Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Clifford Jackman?
I’m a lawyer and novelist who lives in Guelph with my wife and two sons. My first novel, The Winter Family, was longlisted for the Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award.
Your new novel, The Braver Thing, is due to be published by Random House Canada in August. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?
The Braver Thing is like a combination of Treasure Island and Animal Farm, about a group of pirates that forms to chase a big score and then struggles to govern themselves.
What inspired you to write The Braver Thing? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
Generally speaking, I draw my inspiration from things I read, whether fiction or nonfiction. In the case of The Braver Thing, I drew my inspiration from reading about the democratic way in which pirates of the period governed themselves, and learning about the so-called “pirates republic” in the Bahamas in the early 18th century. Treasure Island was also a big source of inspiration, as well as the Aubrey/Maturin novels, especially Desolation Island.
How were you introduced to historical fiction?
Probably book-on-tape versions of Robin Hood and Treasure Island.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
Being a writer is great, it was my life-long dream to be an author. It’s obviously a tough way to make a living and a very competitive business, but I’m very grateful to be able to live my dream.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I’m trying to develop them. It is hard with a job and kids and a global pandemic, etc.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My first foray into professional writing was when I published some shorter works with a small press. I do look back on it fondly, it was an important validation of all the work I’d done.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I think the genre of historical fiction is always in good shape! Hilary Mantel just put out a new book. As for my work, I would recommend it to people who are interested in historical fiction with an emphasis on political allegory or applicability.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I have a couple books I’m working on, one a murder mystery in contemporary Canada about a cult, and another about street gangs in late Republican Rome.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
Silence, by Shusaku Endo, as well as a lot of nonfiction about Rome.
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
Maybe The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. If I could only recommend one book I would want it to be something that everyone could enjoy.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I was turned down when I applied to Creative Writing at university.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Other than my new book? End of the Trump presidency — knock on wood.
Clifford Jackman’s The Braver Thing is out tomorrow, published by Random House Canada. Jackman is also the author of The Winter Family and California 1901 (both of which I recently purchased and am very eager to read ASAP), also published by Random House Canada. The two books are also published by Anchor in the UK.