Douglas Coupland on Writing Hard-to-Like Characters, Mentors, and Poetry: A Guest Post from Jacqueline Valencia


Toronto-based poet, writer, artist, and film critic Jacqueline Valencia interviewed Douglas Coupland at The International Festival of Authors (IFOA) last week. He discussed his latest work, Worst. Person. Ever. and his writing process with her.



In Worst. Person. Ever., Douglas Coupland introduces readers to a viscerally boorish malcontent by the name of Raymond Gunt. He teams up with Neal, a suave homeless man, and together they bumble through a series of comedic misadventures. After reminiscing about Halloween costumes, (Coupland said that for his costume, he was taking a piece of plexi glass and writing “Shutterstock” on it to go as clip art), we chatted about his latest novel and the writing process.

Jacqueline Valencia: Raymond Gunt made me go from wanting to throw the book to devouring it. Why did you write such a divisive character?

Douglas Coupland:  I look back at all my book characters over the years: Raymond here, Lizz Dunn from Eleanor Rigby, and Roger from The Gum Thief, and they’re actual people in my head. I don’t know how that stuff works neurologically, but they’re absolute people in my head. I can talk with them. I can meet with them. I may not like some of them, but I love them all. But they’re separate from me.

JV: There’s impeccably fluid timing between Raymond and Neal ...

DC: I’ve always loved dialogue. There’s an American writer named John O’Hara who died in 1970. His first book was Appointment in Samarain 1930. He had an almost savant gift for writing dialogue. You read O’Hara and see how you get people in and out of a room. He teaches you how to give information out without making it obvious.

JV: I find a lot of the characterizations in your books to be gender neutral.

DC: Part of that is a conscious decision. Somebody once asked me why all of my characters are white. Actually, I don’t think there is one racial descriptor in my books. They, the reader, were putting that there. Do you write fiction?

JV: I do, but I’ve been focusing on poetry.

DC: Poetry I don’t get. I can see what it is, but I don’t get get it. It’s wiring: some brains are predisposed to punning and others to alliteration.

JV: Yet there’s a great deal of poetic prose in Girlfriend In A Coma.

DC: Is it poetic prose or is it visual thinking? People who are not visual thinkers aren’t wired up that way. A lot of these people end up in literature because, in many ways, words are their hall pass.

In a similar vein, it’s like the mathematics in JPod. I’ve got ten thousand random numbers in it. Numbers are cool! They’re calming. Substitute visual thinking for numbering and you basically have three quarters of the literary world.


Thanks to Jacqueline for her #fest2fest work. You can check out her eclectic portfolio of passions here.

November 6, 2013
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