Richard Scarsbrook is the author of The Indifference League. His short stories and poems have appeared in Descant, The Dalhousie Review, Prairie Fire, Matrix, Toronto Quarterly, and the NeWest Review. He teaches creative writing courses at George Brown and Humber Colleges, and is a mentor for the Humber School for Writers Correspondence Program. He lives in Toronto.
Interview with Richard Scarsbrook
Richard Scarsbrook, author of the new release The Indifference League, tells us about what it was like to write about superheroes.
What's the best advice you've ever received as a writer?
Richard: Early in my writing career, I was lucky enough to be part of a panel discussion at a literary festival with Tim Wynne-Jones. Someone in the audience asked him, “What’s the secret to writing a great book?”, and he answered, “Try to write the kind of book that you want to read.” That was the best answer I’ve ever heard to that particular question, and it is what I try to do myself, every time.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Richard: In a certain way, every stage of writing a book is “hard”; to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “What is written without effort is read without pleasure”. However, I’ve reached the point where every stage of the process has become a labour of love. I love writing the first draft and seeing the story or poem in its first phantom form; I love revising a work until it’s as clear and true to itself as I can make it, and I love doing all of the readings and talks and interviews after the writing is finished.
It all takes effort, of course, but it is time and energy that I expend doing something that I want to do, so I don’t necessarily see it as hard. (To clarify a bit more: I would probably find working in a coal mine to be hard.) To quote Isaac Asimov, “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I’d type a little faster.” For me, writing isn’t a burden to be carried, it’s an adventure to be had, a longing that demands to be satisfied.
Now, tell us about your book!
I am very excited about The Indifference League. Going back to Tim’s advice from above, I enjoy reading books that are sexy, racy, and funny, but also thoughtful and ultimately moving, so I hope that this is the kind of book that I’ve managed to write.
The Indifference League is the culmination of so many themes that fascinate, entertain, infuriate, stimulate and sadden me. It is a story of the obsessions and fears of the New Lost Generation, of sex and love, of religion and politics, of the blurred lines between right and wrong. Also, in the age of CGI superheroes, it’s a story about recognizing ordinary, everyday, non-super heroism.
Each chapter begins with a classic superhero quote. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and other "Superfriends" voice the selfless and optimistic ideals of the Greatest Generation and their progeny. Then The Indifference League - The Statistician, Hippie Avenger, SuperKen, SuperBarbie, Miss Demeanour, Mr. Nice Guy, The Drifter, and The Stunner, all archetypes of Generations X and Y - show us just how much things have changed.
I can honestly say that I’ve written the kind of book that I want to read myself, and I hope that other readers will feel the same way.
Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?
The idea that eventually became The Indifference League was still forming in my mind at the time, and the Proust Questionnaire really got me thinking about my own heroes (both fictional and real), and the qualities that I most admire (and dislike) in other humans (and in myself).
Anyone who reads The Indifference League will likely see how my answers to these particular interview questions trickled into the characters and events that propel the novel.
What are your new projects?
Richard: Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on a collection of interconnected short stories called Rockets Versus Gravity. I’m also working on a new poetry collection called (d)Evolution, and I’m about 75 pages into a new novel, tentatively titled Meet Me at La Bodeguita del Medio. All three have been great adventures so far.