Arthur Slade was raised in the Cypress Hills of southwest Saskatchewan and began writing at an early age. He received an English Honours degree from the University of Saskatchewan, spent several years writing advertising and has been writing fiction full time for fifteen years. He is the author of seventeen books, including “Dust” (which won the Governor General’s award), “Tribes,” and “The Hunchback Assignments.” He currently lives in the mythical city of Saskatoon, Canada. For more information, click here.
Let the conversation begin!
Tell us what inspired you to write DUST?
The very first idea really came out of the ether. I just had an image of a boy walking along a prairie road and a truck coming towards him. Along with that image came a feeling of great foreboding. Something truly horrible was about to happen. It wasn’t until I sat down to write that I began to imagine what that horrible thing would be.
Was there a point in the novel that you wanted to give up? Or did it flow fairly naturally?
DUST is curious because there are two versions of it. The first is a 400 page disaster that I abandoned in a drawer for three or four years. Enough time had passed that I gathered the proper amount of courage or curiosity to look at it again and discovered that there were three chapters that were good. So I used them to start an entirely new version of the book. It flowed much better.
How did you select the time period and genre for DUST?
I grew up on the prairies and the Great Depression still has marked so many of the older people there and you can still see farm houses that were abandoned. So the effects are still there. It just seemed natural to write about it. Plus, it was a very Biblical time. By that I mean that it seemed as if God was punishing the prairies. Ten years is a long time to wait for rain and good crops.
Did you find yourself stopping many times during the novel to research the particulars of the 1930’s?
I tend to research as I write. So I get down the bones of the story and flesh it out with historical details (and characterization and metaphors and all that other “stuff”). So I don’t so much stop as I continue writing with a research book in my hand.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
It takes ten years to become a professional. I didn’t believe it at the time I was told (I was 19), but I wasn’t published until I was 30. It took me a long time to realize I needed that time to grow as a writer. Of course, everyone’s journey is different. And many people are smarter than me…it might only take them ten minutes!
What is your biggest pet peeve?
When the Saskatchewan Roughriders lose a game (they’re a football team).
Name a turning point in your life that makes you smile.
When DUST won the Governor General’s Award. A tuxedo. An award ceremony. Free food. National attention in Canada for my book. It really changed my career overnight.
If there were a holiday in your honor, what would it celebrate?
Hobbits. Not that I am short, nor do I have particularly hairy feet. But Hobbits have lived inside me ever since I read The Hobbit. Err, I don’t mean literally, of course. That would be weird. And uncomfortable.
If someone rented a billboard for you, what would you put on it?
Don’t give up. Ever.
If you had to enter a competition for the Most Uselessly Unique Talent, what would your talent be?
Silent, unspoken sarcasm.
What is your worst personality characteristic?
What was the best thing that happened to you this year?
I had Eggs Benedict at an expensive hotel. I mean, it’s just a meal and I had to pay for it…but I sure like Eggs Benedict.
How did you learn to ride a bicycle?
By jumping off a horse and landing on the bicycle as it was riding along beside us. Or was it the other way around. No, wait, neither of those are right. I think I had training wheels and learned on a gravel road. Gravel hurts. Just saying!
If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?
Go to Mars. Or usher in World Peace. Maybe I’d usher in World Peace from Mars…
What is your definition of a productive day?
Writing 1000 words, rewriting 2000 words, reading for two hours, and walking five hours on my treadmill desk.
What is your definition of a relaxing day?
Writing 1000 words, rewriting 2000 words, Reading…wait…how about just reading all day.
What was your favorite thing to play with as a child?
My Han Solo laser gun. Because that’s all he needed to take on an Empire. And Han shot first, in case anyone is wondering.
Have you ever jumped out of a plane? If you knew you would survive, would you do it?
No and no. Why jump out of a perfectly good aircraft?