D.W. Richards is a member of the Canadian Authors Association and beyond being a novelist he is also a script-doctor and freelance writer. An excerpt from Pairs will appear in the October 2010 issue of the international literary PDF quarterly Cantarville as a standalone fiction piece. In addition to creative writing, D.W. Richards has a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Carleton University and is a Certified General Accountant. He divides his time between Venice, Italy and Ottawa, Canada.
Q: Thank you for this interview, David. Can you tell us what your latest book, Pairs is all about?
Pairs is about following the sometimes unusual interactions of four rather quirky people: full stop. Well, Adam’s pretty conventional, but the other three are definitely marching to their own drum.
Needing a premise to connect the scenes, they become drawn together by friendship, love, sexual attraction and a communal sense of family. Their joint effort renovating a once grand mansion becomes a metaphor for helping one-and-other through personal discovery and rebirth.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Although Pairs in many ways is a true ensemble cast of characters, it begins and ends with Kayley, a single mother whose artistic desires are stifled by the necessities that she must face as a mother of a four-year-old daughter. She finds herself in an evolving relationship with a younger man, Adam. He is a carpenter tired of fleeting romances and dead-end flings. His cousin, Henry, is an overly persnickety math teacher with a gentle manner who surprises no one more than himself when his role as tutor to a vaguely disquieting yet charismatic former stripper named Alexandra blossoms.
It’s a mixed bag of goods. Some of the characters, such as Kayley are entirely made up, at least on a conscious level. Whereas others are peppered with attributes of people that I know or fictional characters that I am familiar with. Alexandra, for example, has the facial features of a real estate agent I met and the tendency toward literal interpretation of a friend’s nine-year-old daughter. There is also just the teeniest soupçon of Homer Simpson jumbled in somewhere. On the hand, the inspiration can be somewhat vague, as with Henry. Periodically while writing his character Oscar Wilde would briefly float in my thoughts, though I can’t exactly pinpoint the reason.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I quite certainly had the plot laid out before I began, but that only had the barest relevance to the final outcome: so, kind of aware, but no, not really.
Q: Your book is set in Ottawa. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?
The convenience of not having to make up the characters’ surroundings. The city is never named in Pairs but I did draw most of the physical locations from places that I have been in the city. One notable exception is Daleesha’s home, which is based on morphed childhood memories of my aunt’s residence in Cobourg, Canada. It’s a big house, so bits of it will likely crop again in my writing.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
The city itself does not, but the house that they are renovating together does. It is a real-world Ottawa find. It is a transmutation of a near derelict that I actually lived in for a short stint: ah, the memories. It serves not only as a metaphor for the rebuilding of the characters’ lives, as previously mentioned, but also as a symbol of family. Additionally, important plot events and themes, if not introduced at the house, are rooted there.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
It is a warm summer evening. The sun has set. Kayley has put her daughter down for the night and joins Adam in the small front yard of her townhouse. Dim illumination is being provided by two citronella torches and a nearby streetlight. Kayley is noticing the pleasure that she is taking in Adam’s company and she confides in him the story of her ex-husband and in so doing rounds out his prior understanding of events. The reader is getting a sense for a growing closeness between the two characters.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
“Okay, Henry,” Alexandra said. “Name three things that a woman would do for you on a perfect date.”
The question struck Henry as peculiar, but he was willing to indulge Alexandra. He thought about the dates he had in his life. He sifted out the best and wove together a theme of consideration that he refined before answering.
“That’s easy,” Henry replied. “She’d wear a summer dress—nothing fussy or overdone, but nice. She’d make dinner—again, nothing too fancy but something obviously thought out. And she wouldn’t ask me to help clean up afterwards. That’s just uncouth.”
Alexandra had suspected that the focus of Henry’s answer would be on the romance and not the sex. However, she had not been prepared for the degree of her accuracy. And it concerned her. Alexandra’s thrill became tempered with scepticism. There was a small voice inside her wondering if he was intentionally saying the things he suspected she wanted to hear. She remained staring at Henry with wonder and suspicion. It was his growing confusion over her long stare that finally gave Alexandra confidence in his sincerity, and her attention switched happily to Adam.
“And Adam, could you please name three things that would make a perfect date for you.”
He raised his head and looked at Alexandra. His concerns were not completely off of Kayley but he found the question intriguing, so his thoughts blended. The fantasy date that he imagined for himself had a face. A beautiful, blue-eyed, and pale-skinned face framed in blond curls. And, of course, there was that incredibly voluptuous figure to go with it.
“Okay,” Adam said. “But what is said at the stripper pole stays at the stripper pole. She shows up naked. She brings beer. She initiates sex.”
Alexandra looked back at Henry and after shrugging her shoulders, sauntered back toward the house.
“I’ll talk to Kayley,” she said.
Henry watched her walk away. He was reminded of his high school debating coach who had continually drilled into the team the importance of proof. He who asserts must prove. Or in the case at hand, she who asserts must prove. Henry finally managed his reply when she had reached the steps up to the patio.
“That has nothing to do with me being a girl,” he called out to her. “It has to do with maturity.”
“Dude,” Adam said.
“Not a word,” Henry replied, as he spun to face his cousin.
“You are such a girl!”
“Not you, too.”
Adam walked over to Henry, put his arm across his shoulders and turned with him toward the house in time to see Alexandra disappear through the doors.
“Look cuz,” Adam said. “She is good for you. She’s what you need and she is sane in all the important ways. And I will deny ever saying this, but she has a body that should be insured by Lloyd’s of London. If she wants to think of you as a cocker spaniel to help frame you in her head, I’d run with it if I were you. Focus on the important things. She is crazy about you.”
Henry thought fondly about Alexandra, appreciating that she was not calling his orientation or his gender into question. She was simply packaging him in terms that helped her to understand who he was. No woman had ever before cared enough, or respected him enough as a person, to make the effort. Any misgivings about a future with her, all second-guessing, vanished.
He looked at Adam and nodded. Henry knew his cousin was right and decided that he was not going to let himself get caught up in semantics when the bigger picture brought him such happiness.
“Adam,” Henry opened.
“I am in love with her.”
“I know,” Adam replied, happy to have his suspicions confirmed.
“So when I point something out, it’s not that I’m speaking badly of her.”
“She means well.”
“Heart of gold.”
“But she can be very matter-of-fact,” Henry explained. “Not one to buffer things. Pretty much direct thought-to-speech.”
“And you may want to find Kayley and explain things before Alexandra does.”
Henry fell into a sympathetic silence, biding his time until the significance of his advice fully registered with Adam. Henry’s wait wasn’t long.
For Adam, there was something inherently unsettling about two women having a conversation involving him. From his personal experience, one way or the other, whether friends or foes, they end up sharing everything, absolutely everything.
He was fairly certain that Alexandra would eventually get around to telling Kayley about knowing him from the strip club and how much he liked her act. In response, Kayley would inform Alexandra that while her head had been buried inside her top, he had taken total advantage of the opportunity and just stared like a drooling pubescent. As an aside to his concerns, this struck him as a form of entrapment. His defence: there is much that is autopilot about being a man.
“I’m sure nothing will be said that you can’t grovel out of,” Henry teased.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, David. We wish you much success!
Thank you for your interest.