Toronto’s favourite songwriter pens fairy tale
Ron Sexsmith releases Deer Life this month
You’re a songwriter. Why write a book?
To be honest, the last thing I ever wanted to do was write a book. But when the idea presented itself to me, I really didn’t know what to do with it. At first, I thought it was a musical, so I started telling my actor friends about it. A few years after thinking about it as it developed in my mind, out of the blue, I got an email from a fellow at Penguin book publishing who had heard a rumour that I had this story, and it was he who encouraged me to write it.
What did you find challenging about the writing a book?
Songwriting I understand, because I’ve been there. It was hard in the beginning, but you learn to troubleshoot, and with songs you have the luxury of melody and repetition. With the book, I had so many questions about dialogue and how to move the story forward. But I liked it. I was so immersed, I really felt like I was in the town and could see the characters.
Whom did you look to for inspiration in your novelistic pursuits?
My favourite writer has always been Dickens. I’ve always liked the tone of his books, the humour in his books. So I was approaching it obviously from a great distance, but I liked how his characters had these names that described their personalities or outward appearance. I also like books that are a bit fantastical.
And, like any good fairy tale, there are morals at work. What are you hoping people take from it?
No idea. The book is a lot more personal to me. I don’t know what I should expect from the readers, but I think it’s a nice story, and I think, like a lot of fairy tales, it’s a sort of good versus evil tale with a love story.
As anyone who follows you on Twitter knows, you love a good pun, and the book is no different. To what do you attribute this love of wordplay?
I’m a big fan of the humour of Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, dad humour. I guess because I’m a dad and 53. I just didn’t know what else to do with Twitter. It seemed like this enormous waste of time. So I started doing these little quips, and I started growing my following. And there is this big misconception that I am this melancholy person, but it was never very accurate, so this is also a way to correct that I suppose.
Are you be hitting the book festival circuit?
They’ve got me doing Word on the Street, one in Calgary and also in October the Stratford Writers’ fest.… Readings scare me a bit. There’s a reason I sing. I haven’t got great oratorial skills, you know.