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Q&A with Vincent Lam - Enter to win a signed copy of "The Headmaster's Wager"


We asked Vincent which fictional characters he’d most like to invite to dinner. In 50 words or less, tell Vincent who would be on your dream dinner guest list in the comments section below. He'll judge the entries, choosing 5 winners. The prize is a signed copy of Vincent’s most recent novel, “The Headmaster’s Wager” from Random House Canada.

The last day to enter is January 11, 2013.

Where is your favourite place to read?

The great thing about reading is that it makes almost any place better. So, although I could tell you that I love to read on the couch in front of our woodstove, in front of the window at the cottage looking into the woods, on beaches, cue rose colored glasses, yadda yadda, the best thing about reading is that it improves your life when life otherwise sucks. For example, airport departure gates? Now bearable. Eating alone in a restaurant, staring at your food and occasionally into space, vs. with a book? The choice is obvious. Also, if you find yourself in front of a television, and hold up a book between your face and the TV, you will find that 99% of the time life gets better.  Not always, because there is some good TV, but very, very, very, often the book has already improved your existence.

What is your favourite mode of writing?

With letters! You know, those 26 random symbols. That question used to make me confused. I would answer politely while thinking, ‘who cares?’  Then, a very insightful and compassionate writer friend of mine explained to me that the question often comes from aspiring writers hoping to find ‘a key’ to getting it done. If that is the actual question, I will answer it. The key is to realize that it doesn’t matter whether one is writing in pen, pencil, crayon, keyboard, or blood. I would recommend against writing in blood as one would exsanguinate before producing anything worthwhile. Also, your editor will be grossed out. The key is to find the mode that one does not think about, so as to minimize barriers between the vision of the work and its expression. What modes do I use? Keyboard for drafting, pen for editing.

Where do you go for inspiration? 

I live. Life is full of ideas.

Describe your writing desk and what you’ve got on it.

More important is what I don’t have: I don’t have the internet. Years ago, our kids pulled a laptop off a table. The screen shattered and the wireless modem stopped working. I plug that into an external monitor, and write on it. The key attribute of this machine is the lack of internet.

If you could become any fictional character, who would you be?

Han Solo.

Surprised? Yeah, I know…

You would have thought I’d say Luke, right?

Take note: Han Solo gets the girl. 

If you could invite any three writers (dead or alive) or fictional characters to dinner, who would you have over? 

Yoda, Chewbacca, and R2D2.

Because they would make my kids happy.

What would be the dinner conversation? 

The Force.

Also, modern literature.

If you could be a writer from any era, which one would it be?

I want to write in the present. We live in a fascinating era. In the past century, we’ve advanced hugely in our scientific and technical knowledge. We can successfully treat many illnesses, and prevent many illnesses that were once common killers. Technology has changed the parameters of our everyday lives, in ways ranging from rapid transport to worldwide communications. We understand, at a molecular and chemical level, the dynamics of plant and animal life on this planet to a degree that would have been unimaginable a century ago. All of this shows our immense technical cleverness.

However, our track record on judgment, insight, and compassion is not so strong. Over the past century, a number of devastating wars, brutally oppressive political regimes, disastrous episodes of starvation in some parts of the world, and stunning imbalances in the distribution of wealth, all show how badly we do on the question of treating each other with justice and humanity. The degradation of the natural environment on a global scale shows, in operatic proportions, our greed and short-sightedness. The human species is like a child with a great big bag, bursting with technological tricks, who hasn’t yet decided how to use the contents of the bag in a wise and kind way.

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