Andrew Kaufman was born in Wingham, Ontario in Canada. His first published novella, All My Friends Are Superheroes, was released in 2003, to international critical acclaim. Since then, Andrew has a host of impressive works to his name including The Waterproof Bible, The Tiny Wife and his latest offering, Born Weird. Incorporating the fantastical and magical into witty, quirky and heartwarming reads that can be devoured in one sitting, Andrew’s work is sweetly spellbinding. Taking time out of his hectic schedule to, the Canadian has spoken to HELLO! about his career as a wordsmith, his love of the Silver Surfer and why even bags of garbage have their charms…
When did you realise that you wanted to become a fiction writer?
I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I’m either cursed or blessed that way.
Although your stories encompass different locations, Toronto is the backdrop for all of your published books. Why did you settle on that particular location?
Because I write stories that feature a lot of imaginative stuff, talking frogs driving cars, people with magic abilities, metaphoric plotlines, I really need to convince a reader to suspend their disbelief and just trust me. That’s a lot easier for a reader to do when I get the details right. Since I live in Toronto it’s easier for me to get these details right when I set the story here. But on top of that, Toronto doesn’t come with the mythic baggage that a city like New York or London does. There have been so many stories set in those cities, and so few set here. So I don’t have to worry about working against a pre-existing mythology. It’s a blank slate in this town. I can put anything I want on top of it.
Your books are filled with refreshing moral tales. If you could only choose one moral lesson that you explore in your writing, what would it be?
I’m a big fan of redemption. It has to be earned and it doesn’t come without a lot of sacrifice, painful growth, and setting down what you believe to see someone else’s side. The path to achieving it is such a great story. If I could only explore one theme, it would definitely be redemption. It’s kinda what I’m already doing…
Your sense of magic realism seems to draw on the much-loved tradition of comic book-esque characters. Are you a superhero fan? Who is your favourite superhero?
Comic books were the first books that were mine. That I picked out for myself and purchased with my own money. So they have a special place in my heart. Comic books, superhero comic books at least, really only have one story that gets told over and over again—that you have a secret power inside, waiting to be discovered. That’s a pretty powerful idea. My favourite superhero is the Silver Surfer.
As a writer for radio and TV, you must constantly have a pen in hand. How do you find time to write books, and if you are lacking the motivation to write, how do you find it again?
I usually have three or four projects that I’m working on at the same time, in various stages of competition. So if one story isn’t working, I just put my efforts into something else for a while. It isn’t motivation that’s usually lacking for me, but time.
You list David Mitchell as one of your literary inspirations. What do you enjoy about his writing? Besides other authors, what else are you inspired by?
David Mitchell is just so bloody smart. He has this amazing ability to create page-turning plots that are at the same time really thick and deep and insightful. You don’t realize how deep it goes until you’re already done. I get inspired a lot by things I just see around the city, teenagers giving their bus seats to old ladies, Mom’s playing with their kids, an alleyway that’s full of garbage but weirdly beautiful—pretty cliché stuff, but I love it.
What book have you enjoyed writing the most so far?
Definitely All My Friends Are Superheroes. I had no idea what I was doing or that anybody would want to read it. I was just a kid with a Trans-Am in the garage that I was trying to fix up, just to see if I could get it on the road. Way more fun than walking around calling myself a mechanic.
I was particularly struck by Kent’s description of the modern obsession to document life through photographs. I notice your website is particularly image led, so would you say you are at odds with Kent’s opinion? With this in mind, what do you think about the new social networking generation?
I think Kent’s hatred of photography is generated by a healthy dose of sibling rivalry as much as anything else, but I do think he has a point. The fact that we’re so willing to stop what we’re doing, stop having a significant moment just to document it, is very troubling. But I love photographs, I love images in general—I write in images. They’re powerful and that’s why we love them but I still think personal experience trumps any documentation of it. As for social networking, I’d say the same is true. It’s great to chat on-line, but it’s inferior to having the same chat in person, seeing someone’s facial expressions, what they’re doing with their hands. Even the most wired teenager would have a hard time debating that.
Your stories have an air of sensitivity that is heartwarmingly compelling. Would you consider yourself to be a softie? If so, where did your soft side come from?
I think it takes a lot of strength to be a softie, to be sensitive and openhearted. I think it’s very hard to do. It’s definitely easier to achieve it with fiction than it is in the real world. My stories are tender and warm-hearted because that’s how I wish I could be. I wish I were half the person in real life that I can be as a storyteller on the page.
If you could pick one line from your work that epitomises your writing, what would it be?
“…the only difference between a happy ending and a sad ending is where you decide the story ends.”