The ShatterColors Standard Interview -- Author Version: Barry Baldwin

(Interview consists of 15 pre-set questions. Authors have published at least one novel or short story/poetry collection.)

1) Why did you begin writing, and how long have you been doing so?

Published my first story, set in India where I've never been, in the school magazine, over 50 years ago. Stumbled across it a while back, was inevitably embarrassed by its mawkish sentimentality, but it provided the germ of a plot that I worked up and had printed in the Canadian magazine 'StoryTeller'.

2) What does your writing routine consist of?

A long morning, punctuated by tea for body and soul and a crossword for the mind. Shorter stint between afternoon tea and dinner.

3) Have specific events ever flung you into an extended and productive period of creativity?


4) What are common sources of inspiration?

Life and Literature - what else could there be?

5) What does a book need to do to get you to read it from beginning to end?

Have good old-fashioned emphasis on characters and plot, with no 'experimental' nonsense in its prose style.

6) Who are some of the authors you most admire?

I need to do a Henry Miller here and write The Books in My Life. Speaking of Miller, he remains (Anais Nin coming second) the star erotograph. Of earlier English authors, Samuel Johnson and Jane Austen stay supreme. Modern ones include Anthony Powell, George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis, Simon Raven. Canadian favourites are Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, and Carol Shields. But, I could go on and on and on....and that's leaving out the zillions of mystery writers whom I addictively devour.

7) How familiar are you with the literary canon?

I'm well enough up on the Greeks and Romans, and English literature. Thanks to a good schooling, I can find my way around French and Spanish literature, while Albanian is perhaps my most unusual enthusiasm.

8) What's your take on politics and literary endeavor?

The question of 'Littérature Engagée' broke out in the 1950s, thanks to Sartre, and percolated across the channel to (above all) the English weekly magazine 'New Statesman' which everyone then read and argued over whether its back pages (the arts section) should reflect the front ones (committedly Socialist). The matter had previously been well put by Orwell in his essay (based on his meeting with Henry Miller) 'Inside the Whale'. Probably a false dichotomy. Politics can and does generate art, but as Cocteau said, a beautiful thing needn't have any meaning.

9) What are your feelings about formal vs. free verse?

If you want a bumper-sticker answer, Formal is Normal. Free verse is for those who only imagine they are poets or are too lazy to work at it. As that Brideshead Generation chap Brian Howard (himself a dabbler) put it: "My dear, all they are doing is work without effort, and we know where that leads..."

10) Do you feel "flash" fiction (300 words or less) is a viable form, or nothing more than a writing exercise?

A useful exercise in non-word-wasting composition (I frequently do it myself), but nothing more. Years ago, I saw a magazine call for stories of "12 words or less" -- presumably catering to reincarnated laconic Spartans.

11) When not writing, what do you do for amusement?

Don't think this is of any interest to anyone else.

12) What's one of the most annoying things you can think of?

Dishonours shared evenly between: a) editors who never respond to submissions - I assume they steam off the stamps from SASEs and consign contents to Orwellian memory holes; b) editors who refuse to accept submissions by e-mail - most scriveners are impecunious and (if sensible enough to keep the day job) short of writing time, hence it is unconscionable to refuse to let them use the time and money saving electronic method.

13) Briefly describe what you consider to be one of your standout childhood pranks.

See 11 above.

14) What are your upcoming projects/works in progress?

Various short stories, the usual regular magazine columns, the inevitable reviews, plus keeping my post-retirement classical hand in with this and that on Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and 18th-Century stuff.

15) Care to conclude with a sweeping philosophical statement?

Have no patience with moanings over 'writer's block' - we never seem to hear of (e.g.) 'sculptor's block', nor with people who flood one's Inbox with twaddle about their wonderful new computers and/or gripes over their latest rejection. My never-to-be-delivered speech to any writers' 'workshop' or 'retreat' reads: "Why aren't you at home writing?"


The ShatterColors Standard Interview -- Author Version
© 2006 by Robert Scott Leyse

Barry Baldwin Responses
© 2006 by Barry Baldwin



About the Author

Barry Baldwin was born in 1937 and educated in England. He emigrated to Australia in 1962, re-moving to Canada in 1965, where he is Emeritus Professor of Classics, University of Calgary, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has published around 30 short stories in print (magazines and book anthologies), and has a novella, "Not Cricket", in Chapbook form (Rembrandt & Company Press, USA), also in e-zines. He has been a Finalist in the Arthur Ellis Awards (Canada 1999) and the Anthony Awards (Bouchercon, 2000, USA) in the mystery short story category.


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