Ten Questions, with Jamie Popowich

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Jamie Popowich

Jamie Popowich is the author of the short fiction collection Metraville (Insomniac Press). Popowich has also produced the documentary Run Run It's Him.

Jamie Popowich will be appearing at the Insomniac Press Autumn Launch on Monday, October 24 at 7:00 p.m. More information can be found here.

Open Book talks with Popowich about Chester Himes, writing on Greyhound buses and his new collection of stories.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Metraville.

Jamie Popowich:

Metraville is a panoramic view of the fake-believe city, Metraville. In Metraville, you get to read the city. Watch Metravillians gab. See how they behave with each other. Get to know some of our regulars like Julian Baxter, who wanders the city first trying to stop his mum being exiled and then helping a ventriloquist euthanize his dummy. Also, there’s Tavis Stiker, Metraville’s first Astronaut. We Metravillians are all very proud of Tavis’ accomplishments even if he’s not quite sure what those are anymore.

OB:

What, if any, was the role of Toronto's political environment in your writing process?

JP:

The city of Metraville has its own political problems. The last thing that Metraville wants is to push up against Toronto, which Metraville, right or wrong, feels is stealing its development money.

OB:

How did Metraville change as a project? Did you know from the beginning what you wanted to do?

JP:

Once I realized that the book, Metraville, had to embrace the flux of the city, Metraville I finally found my way. Actually, I really found my way when I realized that I’d be writing about this city named Metraville. Before that I had all these voices floating around with no real home. And then, realizing that Julian Baxter’s ongoing suffering with the ailment redacitis could fit into the book, that’s when I knew what Metraville, would look like. Before that, I thought the voices would be one book, Julian’s story another (and this has given me time and room to think about his next adventure).

OB:

What recurring themes or obsessions do you notice turning up in your writing?

JP:

One shouldn’t talk about their themes and obsessions in polite company. This is best done in the dark or by candlelight, late at night (preferably after three a.m.) and should not be filmed or tweeted during or afterward. Costumes are optional.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JP:

Subways and Greyhound buses have always been effective spaces. Line-ups. And waiting for friends at street corners. Pretty much any place that forces me to sit tight for a bit.

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

JP:

Off hand, I can remember the worst, which was that if you haven’t published by thirty then the game’s over. That’s ageist and shortsighted.

OB:

Who are some people who have deeply influenced (fellow writers or not) your writing life?

JP:

The Chester Himes Gravedigger and Coffin Ed series is an important reference point -- Himes’ city descriptions are right up there for me. Daniel Clowes Eightball comics, and his graphic novels post-Eightball, I return to those often. And books on cities and city living. Mike Davis’ work on Los Angeles. Film Noir, the literature and the films -- I’ve sometimes thought of Metraville as a series of Comic Noirs. Also, I work closely with the writer, Angela Szczepaniak – watching her create her new book, The Qwerty Institute, has been totally inspiring. She goes for broke on every project and I can’t ignore that impulse when doing my own work.

OB:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

JP:

No joke: be cynically optimistic at all times.

OB:

Is there a book you’ve read recently that you wished you had written?

JP:

Sadly, I just hope that I can remember the books I’ve read after I’ve read them. I love this book Water and Power by William L. Kahrl about the Owens Valley at the moment but I’m happy I don’t have to write that.

OB:

What are you working on now?

JP:

Well, I’m stuck in the city of Metraville. Right now there’s a “block war” happening on Elpsing Row (a street in Metraville) that’s taking up most of my time – this is called Gibbon Wednesday’s. This one stars these two guys named Daddo and Me and they’re up against their neighbours, a pair of Body Freaks named Maxum and Spence. I’m interested to see who wins that one – maybe the Gibbon! And Matthew Pollack and I made this documentary, Run Run It’s Him, about porn addiction – that’s showing at Film Festivals right now and both of us would love to have that widely distributed. We’re trying to get Run the exposure it deserves.

Jamie Popowich lives in Toronto, Ontario. He co-created the documentary Run Run It's Him.

For more information about Metraville please visit the Insomniac Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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