graciously with every fan.

Personally, Boyden is a literary hero of mine. When I was in Grade 10, I had pretty much stopped reading for fun. It didn’t appeal to me like it used to. I was a bookworm in my younger days, but something changed. The written word didn’t attract like it used to. That changed when I simultaneously read Three Day Road for class, and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club for fun. These books reignited my love for literature, and I started consuming books veraciously once again. Thanks in large part to Joseph Boyden, I’ve been well equipped to lead the bookish life I’ve chosen.

After waiting for an hour to get my books signed, I mentioned this tidbit to Boyden. He reacted positively and mentioned he knew Palahniuk.

“Believe it or not, he’s a weird dude,” Boyden joked.

For days before the lecture, I tried to land an interview with Boyden to no avail. According to his press people, he was too busy. I’ve learned in my short journalistic career to never take no for an answer. I’ve never lost anything by bothering people incessantly. This time, though, it didn’t seem to work out. His press people just wouldn’t budge.

While he was signing my books, I thought I’d try again, petitioning him personally. To my surprise, he said yes enthusiastically, but only if it was under 5 minutes. Deal.

After he signed everyone’s books, we sat down for a quick interview. Firstly, as a successful author, what’s his advice to aspiring young writers?

“You have to be in it not with the expectation that you’re going to make a living out of it,” Boyden said. “I don’t think you can approach writing that way. It has to be a passion; it has to be an obsession, and you have to sit down every day and write. That’s the hardest part.”

“When you’re working on something, you can’t wait for the muse to come to you. You have to grab that muse and make it work,” continued Boyden.

Throughout my life, I’ve always heard people dismiss Canadian literature as not as interesting as other English literature. Boyden disagrees with this perception.

“I don’t believe there is. I think there might used to have been…But I’m a writer, so maybe people are afraid to say that to me, but I don’t really see that perception anymore,” Boyden joked.

“Canadian literature,” said Boyden, “I think is some of the most exciting literature in the world right now. Look at Yann Martel, with Life of Pi. It’s one of the global bestsellers of the last 10 years.”

“Canadian literature is as varied as our country is, and as rich as our country is,” Boyden stated.

Boyden was amazingly humble for an author of his stature to grant a student newspaper an interview. It really spoke to his character. Boyden was funny, insightful, and accommodating after an extremely long day. He’s a real champ, and I’ll never forget it.

Boyden told us that The Orenda is going to be a ten-part mini-series with CBC and that Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce are currently in development to become films. That’s awesome!

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