Tuesday, August 5, 2008 1:00 PM
"In the opening pages of The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson's outrageous new novel, a pornographer high on cocaine runs his car off a mountain road. The vehicle bursts into flames and burns him to a crisp. Welcome to the pain-riddled world of an acerbic, 35-year-old man who loses everything in those fiery minutes: his career, his fortune, his skin -- all broiled away. This is a story for people who like their literary entertainment well done.
"Following close behind David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader, The Gargoyle is another in this summer's extraordinary series of million-dollar debuts from unknown writers that combine elements of mystery and mysticism."
Davidson graduated in 1995 from the University of British Columbia and has worked as a teacher of English in Japan and a writer of English lessons for Japanese Web sites.
He will take questions on his fantasy-romance tale about a cynical, disfigured accident victim and the storytelling sculptress who takes him in -- and on what it has been like suddenly to become a darling of the publishing world. He will also discuss Burned by Love, a companion Web site on which visitors can share their own stories of passion and heartbreak.
A transcript follows.
Join Book World Live each Tuesday for a discussion based on a story or review in each Sunday's Book World or in the weekday Style Section.
Andrew Davidson: Hi everyone, my name is Andrew Davidson, and I've written a novel called The Gargoyle which is being released... today! Thanks for dropping in and I look forward to your questions, so let's get this chat started!
Ron Charles, Book World: When most of us think of being "burned by love," we think of somebody betraying us or dumping us when we least expected it. But you use the phrase for something far more positive: burned by the intensity of passion. I see you're asking people to leave their own stories on your website (burnedbylove.com). Can you give us a hint here about your "burned" experience?
Andrew Davidson: Well, I've never been burned in a physical sense, nor has any of my close family or friends. So when I think about being "burned by love" it is in a figurative sense - and I think that you have summed it up with a nice phrase: "burned by the intensity of passion."
I'm thirty-nine years old, and so of course I've had a few relationships. Some have been more intense than others. I won't go into specifics on any of them - would you, if you were me? - but I will say this: I really don't see much point in loving someone, unless there is an "intensity of passion." Why would we love indifferently? And, more to the point, can we, and still call it love?
Chicago, Illinois: Will this be another Twilight knock-off? The book seems interesting and very intriguing but it sounds something slightly similar to Twilight. I'll buy the book anyway to find out for myself
Andrew Davidson: Hi Chicago,
Well, if it is a Twilight knock-off, it'll be completely unintentional, because I've never read any of the books in the series. (Although I am looking forward to giving them a try.) And The Gargoyle will not be the first book in a series, it is a stand-alone work. There will be no Gargoyle 2: The Quickening.
Ron Charles, Book World: This thoroughly modern novel alludes to so many much older stories and legends from around the world. Give us a sense of the range of your reading and research for "The Gargoyle."
Andrew Davidson: Ron again! Thanks, and that's a great question.
The reading doesn't just include what I did specifically for The Gargoyle, it also included everything right up until the point that I started the novel. I've always loved legends and myths, so I can say that I was influenced by everything from Grimm's fairy tales to Stan Lee's marvel comics. I mean, they do have Thor, right?
I was also influenced by film a great deal, I think. For example, there are at least two versions of The Beauty and The Beast that I love: the Disney version (honestly!) and La Belle et la Bete, by Jean Cocteau.
As far as specific readings for The Gargoyle, I read everything from encyclopedia on medieval German life, to modern medical journals on burn treatment, to books on the construction of Icelandic buildings in the ninth century, to the sermons of Meister Eckhart and Heinrich Seuse....
I love the research stage: I love discovering that I need to know something that I never thought I would ever need to know. It makes me a better, more fully rounded person to learn these things.
Gargoyle The Movie?: I heard the book has already been sold for movie rights - true? How soon will it be made if so? Who would be in your ideal cast?
Andrew Davidson: If The Gargoyle has been sold for movie rights, I haven't been told yet. (And I'm sure they would have run it by me....)
It's an interesting thing, thinking about actors who might play the roles. I can honestly say that I have never put together a cast, because I have these characters in my head and already know what they look like for me. But this is often asked of me in conversation, and everyone has an opinion...
The thing about a movie is that it's a separate entity. There is the book, and there is the movie, and - while related - in my mind, they are completely different things.
We'll see what happens in the future....
Little Compton, R.I.: Does Stripe, the pet turtle that you had when you were seven years old, make an appearance of any sort in THE GARGOYLE?
Andrew Davidson: Nope... No turtles in The Gargoyle. But maybe that could be my next book: The Adventures of Stripe.
I really did have a turtle named Stripe when I was seven years old. He was a wild turtle that I caught one day, kept for a while, and then released back into the water. Before putting him in, I wrote my name with marker on the bottom of his shell. So my first autograph might still be swimming around in the Winnipeg River, near my hometown.
Arlington, Va.: New authors have a lot of tools available to them now to promote the book - I see that besides your website you have a Facebook page, a page on GoodReads, probably lots more I haven't seen. How useful do you think these are in helping spread the word? When did you start working on all these? What else is out there I don't know about yet?
Andrew Davidson: Hi Arlington, Va
On the one hand, yes, things like Facebook and Goodreads are promotional tools. As far as how "effective" they are, in terms of real life book sales, is something that I really can't know or guess. But for me, that's only a small part of the equation. What I really like about these sites is they allow for some interaction with people who have read the book. It's a very nice thing to open my email in the morning and get emails from people that I don't know, who have no vested interest in the project, saying: "Hey, I like your work."
And besides, I also get book recommendations, and I'm always up for that.
You can also check out" www.burnedbylove.com" to read, and see, stories of people discussing their most intense relationships...
Freising, Germany: I laughed when I read about Marianne's announcement that the main character and her were lovers in 14th-century Germany in a past life.
I'd once been invited to participate in a channeling session with a psychic medium by a good friend, and to my amazement, I discovered that my good friend and I had spent many previous lifetimes together. We'd often been man and wife (to my dismay, I'd been the wife of my male friend) and once we'd even been famous North American horse thieves that could communicate without speaking (Hugh!). Later, while having a beer with the psychic medium, he confessed to me that most of what he said had been spontaneously contrived, since he'd not received much information from the spirits or guardian angels (I was relieved that I wasn't the wife).
Where did you get the idea to incorporate the concept of "Past Lives" into your story?
Also, I liked your description of love being more like "a tiny, jittery primate with eyes that are permanently peeled open in fear", compared to the guise of a sturdy dog that would always chase down the stick, with his ears flopping around happily, completely loyal and completely unconditional.
It reminds me of a movie about Jesse James, where one of the gang is asked by a prostitute if he's ever been in love and he replies, "Ya, it was awful".
Andrew Davidson: Well, I can't let this chat go by without taking at least one question from Germany now, can ?
How I ended up in medieval Germany is a bit of a strange story. The book began with the character of Marianne Engel, and I had been working on the modern-day story for about a year when I came across, in completely unrelated reading, mention of a medieval German monastery named Engelthal. The name meant "Valley of the Angels" and I thought it was so charming that I wanted to include it in the novel. And because my brain apparently doesn't work quite properly, I started to wonder: "Hmmm... how can I get Marianne Engel into this monastery, seven centuries ago, without incorporating time travel....?"
And I took it from there.
Boynton Beach, Fla.: This novel is unquestionably dark. What drove you in that direction?
Andrew Davidson: Love.
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Although you must be terribly busy with the release of "The Gargoyle," I just have to ask if you are working on something else.
I have the feeling that when people finish reading "The Gargoyle," they'll soon be wondering the same thing.
Andrew Davidson: At the moment, it is true that I am quite busy. Hard to write a follow-up book and answers to a Washington Post online chat at the same time....
But I am deep in the research stages on the next book. I have several hundreds of pages of notes already written, and about three to five pages of prose. The prose, of course, will be thrown out. And having so many notes ensures that I have absolutely no idea what the book will be about.
I'm as curious as you are. Probably more.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Do you have personal connections to any of the stories that Marianne tells?
Andrew Davidson: It's all personal, of course, but I must admit that I have a special affection for the story of Sei in Japan. I lived in Japan for about five years (1999-2004) and the bulk of the novel was written there. Although I am a Canadian by birth, I consider Japan to be my second country - I always enjoy going back, and am looking forward to my next opportunity.
And the story of Sigurdr, the Viking, was influenced by the fact that I have an Icelandic heritage, which is quite common in Manitoba (where I grew up). Manitoba actually has the largest population of Icelanders, outside of Iceland itself.
Burned by Love: I was just looking at the Burned by Love site. Do you read all the posted stories there? Are any your own?
Andrew Davidson: I haven't read all the posted stories on the burnedbylove site, but I have read most of them, and I have watched most of the videos too. I find them very interesting, and some are painfully honest....
None of the stories on burnedbylove.com are my own. That forum exists as a place for other people to express themselves. I got my say in The Gargoyle.
Berlin, Germany: does Marianne Engel lives through all the centuries or is she coming back to him? what did she do in the meantime?
Andrew Davidson: Back to Germany....
That is an excellent question.
I have no answer for you.
Some things are better left for the reader to imagine, and decide.
Ron Charles, Book World: I understand you did some of your research about burn injuries by corresponding with a burn victim. How did you go about finding such a person, and what was his reaction to your questions?
Andrew Davidson: I did a few years of intensive research on burns, reading basically everything that I could. Once I felt that I had explored the topic as thoroughly as I could through reading, I found that I still had some questions that interested me, and that I was unable to answer. These were things that were incredibly specific, or that related less to medicine and science and more to a patient's relationship with his/her burn.
At this point, I went onto the internet and found a burn survivor who had posted writing about the experience of being burned, and about the recovery process. I found the writer to be thoughtful and open, so I sent this person an email introducing myself and asking if I might ask a few questions. The incredibly kind reply was, basically, "yes."
I would not have approached this person if I had not done so much research beforehand. It would have been rude to make contact and say: "Hey! Tell me about burns!" But I was okay with sending questions that began with the preface "I have looked everywhere for this one specific fact, but it doesn't seem to be in any book..."
Minneapolis, Minn.: I thought both those stories were particularly intense.
Iceland is full of great folklore. (I visited last year and am still trying to wrap my head around all those santas or yulelads!)
How can a writer such as yourself, who takes the time to do intense research, secure the next contract without compromising due to time constraints? In other words, is the publisher willing to wait seven years?
Andrew Davidson: I guess I'll find out.
Perhaps in about six years you'll read a story about how I have retreated to the Icelandic lava fields, hiding out from angry, impatient publishers.
State College, Pa.: Congratulations on getting your novel published; I look forward to reading it. (I myself have a novel languishing on my computer. Sigh.)
I am very drawn to the cover art on the dust jacket of your book. It's a very beautiful and compelling image. Did you have any input on it?
Andrew Davidson: I tend to leave things such as graphic design to the experts. My opinion is always solicited and my publishers have been happy to hear my feedback, but I don't consider myself a graphic designer. So they do their thing, and I do mine: writing.
And I love the cover too. Very striking!
I have time for one final question....
Pittsburgh, Pa.: How does it feel to have such an outpouring even before the book is released?
Andrew Davidson: It makes me feel like a very lucky man, and I am thankful to everyone who has come by this chat today.
Andrew Davidson: This has been a wonderful experience, answering real-time questions for readers of the book. As I mentioned above, thank you all so much for dropping by with your questions and comments. I truly appreciate it, and all the best.
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