Interview

Episode 189 – From Stage to Page and Back to Stage with Rod Carley

Mark interviews writer, director, playwright and actor, Rod Carley and they talk about his new novel Kinmount.

Prior to the interview, Mark shares a personal update as well as a word from this episode’s sponsor.

You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at starkreflections.ca/Findaway.

During their conversation, Mark and Rod talk about:

  • How, when he was young, Rod would come home from school every day and work on a picture book
  • Joining a musical as part of the chorus in grade 9
  • Theater offering a sense of collaboration and inclusion
  • Having Canadian poet bpNichol as a creative writing instructor in university, and how this legendary writer was a huge influence
  • The work Rod did adapting and editing Shakespearean scripts into modern settings by finding more recent historic parallels to moments, themes, and events from the original plays
  • Writing musicals based on the history of Northern Ontario
  • An overview of the premise and setup for Rod’s first novel, A Matter of Will
  • Rod’s latest novel, Kinmount, which is about a theater director trying to put on a Shakespeare play (Romeo & Juliet) in a small town
  • The common mis-perception of Romeo & Juliet as a romantic story rather than a tragedy
  • How Romeo & Juliet is, in many ways, a tragedy of toxic masculinity
  • Balancing humanity with hilarity in the writing of this book
  • The subtle elements of magic realism in Kinmount and A Matter of Will and how it has to come from an organic place in the story
  • One of the things Rod has done when directing MacBeth (“the Scottish play”) to break the curse/spell associated with that play
  • How the first week of July in North Bay there is a massive shadfly infestation
  • Launching a novel during the 2020 Pandemic
  • Pivoting to a virtual book launch, and hiring a small local marketing firm to assist with that
  • One of the pros of having a virtual book launch, which allowed for attendees from afar
  • Getting onto the long-list for the Stephen Leacock Medal and the support Rod received from Terry Fallis
  • Some of Rod’s influences that include Robertson Davies, Mordecai Richler, David Sedaris, Kurt Vonnegut, and more
  • How Rod prepares for doing a live (or virtual) reading of his work
  • The way Rod’s work in theater has informed his ability to compose dialogue
  • Modern adaptation (what Rod calls “responsible adaption”) of Shakespeare’s society and how, back in Shakespeare’s day, people were used to speaking and listening a lot more rapidly, so a typical Shakespeare play wasn’t as long in duration as a modern version
  • And more…

After the interview, Mark reflects on the adaptations that can happen with creative work and how authors might consider their own work re-adapted to different formats.

Links of Interest:

Rod’s first novel, A Matter of Will, was a finalist for the 2018 Northern Lit Award for Fiction. His non-fiction short story, A Farewell to Steam, was featured in the anthology, 150 Years Up North and More. His literary fiction short story, Botox and the Brontosaurus, is featured in Cloud Lake Literary’s inaugural online review. Rod is also an award-winning director, playwright and actor, having directed and produced over 100 theatrical productions to date including fifteen adaptations of Shakespeare. He is the Artistic Director of the Acting for Stage and Screen Program for Canadore College and a part-time English professor with Nipissing University. Rod was the 2009 winner of TVO’s Big Ideas/Best Lecturer competition. KINMOUNT is his second novel.


The introductory, end, and bumper music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of www.incompetech.com and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


Transcription of the Interview

(Please note that this automated transcription has not been human-validated/verified)

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Hey Rod, welcome to the Stark Reflections podcast.

Rod Carley: Hey Mark, it’s great to be here.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So thrilled to talk to you about Kinmount, and writing, and theater and all the, all the, all the things I’m so thrilled about, but I want to go back to the beginning. When, when a young rod was, uh, wanting to, to be a thespian, a writer, what came first?

What was it?

Rod Carley: Uh, well as a kid, uh, I was a very quiet, quiet kid and, and quite insular. So I’d come home from school. I can remember in grade five, six, seven, I’d come home every day and I would draw my own picture books. So every day I’d come home after school and I’d write like another bit of story and draw a picture.

And, uh, and so I did that. All through grade school. And when I got into high school, I was very shy. And when I was in grade nine, um, my English teacher came to me and said, look, we’re doing an ultra net, which is the high school musical. And we’re short a few boys. Well, they’re always short for guys in high school, musical millennial.

They’d asked if I wanted to do like a small part in the course. And, and you know, at the age of 15, I was over the moon and I did it. Right. And, and that got me, um, Introduced to this new world of theater where suddenly there was this sense of collaboration, but equality, where there, where there I was at grade nine, working with all these different age groups in grade thirteens, and suddenly I was an equal and that was not like that outside of rehearsals.

Right. So, and I got the bug. So that’s when I started focusing on theater all through high school. And, uh, I ended up going to York university for their acting directing program. But while I was there, I did a minor in creative writing. And I was so fortunate that my instructor was BP nickel. Uh, who was one of the seven horse, but an amazing poet.

And he was he’d come into, I remember him coming into class and he come in there and he’d have his blue Valore shirt on and his wide corduroy bell bottoms and his sandals and his wild long frizzy man hair. And he was just so exceptionally positive. And, and to those of us that were a few of us in that class that really developed as writers right.

Of him, he was fantastic. And so he really lit that. Uh, firing me. And, um, I stayed in touch with him after I graduated and I’d meet with him occasionally for a coffee in the annex and downtown Toronto and, and, and, and get encouragement. And, uh, but of course, you know, tragically, we lost him, uh, so young and, and 89.

So I didn’t know him long, but, but he was a huge influence on me. And, uh, Yes. And so anyhow, I continued working in the theater, developing a career in the theater. I worked at Stratford for a few years and, and, and on that went and, and the writing was always there, uh, in terms of doing some playwriting along the ways and adapting a lot of Shakespeare’s works into sort of modern settings.

And it was 11 years ago that I made the decision to write a full piece of literary fiction. And so I’m of gradually transitioning into that world now.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Uh, w was that, um,

Rod Carley: That was A Matter of Will. Yes, my first novel.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Before we get there, I want to go back to, that was the first large, large piece, like book.

Rod Carley: Yes. Yes, it was. Yes. It surely was.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Were you writing theatrical stuff or were you readapting Shakespeare? What was,

Rod Carley: what you’re doing now? I was working. I was working with Shakespeare and, um, I would work with the original scripts. And then I was trying to find settings that paralleled the sociological political aspects of the originals, and so trying to find modern settings.

And so, and then so doing, I was doing a lot of editing. I, um, I talk about Dave Middleton and Ken Mount calling it sort of Shakespeare and paleontology where you sort of chip away at the large bone of texts to get down to the key marrow of meaning and, and, and then, uh, Get rid of any images that might be, uh, difficult for a modern audience member to comprehend and get down to a more concise piece.

So I did a lot of that and I had great, I took great pleasure in finding those parallel modern settings, uh, one, um, in the mid nineties and I adapted a fellow into what I call the, a fellow project, which was set in Mississippi in 1964 in the middle of the civil rights movement. Oh wow. And, uh, I received a 1996 Dora award nomination for directing for that.

And that was a real, um, That was, that was a real shot of validation there. So there was a lot of that adaptive process going on there. And then I wrote a, um, two original musicals, the, the scripts for Virginia musicals in, uh, one in 1999. And again, in 2004 for a theater company, I ran a Northern Ontario called Nipissing stage company.

And so the, and these were all musicals based on the history of Northern Ontario. Uh, one was based on, um, The history of railroading. And the second one was based on, um, the whole sort of, um, silver rush going into cobalt in the early 19 hundreds. Right.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: You toured through,

Rod Carley: uh, schools, uh, it didn’t turn through schools, but at two or three of those communities, uh, well we took that on the road a bit and, and then I also, um, Uh, wrote to two plays as well that I got, um, Northern arts OAC funding for that I produced back in 2010, 2011.

Uh, but all through that period, I had, um, the idea of wanting to write a longer book piece of fiction. And it had been sitting in my mind for a long time. And then finally, I, you know, I got to run the doing it.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So a matter of will, uh, what was a matter of, well,

Rod Carley: it’s a picker risk. It’s it’s all about, uh, it was all about an actor named will.

Croswell. And the book opens with the whole idea that, uh, Will’s decision to pursue acting dashed, his father’s hopes of him being a useful adult. Right. So, right. So we’ll, uh, enter Cedar school training, uh, in the, in the late seventies. Um, and he survives that. And he begins working as an actor. Um, and he ends up going to this fictitious classical theater company called the dominion to Vera drama festival where the whole basis of belief was that all of Shakespeare’s plays, you know, were written, right.

so there’s a sidebar in the book where there’s this imaginary festival where he gets work as an actor and he’s working his way up. But. He’s got a lot of issues that are unresolved anyhow, and he’s a bit hapless. So he ends up, um, getting involved in an affair with a director’s wife and it goes South and it ends his career at Stratford and he finds himself struggling to get work.

He’s become a bit of a black sheep in the industry and he ends up eventually taking a job at the very bottom of the great chain of being. As a weed as a telemarketer and is telemarketing for this fictitious, um, company use loosely based on at T and T called  and he’s selling business long distance. And so he meets this pack of animals that he’s working with that are all grasping.

And it is, it was like a, like a pack of wolves and Connie people. And he gets suckered into that world and, and he, so he’s living through that and he’s, um, He’s met. He’s met his wife and they’re married, but they’re having troubles. And anyhow, eventually everything falls apart. Um, cause he gets caught in a very big scam that has callings or doing, uh, loses the job.

Uh, he’s hit rock bottom. His wife leads them any and he ends up in AA where he meets this really, really a unique. Uh, minister who’s coming in and, and, and he basically says to him, you know, you got to find your mighty purpose and, and, and we’ll have no idea what it is, but this minister so inspires him that he ends up enrolling in divinity school.

And with the idea that he’s going to become a minister, um, because you know, ministers have to be good actors. Right. So, uh, and eventually he goes to divinity school. And, uh, and the idea that their final assignment in their sixth semester was that every student had to go on a 40 day, fast somewhere to see if they had the actual true calling.

Right. So we’ll know that he wants to serve in Canada and while all of his classmates are going off to, you know, very warm destinations in the middle East for their, their, their, their, their pedigree. He decides that he’s going to go. To Witless Bay, Newfoundland in the middle of the frozen winter, this tiny little outpost.

And so he does, and then it’s what happens to him. The bulk of the book is what happens to him on this 40 day fast and the characters he meets. And will he, or will he not find his mighty purpose? And that’s the, uh, the jury.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So who, uh, who published that, who picked that book up? How did you book that

Rod Carley: book picked up by my, uh, my same publisher who published kin mountain that’s latitude 46 publishing.

Yeah. They’re based in Sudbury and they’re relatively new to the scene too. Um, uh, but, uh, they’re an important, you know, grassroots Northern Ontario publisher. Oh, cool.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh, awesome. So you’ve been with a lot of tube. I didn’t realize they had done your first 

Rod Carley: latitude. I’d been shopping the book around and, uh, and I went to latitude and they, uh, they picked it up in February of 2016, and that was only their second year in business.

So I was one of the early authors and we launched it in September of 2017.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Wow. Awesome. That is awesome. And they are such a great publisher, um, as well. So I was thrilled to see, uh, Ken Mount and Mount your latest novel. Yes, it does have some similar, like the theatrical background. Can you please share with my listeners?

Uh, cause I can’t wait to talk about it, but the premise of, of kin Mt, which I quite adored.

Rod Carley: Certainly, uh, you know, and, and yes, they, both books have a theatrical backdrop, but the big difference is, is that a matter of will takes place over 35 years and Ken mountain takes place over three weeks. So it’s a very, very different story.

Okay. So yeah. So kin Mount is, um, it’s the story of a dad on out Cedar director named Dave Middleton. And he reluctantly takes this gig to go back to kin Mt. To direct Romeo and Juliet for an amateur theater producer in farm country. And he knows better because kin Mount it. Well, the name says it all and he knows better, but he, but he, but he has to take the gig.

And as soon as he takes it, All his quixotic troubles begin and he finds himself very soon as this reluctant Emissary of truth and a battle between his artistic integrity and censorship. And it’s a, in each chapter. It’s how he juggles these, these difficulties and tries to overcome with this community theater cast, you know, with the old adage that the show will somehow go on.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And, uh, it is, it is very much a comedy of errors. Um, but a few things struck me, uh, about this play. Um, having, you know, put on small performances with Amature, um, uh, under, I understand a lot of background of what’s going on, but I think the censorship element was awesome. But then you had this entire layer, you talked a little bit about, uh, about him, not the interpretation, because that comes into play.

Right? Where is the censoring? Entity believes that, uh, he’s corrupted this pure play about, uh, romance and beauty and these two lovers coming together that that’s th that’s completely a fallacy that we’ve perceived that when we like there’s. So there’s so many things I learned the balcony scene, uh, and.

It is it’s, it’s a tragedy. It’s not a love story. You know,

Rod Carley: it’s not a love story at all.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So is that based on your own experience when people, obviously the misperception people have when I think of from my own Juliet as, as lovers, rather than tragic youth?

Rod Carley: Yeah. Well, I think in many ways, you know, um, I don’t know, it, it begins sometimes, and this is no fault of, of, of high school teachers.

But a lot of that work is centered from the very beginning when it’s being taught on high school. Right. Because so much of that play is, you know, it is raunchy and, and you need to understand and live in that raunch to understand what the world of that play is. And so when you’re talking about Romeo, essentially, when we first met him, he’s a player.

Right. And he’s following all the, the real love books, you know, and, and he’s just doing what, so when he’s meeting Juliet initially, and he’s there at, at her, at her, at her non balcony, he, uh, he he’s, he’s after one thing only. And it’s what Juliet suddenly. Presents to him as this incredibly intelligent young woman.

Who’s not playing the game, the coy game of chase and pursue, but throws his courtly love book, you know, right out the window. He said, well, uh, let me swear by the moon. She’s thought swear by the moon that’s ever changing. They’ll just be yourself. What’s that? So suddenly, you know, it’s it’s education. So you’ve got this going on with these two characters.

You’ve got her living in a very, you know, repressed environment. She’s just sort of had her coming out party or families, trying to arrange a marriage with a boy. She just meets for the first time Paris at this, this, this party. And. Everything happens so quickly that it’s, it’s not a love story. It, it, it, it, it, there’s a lot of lust at work.

There’s infatuation, there’s their own backgrounds and what’s going on, but there isn’t that time to develop, you know, essentially, you know, love, eh, it’s the rocket of time and there’s, cause there’s no one that hits the pause button, right. That really says, Whoa, let’s stop. And let’s rewind a little bit and talk about this.

Right. And in the end, and I talk about this in the book, my point, it’s really more of a tragedy about, um, you know, Uh, toxic masculinity, right? How Romeo gets himself into this fight, uh, because of his friend Rakugo being killed by Juliet’s cousin Tybalt and Romeo feels that suddenly it’s I’m, he, he feels, he has a line of, my love has made me a feminine.

Right, right. And the idea of, of being a feminine in Shakespeare’s day was more, that guy spent too much time with women and not with their brothers. Right. It, wasn’t what we think of as being a feminine now. So Romeo, he suddenly has this, this, this, this horror within himself of what have I done. I’ve betrayed my friends and who I am.

And, and then. You know, he ruined his life and he, and he sets a path on for all of them. That’s going to lead badly. So yeah. So it’s a tragedy. It’s not a love story. Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. What I found so fascinating was David was a complex character because yes, I learned so much about the history of theater and Shakespeare.

There’s so much from that book, but it didn’t feel like a lesson. It felt like an enjoyable that’s good, good listening. And, um, but then there’s, there’s some subtle things you did with David. So for example, like he doesn’t even initially recognize the other people. No. In the real people, he right. He only calls them by their character.

Yes. Yes. And it’s a subtle thing that you do in Maui, where, where, you know, as he, as he grows as a person, he starts to realize they’re not just this.

Rod Carley: Well, the idea there too, is that, you know, when you’re parachuting in for a gig like that, And you’re going in for three weeks and your whole focus is on the play.

And especially in Dave’s case, it’s the last place he wants to be. So he really does want to get to know anyone. He worked with some of them in this previous show. He did, but the Mo a lot of new people and he just doesn’t want to get to know any of them because he just wants to get in and get out. So, and also for him, if you stick to the character name, that’s your focus in rehearsal.

It’s just, this is what. Caplets doing, this is what Tibble is doing and you don’t have to, you don’t have to burden your mind with learning names. Uh, but he learns, right. And that’s in the end, he learns by the character of Robert, the judge, who is his calculator. He begins to realize that he starts caring about these people.

And that’s a big journey for Dave and this story, uh, as all his, you know, initial reservations and a lot of his bias is shifted gradually through the story. And then he eventually. Many of them, he starts then addressing them by their first name and they become real people to him.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And you have violence in the book and yet it’s offset with this obscurity and humor.

Uh, I, I want to call it dark humor, but at some of it’s dark, some of it like, so how did you, how did you balance

Rod Carley: that? Well, I, yeah. And I guess on the bigger picture it was writing, it was trying to balance humanity with hilarity, right? Like how do you balance in that story? Right. Um, so it was with the darkness, right.

There was specifically, I wanted to lay in that, that w that, that, that, that concern about what happened with the fire, with the rain, you know, the, you know, the ranger and all of that. Right. Which is very real right. And lay that in and lay that in that. Lola suspected of that. So right away, w for the reader, we realized that she’s a lot more, uh, unhinged and potentially more dangerous than we were led to believe.

Right, right. So that I wanted to lay that in, but then the violence that happens in terms of them having their bicycle, his bicycle destroyed by this cult of, you know, furious, furious, right? Th th th th th it to him, it’s it’s yes, it is horrible. That’s his bicycle. And, uh, me and it’s awful what they do, but because it’s so over the top, We’re able to enjoy it in that way.

And that was deliberate. Right. And that was deliberate. Uh, so that, so I played with it and then when their tents run over, that’s not funny. Right. And then, and the flat, and then, then we move on from there so that I want to keep. And then when he’s, um, potentially arrested for assaulting Juliet on a rehearsal, that’s not funny.

So we begin to be where, while this Lola is really what is she truly capable of? So that allows the reader as well as we’re enjoying, uh, his escapades also really wary of what might happen to him next, because we begin to realize anything’s possible. You know, there’s the rock throwing through his hotel window.

Yeah. It all builds to, right. And then without giving the whole book away, there’s the radio call call-in show, which is sort of the climate and what happens there,

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: right? Yeah. Where you’re just like, no, just, just stopped. Yeah.

Rod Carley: Yeah, yeah. And then I can go, but I, but I also, uh, Mark, I, and I do this in a matter of will to, I play around with a bit of magic realism, right.

And kin Mount, right. Yeah, we, we sort of, you know, and then we, and then we kind of explain it a bit, but then there’s always that little bit, that’s the mysticism. It, you can’t, and I love

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: that. You never really answered that. And you’ll the reader wondering?

Rod Carley: Yes. And that’s deliberate. Right. And in a matter of will, there is some important aspects of magic realism.

And I think, uh, I think that’s because me, me personally, I am, I find life, uh, you know, the world around us, you know, kind of like, you know, that whole. To Horatio. There’s so much more out there dreamt up in our philosophies and I I’m open to all of it. Uh, as long as you know, in the writing, you’ve got a grounded coming out of a place of solid truth.

So your reader’s not going, Oh, come on. Come on, right? Come on now. Yeah. So you got to, you’ve got to make it come out of a place that’s organic. So your readers willing to go on the ride of that willing suspension of disbelief with it. Right. And yeah, but I, I, uh, I find, uh, I’m amazed so often, um, by the little things in life that connect the dots somewhere or.

Well, how did that ribbon tie? Ooh, that’s kind of cool.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: It feels natural in a book that is so heavily based in the theatrical that there is a, because you’re having been, you know, um, uh, a stage theatrical person, you know, that those, those echoes run right through theater. Through history through, um, uh, superstition and all kinds of weird things.

We call it the Scottish play, you know, stuff like that, the curse of, of, of that Shakespearian plate. I tried to that other tragedies and that that’s never mistaken for a romance.

Rod Carley: Well, I think with, I think with that particular, uh, tragedy, the Scottish play, I’ve directed it, uh, uh, a couple of times in my career and, uh, my, uh, My belief is I always take one ingredient out of the cauldron scene.

So it’s kind of like breaking the spell.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh. And that’s a way, and that’s one of the things that, uh, directors can do to, to try to circumvent that. Okay. That’s

Rod Carley: what I do. And that’s what I have done because, uh, well, I don’t want to get into it because my, the next novel I’m writing is highly involves that play in a major way.

And it involves a lot of. How it came to be. Right. And in a, in, in a, in a humorous way, but yeah,

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: so interesting. Can I go back to the book opens, we’re sitting there and he wants to escape almost a locus, like play, I guess, um, flies, um, flights. Yes. Yeah. Uh, at a certain season. That seemed to be. So because you do come back and talk about playing, uh, ironically, considering where we are today, uh, uh, in, in the book, uh, was that based on, uh, an actual place where you’re like, Oh my God, I can’t stand this one week.

Well, I

Rod Carley: tell you, yes, North Bay, Ontario, we’re on Lake Nipissing as well as traveling, but Lake Nipissing, uh, the first week of July. For about two weeks, the shad flies come out of the Lake. Right. And they take over the community. Right. And they are they team in clouds of them. Right. They’re attracted to light.

Uh, as you drive over them, they sound like rice crispies. Yeah. And, and, and the bridge scene. Yes. And, and, and they are, and they cause they have no mouse. So they only live 24 hours and they have one purpose and that’s to mate. And have offspring and supposedly they, uh, they, they keep the Lake healthy and, um, right.

So to most of us, to me, anyhow, they are a fish smelling nuisance. They really are. And, and, and, and it’s, and, and I’m, I’m kinda used to it now, but you never really used to it. You know, when that first one appears, you’re like, Oh no, here we go. Here we go. Um, right. And there are naturalists of course. And, um, Certain indigenous elders, of course, that have a viewpoint.

That’s far more spiritual about the shad fly and that it’s all about us looking into how we can transform ourselves into, you know, a metamorphosis of sorts. Right, right. In the middle of the shad play invasion, you’re not really thinking about metamorphosis of your soul. Nope. So yeah, you got Sonya, so that, yeah, so that becomes like the, uh, the driving, uh, catalyst and that opening chapter for Dave who says, no, I’m not taking the job.

He hangs up. And then he hears the news story about the shad flies on the bridge, and they’re closing the bridge down and it’s like, They drive him away and they forced him to take the gig. Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And so we, we alluded obviously to the locus and pandemic and stuff like that. So this book launched during w when did it, firstly, come up with a launch during this pen.

Rod Carley: It launched the third week of October, uh, in 2020. Yeah. Right in the middle of the pandemic. Yes.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: The way that, uh, publishing works, that that had been planned well in advance before there was any indication that there was a time. Okay. How did, how did you and a lot of tude 46. So your publisher, how did that change?

Some of the ways you approach

Rod Carley: that sure thing. Uh, I guess the buzzword of the year is pivot. Isn’t it? So I guess you had the pivot. So, so what, what happened with that Mark? Was it, well, you know, up until the spring of 2020, right? I think all of us had a kind of, I certainly did a full to optimism where they’re going to have a vaccine by the summer.

And by September things were back to normal. We’ve been through this for six months. We were all hoping we back. Right. And then by the time we hit August and it was very clear, we weren’t going to be, uh, met with my, uh, well put we met. And there was a, a restaurant here in North Bay where he’d do the launch at.

And we thought, okay, we spoke with them. And so we could have 25 people. In the space of comment about 60, but we could have 25 with physical distancing and then we’re going to do that. And then we were going to, you know, also then arrange to have camera camera set up there. So it could be both live and then broadcast out.

That was, yeah, the idea. But a month before things were getting worse, right. With cases. And I, and I, and I checked with a few of the re uh, field is going to invite. And the consensus really was that no one felt comfortable going anywhere. Right. So then we made the decision, uh, B about three weeks before the launch going, you know what, we’re going all virtual.

We’re gonna go virtual. So, um, that led to me, uh, with the approval of my publisher, uh, hiring a small local kind of marketing firm, uh, who then they took on the job of, um, being in my kitchen and shooting the launch and being responsible for all the people that were asking questions and overseeing all of that and designing the invites that we ended up doing.

And. One of the pros of doing it online was I was able to have people attend. You know, I have friends in Costa Rica or people out West, you know, in Vancouver that you could never get at your live launch. Right. And I was able to have more actually online watching than I could squish ever squished into a, a restaurant or a banquet hall or anywhere right.

For a live launch, but still it’s not live. Uh, but so it was, uh, I thought it was a really good salvage operation, uh, and, um, And so we did it and I have a couple of, you know, I’m sure you do too, but, uh, we’ve all been a number of friends and other authors that have been doing exact same thing, right. How to navigate this world of, of, of doing everything online.

Wow.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Uh, and then, uh, the book launched, you managed to even bring in people that would not have been able to, uh, get it in person. And then something really awesome just recently happened that I’m excited to talk about, um, your, your latest novel was a long list. For the Stephen Leacock metal. Can you talk

Rod Carley: a little bit about that?

Sure. Um, uh, okay. Let’s well, where do I go? Okay. Let’s first off. Um, I can go back a little bit on the book. Okay. To get us to there. Okay. Um, um, one of the champions of the book from the get-go. Uh, well, it was Terry Fallis. Right. And, and I know we both know both know Terry and he, you know, he’s a, you know, a phenomenal, phenomenal writer of Canadian literary fiction.

He’s won the Leacock metal twice, but not. And so, and, and, and, you know, he, he had read an, uh, the last draft of it and my publisher approached him and he read it and he loved the book and he, and he said, he’d write a cover blurb for it. And I didn’t know him that well. And so I have gotten to know Terry, uh, over the past year and we we’ve become very good friends.

And, uh, I think a lot of things we, we think of light on, I like on, and so with all of this, you know, I knowing what the Leacock award is and, uh, and I knew what my, it was going to be submitted. Uh, I’ve. Tried to stay just kind of very realistic about it going okay. Well, there’s like what? 87 entries.

They’re going to pick 10. Uh, I remember when I was looking at the long, the original list of 87 and you’re going through going wait. Oh my gosh. It’s like, it’s a, who’s who of Canadian literary fiction as well as some amazing Canadian artists who had autobiographies out there and now you’re looking at it like, wow, what a list.

That’s incredible. Right. So, um, And, and, and I, and I, you know, and I just, okay. And, and, and Terry was great because Tara is like, you know, rod, I I’m, I think your books to me on that list, it’s going to be on that list. It’s it’s, it’s that good? It’s gotta, it’s gotta be, you gotta be on that list. And I was like, well, thanks.

And he said, you know, he said, I’m not on Oracle and half the time I’m wrong about these things. But, but he was just, he was really encouraging, uh, along that. And, and, and, and so. That when it did, when it did come out and the, and the, and the news was announced, I was, I was pretty much over the moon. Uh, it was, um, it was, I was happy enough that almost Mike convinced Dave Middleton to go back to Ken Mount and direct another show.

Oh, wow. So, yeah. And, and anyhow, and, and, um, and, and, you know, and, and what a list and right. There’s, and there’s a lot of those books that are on that, that, that long list that I’m looking forward to reading the summer. Right. Cause it’s, it’s such a rich variety, uh, of what’s coming out with new writers and then established writers and all different angles and different styles of humor.

It’s just so rich. Right. And yeah, it really is.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: It’s just so rich. Yeah. I, I, you, you, you, uh, for some reason I was reminded when I was reading Ken Mount, it was one of the Timothy Finley’s last novels. Um, there were elements and I know it was not a comedy. It was no, no, no. There were elements of. David Middleton and putting on the show.

Was it ?

Rod Carley: Yeah, that, yeah, that’s the one with the, uh, the murder mystery. Yeah. But there were,

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: there were elements of that that did for some, not, not because of the humor, obviously, but there were elements that did remind me and I, and I was thinking of, cause when you mentioned, um, Terry when I, when I read the best laid plans, when, when it was still self-published.

Um, I remember thinking some of the things I loved about, um, John Irvin and Robertson Davies mingled together.

Rod Carley: Yes, yes, yes. Very much.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. And that was the same thing as like I’m catching, uh, Oh, of opportunity Findlay.

Rod Carley: Well, it’s interesting because I mean, we all have our influences as writers. Right. And so, so my, I would say my influences like literary here, Robertson Davies is one, uh, Mordecai Richler big Mordecai fan.

Uh, and then, uh, like Kurt Vonnegut, of course. And then, um, James Thurber and living, uh, with Terry of course, but David Sedaris, you know, um, Christopher Moore. So there’s such a, you know, and they’re all their approaches to humor are all different, but they all, um, and I’m also as a big Salinger fan too. Uh, so they’ve all, they all rest in your psychic somewhere.

And, uh, right. Uh, so that’s what we, uh, when we’re working with actors or teaching or any, when you say, you know, yes, there’s probably 20 different stories that exist. And so no one’s going to write a new entirely different, but it’s how you tell the story. That’s going to be unique. Right. And, uh, I think it’s just authentically, uh, w you know, I’m, I’m trying to find the best way to express this, but how one offensively finds one’s own voice is I think initially of it through trial and error.

Uh, and then when, and then it’s just recognizing. I know in myself that I, although I’m not in the book, I am in the book. Right. Like, because I get that when it’s ending, when you’re not writing, when you’re writing it as it’s fiction, you’re actually then able to use a lot more of yourself in it than you are when it’s not in some ways.

So, um, And I think that that’s true with all of my writing, that my way in is always going to be somehow it’s got to come authentically from me. Cause that’s what I know the most. Right, right, right. Wow. I hope I answered your question. Oh, you did.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And thank you. And it leads me. Cause when, when you talked about a writer finding their voice, I was remembering the first time that we met, uh, virtual, a writers group.

Rod Carley: Conspiracy of, of,

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: yeah. And I remember it was your reading that you shared during that group that I sat up and went. Who is this guy. Oh. And that’s when I went and looked you up and found Ken mountain. I’m like, Oh, I’ve got to read this novel, uh, in order to immediately. Uh, but I wanted to ask a question because sure.

You must have, yeah, it must come from your theatrical background, but are there things, when a writer is preparing to do a reading that you, you automatically probably apply them because it just comes by nature now. Right? So you had to have learned obviously over time is there is what is that about?

Doing a reading. Uh, and again, it was virtual and I know it’s easier when you have an audience in front of you because you play off the audience. But when the audience has just a bunch of faces in the zoom window, what are the things that you do to prepare to, to, to deliver a reading that is. You know, a powerful cause most of us writers are introverts and we are not used to delivering, uh, vocally.

Uh, what are some tips that you might want to

Rod Carley: share? Sure. Okay. Um, for me personally, uh, this, this is just, and this is just practical. I tend to, um, whatever I’m going to read. I, um, I don’t read from the actual, the book itself. I usually, um, Print out a printed out hard copy the sections I’m going to read.

And I blow up the type a little bit. Right. So it’s, it’s, it’s almost it’s right there. And there’s never a moment where you’re trying to find what the word is, right. And then, uh, cause I, I, I worked a lot doing voiceover work too. And so then I I’ll, I’ll, I’ll take the writing and then I take a highlighter and I’m highlighting all the commas and I’m highlighting all the punk.

It’s kind of like the Dave Middleton preparing and Shakespeare Shakespearian checks for rehearsal. I’m highlighting the punctuation. I’m highlighting all that. So I’ve got all my, uh, All my road signs in place. So that’s where I’m breathing. Right. And then I’ll draw, I’ll draw lines, um, horizontally along the page where there’s a gear shift and topic or emotion.

Um, I will highlight. One character speech in one color, another character in another. So that way, because that way you always, that way it’s, you can automatically dive into the other characters voice, and you’re not wondering it. Right. And, and, and, and doing that with it. And, and, and then. The big note I have right on every page is slow down.

Cause I have a tendency to get excited and I can start. Right. And so I re I have to remind myself still at this age, slow down so that I, I live in it. And the other thing is, is, is, is Mark I think is. So if I hear, I got, so I got like a great night with you right now. I’ve got this in front of me, uh, is if, as I’m reading is to find the line like that, you’re like a sentence here and then deliver it.

So I’m making eye contact on the, you know, in a room you’re making eye contact with people, uh, on, on the screen, you’re playing into the, uh, the camera on your, on your, on your, on your laptop. And you’re talking to your virtual audience and then you’re going back and you’re lifting another lineup so that it’s not completely an exercise in.

Just reading off the page. Right, right, right. That’s for me, anyhow, what I try to do is balance that out. So I try to, I try to lift it off and bring it to the audience in that way. Uh, also, um, I also do some edits for a read, write, uh, you, I might clip a few lines out because it’s, it’s, it’s a different medium when you’re reading it aloud.

Right. So you want to keep your audience engaged.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh, so you’re, you’re

Rod Carley: adapting it somehow. Yeah, not, yeah, but I think from my, I’ve talked to a lot of writers and, and, you know, um, do that. I know. Right. Uh, I know, I know, I know Terry does, uh, I know Wayne Johnson does when they prepare for, you know, they cause you’re getting it ready for what’s.

What’s going to work in a performance environment.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Cool. Now I want to go back to, uh, now I’m going to go all the way back to the writing and the pudding. How has your work in theater, uh, writing, adapting, directing, how has that informed your ability to write dialogue? Because there is really

Rod Carley: solid dialogue.

Okay. Well, I would say first off, um, yeah, I am a dialogue based writer and that all comes from my work in the theater. Right. Um, when I’m. I I got, I got, uh, there’s two, uh, two channels. I want to explore with, to answer your question first off, I’ll talk about dialogue. So usually when I’m writing, I, I create an outline.

That’s takes a long period of time to get the outline ready of what’s coming in each chapter. So then I’m free to start writing. And I usually start with dialogue when I’m writing. And I get, I get it going. I get some stone on the page and then sometimes I’ll start speaking aloud with myself and talking to myself and then, you know, sometimes I ought to record myself and then transcribe it or whatever it is because I want to try and get the dialogue feeling as natural as possible.

So I play with that and that comes out of my theater improv background. Um, But then in terms of the whole approach to writing and how it, how working in the theater for so long and forms that is, they’re very similar in that if I’m directing a show or I’m acting in a show, um, the character that I will be playing or directing has to have a goal of some kind, some kind of super objective it’s pursuing, right.

And then they’re going to be faced with insurmountable obstacles. And then it’s like, well, what do they do? To overcome those obstacles to get what they want and how have they changed from the start of the play, you know? And then by the end of the play, are they polar opposites by the end? Because there’s got, gotta be that journey.

So the same questions that one asks when preparing a, um, a theater script, whether it’s an accurate director of the same questions we, I ask as a writer because it’s, it’s all storytelling. Right? So, so I would say my work in the theater, uh, and also, um, Uh, this is a little thing. The little thing, right. Is I get bored very easily and I get a sense that you’re, you’re kind of like that too.

Like I’m a bit like squirrel and so, right. So in the theater you’re I’m always wearing I’m dreading he’s okay. This is good. This is going to hold. That’s going to hold and now no, no, that’s dropping off. Okay. That got to check. Okay. It’s the same for writing. So you’re, you’re working. You’re writing. Okay.

I’m ready. Okay. No, you know what? You got to cut that sentence because the rhythm’s gone and you just hung on a bit too long. And you’re going to lose the laugh or not that, you know, what too many words there or now you can afford to go, you know, I call it, you know, when you go open water in your writing, where suddenly it’s just where you’re allowing that time to slow the book down on the character to engage in their thinking and share that with your reader, you earn those lows for that.

And, and, and, and the kind of writing that I do. Right. Which, and then you get back and then it’s back into the other. Right. But it’s, it’s that kind of, uh, you know, Shifting of gears. And that comes out of a lot of years of working in the theater too, you know, like in Shakespeare state, got to keep those that, that Groundling is there.

And they’ve got an Apple right here and. Okay. Uh, they’re not throwing it yet. No, they’re not. Okay, good. So everything you gotta do to keep that Apple in their hand and keep them eating it and not throwing it. So, um, you know, that’s, that’s similar to my approach, to my writing

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: too. I love that. You made me think about the adaptation that you did with your reading, where you’re talking about, well, I’m going to tweak this and it’s kind of like, you can be pure to what the story was that Shakespeare was telling, but you can change dialogue and you can remove lines to cut to the chase.

Because you obviously, and I know David has to do this, um, with the play, he has to adapt the play, uh, and Ken Mount for that, otherwise they’re not gonna, they’re

Rod Carley: not going to sit with them. And then that goes back to, you know, the, the simple fact that we’re a visual society today. Like we go and that we’re not doing it now, but what people are watching on Netflix that are you, you watch an action hero movie and in the space of one minute, You know, if you’re watching 45 50 edits fly by workability used to that and no one gets a migraine, right.

That’s okay. Yeah. You go back to Shakespeare society. It was an oral society. People went to hear a play and everyone spoke so much faster than we do now. And people were used to getting, you know, you know, 15 wordplay jokes in a minute easily at that rapid speed because you know, the matinee started at the two o’clock.

And the shows had to come down around four o’clock because people had to get safely back across London bridge and get into their homes before nightfall. Cause there was curfews and no one wanted to be on the streets of London at night in London, like, you know, and 1593, uh, four. So, so there was that. So you look at it and I, you know, and I, and I think.

Realistically that the Hamlet that we have, right. That exists, uh, in the folio and there’s the corridors, but I don’t think Hamlet was probably ever performed in its entirety in Shakespeare’s day. I think that probably. And they, and so what, what you have is a finished play script, even in Shakespeare’s company, like with the, uh, the Lord Chamberlain’s men and then the Kings men or the Admiral’s men, a writer gave, provided that script and Shakespeare had a lot more creative control because he was also an actor and his company and a shareholder, but I’m sure they also cut even for performance from those written scripts as well.

Right. Cause even Hamlet spoken quickly. It’s longer than two hours traffic on our stage, you know, that’s not going to happen, um, right. Not going to happen. So, yeah. And that’s, and that’s the careful editing we have to, I think, and I call it, um, Responsible it’s responsible interpretation, responsible adaptation, where you’ve got to have a fidelity to the text and you really gotta be really careful what you take out and how you do it.

Um, so that you, you, you, you know, you and, and every director is different, right. And every adapter will have their own take on it. But what’s great is, so I’ve done all this and I’ve done all these machinations with Romeo and Juliet or Dave Middleton has, but as soon as it’s done. The play belches up, you know, like one of those puppy punching bags we had as a kid and it’s right there for the next director to come on and tackle and see what they’re going to do with it.

Right. The play then goes back to its essence for the next director and company to tackle. I love

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: that. It makes sense, which is why one of the reasons why it’s held for so long, because because you have that flexibility with, with the artistic vision that can be adapted and mailing a ball, and then they can, you can always go back to the original

Rod Carley: textbooks, you know, and I think too, Mark is because Shakespeare was one of the only writers.

In his era, right? That wasn’t writing contemporary London, comedies and settings. He only did one, uh, measure for measure was the closest he ever came to setting something contemporary London. Right. And I bought the ills of, you know, of all the brothels and crime and shutting all that down with an autocratic government.

Um, that’s the only one. And so, because he was being really careful and told the line, you know, in terms of, you know, he, he kept this Catholicism a deep secret and all the riddles were there in the play. When you look for them plays, you can find where it pops out, but he was so careful and he was cautious that way.

And so he would deal with historical subjects and he would play plays that are backdated. He play around with it or put them in different settings. So they were pharma removed from London. So there’d be an analogy, but. Because he did that. There’s if there’s a greater the university  to them still today, which we, which we then, Oh, we, we still are engaged with and why they are, they work for adaptation and certain plays are always, they become in fashion, in different areas, depending what’s happening politically.

Right. So I think that’s part of it. Cause I look at some of other, the right other writers, um, In his time and I’m doing some research now on this, on this new book with, with Dave Middleton’s ancestor, Thomas Middleton. Right. But, and you know, and Thomas Middleton was primarily the writing, you know, uh, contemporary London, satire, and, uh, that were very popular in their day.

But a lot of people would be hard pressed to name three or four. Thomas Middleton plays. Right. They might get the changeling and the revenge tragedy and women be where women. But after that, I don’t think the labial. No. Right. So, and I think, I think that’s because his stuff was just right up the day.

Right. And Shakespeare’s wasn’t, it was, it was an ally. So that’s why it’s held so long now, besides his incredible psychological understanding of human behavior and his incredible, incredible poetry and, and how he writ wrote. Right. But. On the bigger picture. And, and now of course, we’re in the great debate of, you know, he’s some dead old white guy from 400, some years ago, and what’s the use of having him in the school curriculum anyhow.

Right. And it’s going through that. And my feeling on that is that I think we got to have everything and maybe we, you know, you could maybe pull back on the amount of . The problem is so many kids and how people get bored with Shakespeare because it’s. Beaten into you or you’re, you’re taught and it’s meant to be performed.

It’s meant to be watched. Um, right. So I think, uh, you know, doing an overview, but also then saying, we’ll see what Shakespeare wrote that, that led to this writer then doing this later, or that that’s like this here. So we can kind of see the connect, connect the dots and, and see the value in it, but let everything else share a similar stage with it.

I mean, that’s, that’s the approach. I’m hoping. We’ll see. Uh, in terms of how they adjust curriculum. Um, but it’s, but it’s, it has to evolve. I mean, it’s English language is ever evolving and, and, uh, as we look at the strange new words that get added every year, right. To the Miriam diction. Oh, okay. That’s that’s an accepted word now.

Okay. I thought that was just a short form tweet. Okay.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Well, don’t write the Homer Simpson’s don’t was added to the Oxford dictionary. How many years ago? There you go, right. So, um, Oh my God, rod, we could talk for hours, but I do want, uh, but, um, please, uh, thank you so much for this conversation. My listeners know, uh, where they can find out more about you and your writing, all the things.

Yeah, sure, sure.

Rod Carley: Okay. All right. I have a website which is simply rod carley.ca and Ken Mount is available to order from any independent. No bookstore, you can get it from Amazon Indigo, uh, for my publisher latitude 46 publishing, uh, as well. And if anyone’s interested, I’m doing a reading with five other readers on may.

The second for that live in Hamilton, uh, at seven 30 and then myself and two other writers, uh, Barbara Radecki and Heidi Von Palesa, who both also launched books. Their second books during this pandemic, the three of us are doing a, uh, a reading and discussion on May 29th called a funny thing happened on the way to our book launches that we’re putting together virtually, and they’ll be more coming out, but that’s something.

If people are this in the morning to, to hear me read a few chapters from chemo and these other two wonderful authors, um, yeah. That’s. Yeah. And this has been great, Mark. Thank you for inviting me to join you and, uh, to do this.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: No, thank you. And I trust you all send me the links to these so I can,

Rod Carley: I sure will.

I sure will. As, as we, yes, I sure will.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Gotcha. Well, Rob, thank you so much. Rod Carley: Thank you, Mark.

1 thought on “Episode 189 – From Stage to Page and Back to Stage with Rod Carley”

  1. I had a similar experience about getting the Astrazeneca vaccine: called the pharmacy in my local co-op, where they were booking appointments for their overstock of Oxford Astrazeneca. They had no free appointments, but I asked them to put a stickynote with my name and number on their computer, and call me if someone cancelled. The next day I got a call and the day after that, I got my shot. I was fortunate to be one of the 50% that has no significant reaction, huzzah.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.