Name Mike Sauve
32, and here I’d like to clear something up. Two years ago I entered an under-30 fiction contest shortly after I’d already turned 30. I then got paranoid they’d check up on me, so I changed my age on Facebook. Now Facebook won’t let me change it back because they rightly don’t want a lot of fraudulent age adjustments going on. So my Facebook says I’m 28 and people who know me probably think this is just the height of vanity when really it’s a literary scam run amok.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Mike: Sault Ste, Marie, Ontario originally, a town of 68,000 on the border of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ve lived in Toronto since 2002.
Fiona: A little about yourself, i.e. your education, family life, etc?
Mike: I have a journalism degree from Ryerson University. I live with my girlfriend of many years, and our two dogs, Charlie, a 9-year-old Chihuahua, and Sadie, a 6-year-old Affen Pinscher.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Mike: There’s a lot of news lately. Almost too much news to the extent that I’m at risk of annoying people. You have one book published and it’s a life event that everyone can get behind. You have three in a short period of time and it just becomes another burden on everyone’s Facebook feed. Like when someone you know say begins an upscale cake making business, and every day you can count on two to three pictures of cakes boring the heck out of everyone, accruing hostility, and generally going unLiked.
It’s a shame because I wrote the first book in 2012, and was desperate for any kind of recognition up until very recently, so it would have been nice to have spread the three books out over a few years.
Having said all that, I realize I’ve failed to convey any news:
- The Wraith of Skrellman, available now from Montag Press.
- Goodbye Pantopon Rose, available February 15 from the Chicago Centre for Literature and Photography.
- The Apocalypse of Lloyd, available in April from Montag Press.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Mike: I’ve been writing little short stories since I was a child. I wrote plays when I was 13-years-old. At 16 I did a co-op placement at our local newspaper, The Sault Star, and that seemed to make me a real writer in the eyes of my peers. I then went to journalism school and interned at The National Post, which kept the ‘real writer’ delusion alive. After the journalism career fizzled out I wrote a very bad novel in 2008. I was practical enough to know I should get some short stories published in order to sell this bad novel to Knopf or some equally prestigious publisher. From 2010 through 2012 I wrote a bunch of short stories and had something like forty published, many on pretty ugly looking websites, others in publications as reputable as McSweeney’s.
It’s sad because some of the better stories accepted by the better online publications, the ones that had the most editorial oversight and the nicest web design, promptly disappeared, while some of the websites that look like they were designed by a dog or cat walking across a keyboard live on to this day.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Mike: Oh probably all along. I feel this “considering yourself a writer” business is too low of a bar. Anyone can do it. The act of consideration requires no real merit. I’d advise anyone considering themselves a writer to spend some of that consideration time working on getting better.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Mike: This might be a flakey answer, but the first book came kind of magically. I’d always had this joke name in my head, Stu Pedidiette, which is similar to the French-Canadian names I grew up around, but also a pun for Stupid Idiot. One day I had a cold and was taking liberal doses of Coricidin Cough and Cold, and I just started typing about this Stu Pedidiette fellow and the foundation for the story then came to me over the next few days.
I believe this happened because it was time. I find ideas never come to me unless I’m prepared to give them what they deserve. Norman Mailer titled his book about writing The Spooky Art, and the process is spooky. When I’m on a role I feel like I’m transcribing the words from some external source. I often wake up in the morning with whole sentences in my head, write them down, and these are invariably among my finest sentences.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Mike: You could describe much of it as ‘maximalist.’Stark realism isn’t really my bag. There’s no reason that big, zany details can’t have as much emotional impact as these ‘quietly profound’ and ‘spare’ ones we’re all taught to admire.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Mike: It’s the name of the main character.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Mike: It’s about the cruel nature of memory, with a narrator longing for a past that he is both temporally and geographically removed from.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Mike: The emotions of the characters are realistic. But there is a ghost overseeing the proceedings, conjoined twins with occult powers, and a character named The Wraith of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Mike: I read a lot of Stephen King in my formative years, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten here without him. C.D. Payne’s Youth in Revolt is a touchstone that has influenced all of my work: this idea of writing about teenagers who are as erudite as you the adult author can possibly make them.
In recent years a big influence has been Donald Barthelme. I’m not a Barthelme completist or anything, but the stories of his that I love taught me something important that’s explained nicely in this quote from a New Yorker article about Barthelme by Louis Menand:
“The principle of collage is one of the central principles of art in this century and it seems also to me to be one of the central principles of literature,” Barthelme said at a symposium on fiction in 1975. He loved the messy—“that wonderful category,” he called it in a catalogue essay for an exhibition of Rauschenberg’s work in Houston, in 1985—and he was fascinated by the artistic possibilities of the ugly. He once called his own stories “slumgullions,” and he tried to create a certain amount of extraneous noise in them, on the theory that the distraction helped the reader. “The confusing signals, the impurity of the signal, gives you verisimilitude,” he explained. “As when you attend a funeral and notice, against your will, that it’s being poorly done.”
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Mike: For the past several months I have been reading Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day. It’s been a grind, but worth it. I get most of my ‘reading’ done via audiobooks these days. And in the months I’ve been chipping away at my big floppy paperback of ATD I’ve listened to In Cold Blood, Nightwoods by Charles Frazier, High Rise by J.G. Ballard, Alas, Bablyon by Pat Frank, and Taipei by Tao Lin.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Mike: In terms of as-yet-undiscovered authors, not really. I do like quite a few contemporary authors including Joshua Ferris, Miranda July, Sheila Heti, CanLit’s own Nathaniel G. Moore, and many others.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Mike: This summer I completed what I consider my best work to date, a time travel novel called I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore, which I am currently querying agents with.
I am working on two books right now. A young adult novel about a teenage songwriter called Pitiful Pete and the Pity Partiers and a non-fiction book about the legend of the self-proclaimed time traveler John Titor.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Mike: My girlfriend, Casey, who has endured a great deal of my personal idiocy.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Mike: Obviously that’s the dream. The books I’ve written so far don’t fit into very easily salable categories. Small press novels don’t make money anyway. That’s why I’m hoping the YA novel gets some traction. I know several authors in Toronto who have other jobs, but still get the odd $10,000 grant to augment their income. I could definitely live with that.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Mike: I don’t plot out my novels in advance. I’ll have some basic ideas to start and I let the rest come up as the novel unfolds. But this means I often get off to a slow start or the beginning has a different tone, and by the time I’m finished I’m paralyzed to make the wholesale changes necessary. There’s an anecdote about Jonathan Franzen sending two 200-page samples from early drafts of The Corrections to David Foster Wallace, like two alternate ways the plot could go, and asking, “Which direction should I go in.” I could never see myself doing that. I do revise endlessly, to the point where I hate the work, but as of yet I’ve never thrown out a bunch of content en masse like that. I guess maybe that discipline comes with the pressures of being Jonathan Franzen.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Mike: I can recall the exact night I pledged to become a writer. I’d been in a community theatre group. And the leader was this arch tyrannical figure. He was a great teacher, and many of my friends from that period have become professional actors as a result of his work, but he was as demanding as if we were acting students at Juilliard and not just some kids sitting in a church basement. One night there was a mask exercise that my 13-year-old mind could not grasp, and I got in a big fight with him, him saying nothing was coming from behind the mask, and me yelling, “Well maybe you can’t see it because I’m wearing a fucking mask.” And I went home that night and said to myself, “Well I’m good at writing I’ll just do that and forget about this mask nonsense.”
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Mike: Here are the first three paragraphs from Goodbye Pantopon Rose:
In the beginning was the Word, but then the Word was made flesh, so there must have been bodies, and I bet some were knockout bodies and some were all gross and distended, and those in gross bodies felt sad when seeing the knockout bodies.
The most beautiful girl I have ever known, the girl I lost my virginity to, and the most charitable person I’ve ever encountered on this too sad earth was called Sarah Montgomery. She was the first love of three dozen like me. If my time with Sarah was like watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time in IMAX, what love I’d subsequently endure was watching that same movie over and over again on my phone. Time pixelates feeling. I’ve loved since in the way a crippled cat might come to love a bath mat. My name is Zeke, and I am a sex addict. Hello.
Sarah’s appeal was most pressingly of a material nature. While her noble intention impressed us, it was what we saw, smelled, heard, and touched that affected us most: the sugary fruit scent applied to her wrists and forearms; the practiced way she could flip her hair back and have it rest upon her shoulder with not a single strand splitting; how she looked at a 5 am field trip one time, puffy-eyed; the small size of her socks; the narrowing of her leg from plumpness of thigh to extreme narrowness of ankle; her cheekbones in the light of a Christmas tree; her quality of compactness; the way purple looked upon her, or grey, or black especially; the shape of her sweatered shoulder in sweater season; Winnie the Pooh panties but also frillier ones; Spencer her Pomeranian in the crook of her arm and the jealously we all felt of Spencer’s privileged position; size 4 sandals in summertime; the way steam came from her mouth during winter and the jealousy we’d feel of inanimate but visible condensation.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Mike: I have a lot of limitations. I’d prefer not to list them here.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Mike: Thomas Pynchon because of the enormous breadth of his knowledge, but moreover his peerless sense of humour. Reading Pinecone often makes me laugh out loud, other times, despite his reputation for being turgid, he’ll stun you with the simple beauty of a sentence like “Two of them sitting there drinking red liquor like it was sadness medicine.” Due to the density and complexity it can feel like work, but I feel it’s good, honest work. I am also a big fan of Denis Johnson.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Mike: I hardly ever leave Toronto. I hardly ever leave the ten block radius around my condo to be honest.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Philip Fivel Nessen designed the cover for The Wraith of Skrellman. He was doing me a real favour because he’s a big in-demand New York art director and yet was still nice enough to help out with this small press book.
The cover for Goodbye Pantopon Rose was designed by CCLaP’s own Jason Pettus.
I’m in the process of twisting Philip’s arm to work on The Apocalypse of Lloyd.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Mike: Coming to grips with the parts that were terrible and either revising them to death until I could live with them or just cutting them out entirely.
Also, living for nearly four years knowing I’d written a good book, but also knowing there’d be no convincing the general population of that until it was published.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned not to rely on things that are easy. Easy jokes, easy turns of phrase. They don’t hold up.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Mike: People were always coming up to Norman Mailer telling him that they wanted to write. Mailer responded that learning to write competently takes about as much time as learning to play the piano. Gladwell’s 10,000 hours concept has become a cliché, but remains no less true. There are already too many books on Amazon. Take your time. Maybe even give up entirely. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Mike: I have a frighteningly good long-term memory. It can creep people out. The first book I read to myself was Incognito Mosquito: Private Insective when I was maybe five years old. The first adult book I read was Along Came a Spider by James Patterson when I was eight.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Mike: Movies, mostly. I was laughing the other day at a screening of the Billy Wilder film Sabrina. I was crying last week during the Club Silencio scene from Mulholland Drive, which, I’m not ashamed to say, gets me every time.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Mike: Busty 80’s pop sensation Samantha Fox in her prime. Or The Hot Spot-era Jennifer Connelly. Barring either of these for moralistic reasons, I’ll say Stanley Kubrick.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Mike: I don’t know about my headstone, but I hope someone at my funeral reads Perfection Wasted by John Updike and really means it.
And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market —
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That’s it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren’t the same.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Mike: I go to the movies as often as 3-4 times a week. I also have a theatre room in my condo that I believe I use more than all of the other 500 residents of the condo combined. I also watch about 140 Blue Jays baseball games per season.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Mike: I mostly just watch sports and the news on TV. Charlie Rose, Frontline, etc. The list of movies could go on forever. I love 80s trash and grindhouse, but also all the requisite auteurs for any film buff. One little known masterpiece I’ll take the opportunity to recommend here is Bernard Rose’s Ivans XTC.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Wings, green, Bob Dylan.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Mike: Maybe worked in film in some capacity. But I feel it’s too collaborative a medium for someone with my particular personality defects. While writing novels can be a bit frustrating when you write something you’re proud of that no one will see for 2-3 years, at least you can do it on your own time, when you feel up to it. I don’t think I could be “on” all the time and interacting with colleagues on a film set.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Buy The Wraith of Skrellman on Amazon.
Buy Goodbye Pantopon Rose on Amazon.