Third Person

Brian Francis is the author of two critically acclaimed novels. His most recent, Natural Order, was selected by the Toronto Star, Kobo and Georgia Straight as a Best Book of 2011. The book was shortlisted for the 2012 Ontario Library Association Evergreen Award. His first novel, Fruit, was a 2009 Canada Reads finalist and was selected as a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers title. His fiction has also appeared in 07: Best Canadian Stories. Francis teaches creative writing as part of the International Festival of Authors, writes a monthly advice column, "Ask the Agony Editor," for Quill and Quire magazine and is a regular contributor to CBC Radio's The Next Chapter. He lives in Toronto.

Photo: Paula Wilson

Photo: Paula Wilson

First Person Meandering

I always wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. By that I mean, in order to be a writer, I had to write. Part of the problem for most young writers is figuring out what they want to write about. So I spent most of my twenties starting short stories (but rarely finishing them), penning melodramatic poems and fantasizing about how great life would be once I was a published author.

In 2000, I was awarded the Writers’ Union of Canada’s Emerging Author Award. The award was a huge boost for my confidence and gave me the chance to actually sit down and focus on my writing. I wrote one short story, then another and another. Soon, I had a collection of stories that centred around the same characters. These stories were the foundation for my first novel, Fruit.

Fruit was published in Canada by ECW Press in 2004, and in the U.S. by MacAdam Cage (hardcover) and Harper Perennial (paperback) under the new title, The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington.  A few years later, the book was selected for the 2009 edition of Canada Reads. I was up against some stiff competition with The Book of NegroesMercy Among the ChildrenThe Outlander and The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant. In spite of having a great defender in Jen Sookfong Lee, I didn’t win. But I made it to the very end. So I felt like I won.

My second novel, Natural Order, was published by Doubleday Canada in hardcover in 2011 and in paperback the following year. It was selected as a top book of the year by the Toronto Star, Kobo and Georgia Straight, and was also nominated for an Ontario Library Association Evergreen Award. I thought it would be easier writing the second book, but it wasn’t. If anything, it was harder. In many ways, Natural Order felt like a book I had to build from the ground up. We’ll see how the third book goes.

Speaking of…I’ve recently completed a draft and while I’d like to say what it’s about, experience has shown me to hold off. That way, I always look like I know what I’m doing.

As far as other writerly pursuits, I teach creative writing in partnership with the International Festival of Authors. I recently wrapped up my food blog called Caker Cooking. If you like old school casseroles (and really, who doesn’t?), you might want to check it out. You can also find me on GoodReads and I’m also on Twitter.

As far as meeting with book clubs, you provide the wine and I’ll do my darndest to come if you’re in the GTA. Seriously, though, I enjoy them so if you’re game, so am I. At the very least, we can set something up via Skype (provided you’re better than me with technology). See the Contact page for info about how to reach me.

Thanks for dropping by. And may good books find you.

Brian