Today is the official publication date of my novel, In the Cage, from Biblioasis out of South Detroit (Windsor), Ontario. I’ve had it for a little while, but it is always a weird feeling to land on the actual release day. The book is widely available, and in bookstores all over the land. You can also order it online through the following:
The above photo is from the Bay & Bloor Indigo in Toronto, just a stones throw away from where I first dropped my bags and drank my first university beer some 18 years ago, almost to this day. At Victoria University, within the University of Toronto. I’d gone to see Stephen King’s IT at the movies this past Saturday, and stopped by on the way out to see if In the Cage was in stock. As you can see, they didn’t mess around at that store, and that sort of hit home to see it on the shelves like that, especially so close to where I first started my post-secondary education, a pivotal moment for me as a human, and as a writer.
The fact that I’d seen a Stephen King movie beforehand was fortuitous, given that Mr. King was a formative influence on me when I was writing as a young person, and it was reading his books, probably far too early, than made me want to be a proper writer. And, at the time, a horror writer. I later traded in my horror aspirations for more historical, less overtly supernatural awfulness in the work, in no small part because of my reading Cormac McCarthy. But, I kept the focus on atmosphere and tone, above all, and learned the importance of writing real characters that the reader can empathize with, especially working class characters, and that all came from King first. Something that separates his work from many peers, even those deemed more “literary,” and that makes him such an effective writer of the downtrodden and waylaid.
I figured, since I was going down a nostalgia hole, I’d saunter through campus and see the old buildings and grounds where I’d spent those early adult years reading literature and getting my ass handed to me in my first writing classes. On the way through, I passed Northrop Frye Hall, where I took my second, and most significant creative writing course, with the great poet and professor, A.F. Moritz. That is where I got my stories hammered into shape, after a rough start to the course (Moritz did not like my faux-Kerouac ramblings or latent horror tics, soon to be abandoned). Those stories got me into grad school in Wales, where I did the work that became the bedrock for what I’m doing now. All that happened here, and without it, who knows where I’d be…
So, now the second book, and first novel, is here. All of the things I’ve mentioned are ingredients that went into it, somehow or someway, and it was strange to have so many of them involved in that one day. Nonetheless, they are appreciated very much. As are all of the people who worked on In the Cage at Biblioasis, foremost the mighty John Metcalf, and also Dan, Casey, Chris, Meghan and others who have come and gone. I’ve also made no secret of the debt I owe to readers Jenna Illies, Naben Ruthnum, and Kris Bertin. And to the kind endorsements and support of writers I admire, like Donald Ray Pollock, Waub Rice, and, especially, John Irving. Thanks also to Michel Vrana for one hell of a cover.
I hope that readers who find the book get a charge out of it. My writing isn’t for everyone, and it’s not for the faint of heart, or those who like their caricatures and tropes to stay put, but I’ve been lucky to have some loyal supporters and readers so far, and hope to build on that. I’ll do my best to keep writing stories that matter to me, and that I think will matter most to my readers, however they’re likely to sell or be accepted by CanLit, whatever that is and will be as time goes on.
I’ll be touring in support of In the Cage throughout the fall, and perhaps longer if I’m lucky. You can find all of those dates and locations here. I’ll also have an interview featured on The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers this season, and have a few more interesting things in the works, like an interview between John Irving and me for Electric Literature, and that will likely be published after my US pub date of October 10th.
Until then, thanks to everyone, sincerely, for the support and for following my work. You are all champions and legends of the fall. In closing, to show my appreciation, I will leave you with this photo from my Saturday adventure where I made the mandatory post Vic trip past Trinity College aka U of T Slytherin…
Take care all. KH