On Writing with Mark Lavorato

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Mark Lavorato

Mark Lavorato is the author of Believing Cedric (Brindle & Glass), as well as working as a musician and photographer.

Mark talks to Open Book about his recent book, regretted moments in life, music, photography and more. Mark will be reading this Thursday, December 1st, at the Evening of Fabulous Fiction. For more information, check our events listing here.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Believing Cedric.

Mark Lavorato:

Believing Cedric is about a middle-aged insurance broker with an unusual problem. He’s physically flashing back to the biggest moments in his life and reliving them, suddenly opening his 58-year-old eyes inside his 13-year-old body and experiencing an event that forever marked him. Then in the body of himself as a 16-year-old, and so on. He can radically alter these events while he’s there, but that doesn’t seem to affect the way his life turns out later on. Which has him (along with the reader) trying to figure out what exactly is happening to him, and why. The novel is told from 12 different perspectives, from the people who had the greatest impact on him and the stories span the 20th century, Canada and much of our cultural diversity.

OB:

Was it difficult selecting the moments to which Cedric would return in the book?

ML:

Before I had even written the outline, I began interviewing countless people while on my travels, asking them about the most pivotal moments in their lives. I stumbled upon some intriguing tales (as well as fascinating historical references), and I simply selected the most poignant of those as a skeleton for the novel, then, finally, got into the meat of the outline. Let alone it was not difficult to choose which of these moments to include, they kind of wrote themselves.

OB:

Is there a definitive moment in your own life, positive or negative, to which you'd like a chance to return?

ML:

Absolutely. I think the phrase “I have no regrets,” is one of the oddest clichés I’ve ever heard. I regret all kinds of things. Some things I’ve done, many things I haven’t done, stupid things I’ve said, people I’ve hurt. In many ways, I think regret is the surest way of acquiring wisdom. As a specific example, I think of an opportunity I once had to potentially sail around the Caribbean for half a year (I had been volunteering down there, and was given a ticket with an open return), but I didn’t. I chose the safer, easier option and returned home. I would certainly do things differently if I found myself in the same shoes again.

OB:

You've worked in several different artistic mediums. How did your experiences in other areas inform your writing process for Believing Cedric?

ML:

Besides a writer, I’m also a musician and street photographer, and I would say that my street photography really does affect the way I approach fiction. When we are walking through our cities, it’s impossible to look at every person that we pass and consider their stories, their struggles, their tiny victories. In a way, it is necessary to shut ourselves off. But with street photography, you need to remove those blinders and engage in the emotional lives of complete strangers, to ask what they’re going through, to witness their moods and tenors. It’s exactly what I do as a novelist, only it’s more immediate, and involves real people instead of fictional ones. It helps me love who we are. Even our pettiness and contradictions, the fumbling messiness of our emotional lives.

OB:

Who are some people who have deeply influenced your writing life?

ML:

I tend to gravitate towards both classics and bits of pop lit. I deeply admire Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Dostoevsky, at the same time that I can’t get enough of Annie Proulx, Toni Morrison and T.C. Boyle. I ask for a lot when I’m reading. I want dense poetic imagery, weighty themes, as well as great, fast-paced storytelling. I think I’m picky as hell!

OB:

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

ML:

The novel Never Let Me Go really burrowed into me and stayed there for a long while. It’s strange, while I actually wrote a dystopian novel (Veracity, 2007), I’m not really a fan of the genre. I’m quite an optimist by nature, and I know that dystopian regimes don’t have a chance, in the end, of ever blotting out our dignity and sense of fairness (look at the harshest dictatorships of the 20th century and consider how relatively short-lived they were, as an example), but I do think they’re important to read and write, in order to examine why those regimes cannot, should not, be allowed to exist. This 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro was written with such quiet, surreal acceptance of one of those regimes and focused on the cost of that acceptance. It was absolutely haunting. Though I swore to myself that I’d never write another novel set in the future, it did make me reconsider.

OB:

What are you working on now?

ML:

I’m just now finishing my second collection of poetry, Blowing Grass Empire (my first, Wayworn Wooden Floors is published by the Porcupine’s Quill, spring 2012). As soon as my second collection is finished, I have a novel I’ve been chomping at the bit to get at for a year or so, which is set in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I’m really hoping to secure some funding to get out there and complete the research. It’s a very exciting idea!


Mark Lavorato is a musician, photographer, and professional nomad. His freelance work has been published in over twenty-five magazines including Ascent, Orange Room Review, and Poetry Canada. Mark is also the author of a collection of poetry called Wayworn Wooden Floors (2012), and his first novel, Veracity (2007) is available on his website at marklavorato.com. Mark currently resides in Montreal, but his wandering habits may soon take him elsewhere.

For more information about Believing Cedric, please visit the Brindle and Glass website.

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

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