An Interview with the author of The Gargoyle- Andrew Davidson

On 20 November 2018, I had the honour to meet the man that made my favourite novel of all time ( The Gargoyle) possible: Andrew Davidson.

At this point, I was reading for the second time his book and thanks to Goodreads I got in contact with him!

He was on a trip to Europe and agreed to meet me when his holiday ended. 

Andrew Davidson has been born in Canada on 12 April 1969.

Being my first interview and being so excited about meeting him, I was quite emotional- very emotional; 

I guess that he noticed my emotions because he started speaking and helped me relax. 

I am Romanian, and he started speaking about Romania and about his publicity tour that he had there. I am so excited that we have so much more in common now and we both agree that Romania is a beautiful country. Now that I relaxed I finally manage to ask him my first question:

Q: How did you start writing your book? I mean, I noticed the similarities between The Divine Comedy by Dante and the hell that the main character goes through. How did you start it? 

A: Well, Actually the divine comedy came later on through the process. I started working on this idea when I was in my early 30’s and, at that point in my life, I was an English language teacher in Japan . When I was young, in my twenties, I wanted to write and hoped to write as a career. But by the time I was 25, I started questioning my reason for writing. 

Do I enjoy it? Does my writing has value because it’s published and other people are reading it ? I like writing and makes me happier. So the answer was clear: I like my life better when I write.

So that was very freeing because by the time I was 25, I didn’t think that I will be a published writer, and I just kept writing.
On that period we weren’t using emails that much, so we were writing letters.
I was in Japan and while I was writing a letter to one of my friends, the character, Marianne Engel started appearing which, was very interesting for me.
Her voice was very strong from the beginning. My first idea about how she looks and acts was very clear from the beginning. I could see her, and I saw her in front of a medieval church and I knew she was saying things that sounded crazy but, they were not that crazy.
And this is how it started. With this character that was appearing in my letters.

As she was constantly interrupting, I decided to start developing this character out.
It was an interesting experience for me because despite all the writing I did before, this was the most intense and serious character that ever existed for me, and it was very very clear that whatever I was writing she will always come back and make me follow her.
And for apparently no reason, she let me know that she needed to speak with someone that it is in a hospital.
I am a very curious person and at that time I was interested in burn survivors and I allowed her to speak with a burned survivor.
So this is how the other main character come to life, being a burn survivor and from there I just started working backwards to find out their story.
Initially, my thought was the narrator of the book to be Marianne Engel, not the burn survivor.
In the end, she became the narrator for the stories that she tells to him which the burn character tries to narrate and you can see him in the book saying “she told me” or “she taught me”. In the end, seemed fit for him to become the first voice.
As far as it goes The divine comedy, I think I was writing for about a year before Marianne Engel even told me that she was a german medieval nun;

That historical era was extremely religious so the path with The Divine Comedy just opened by itself and seemed proper.
I didn’t know really where I was going, I was just trusting my characters and listening to their voices.
So it’s not that I was inspired from the beginning by The Divine Comedy. It took me more than a year to realise that I will attach The Divine Comedy at all.
It took me over a year for me to realise that I was writing a novel. I didn’t know at the beginning if it will be a long short story or something else. I was just writing and at some point I was: oh! I have a novel.

Q: Why doesn’t the burn survivor have a name?

A: You know, that wasn’t really intentional, he just never told me his name.

I tried several names but none of them matched so, in the end, I realised that it didn’t matter. 

I knew who he was and I didn’t need to put a name, a label on him. In the same time is funny because he has no name and she has two. You will see always both of her names: Marianne Engel.

When you create your character, you know from the beginning what their name is or if they have a name and who they are. It happens the same to me with Marianne Engel and him.

I completely agree with you, when I first thought about my character, I knew her name, her age and I could imagine her in different situations and this part of creations I find extremely fascinating!

Author note: Here I am speaking about the story that I work on and about my main character.

A: For me, I always find it when meeting characters in a book is like meeting characters in the real world.
Like you meet every one of them differently and you get to know them differently. Some of them are super straight forward and some of them they don’t open up that easy and sometimes lie to you, exactly like people in the real world.

Q: You published your novel in 2008. How do you feel now? Ten years later?

A: It’s interesting. When I look at my book, it feels like someone else wrote it.

It’s very personal, every book it’s personal, and you put so much into it, and not biographically but it’s your understanding of the world.
It’s fascinating how every one of us sees the world entirely differently. It’s because of our mental structures and interactions with the world and the way we put together the information; in fiction is the same.
Going back to your question, I am very proud of it. I like my book and the version that I offered to the world, it’s different of the versions that I wrote.
It’s exciting because it’s the one that went into the world from the rest of my writings and people like it.

Q: Does the story continue in your mind after it ends in the book?

A: The characters are so real to me that I am finished helping them express themselves. I mean, I feel like they are out there, living their lives and they don’t need me to imagine it.
For me, once the book has been published it means I am done.
And I know that they are fine without me plus I have others characters that need my attention.


Q: You are working on a new book, right?

A: Yes. I have so many things that I work on.

I am a really slow worker. I started writing a story in 1997 and I am still working on it now, after 21 years and I have no idea when or If I will finish it.
I have so many characters created, and so many stories embedded and what I have to do is to focus on the part of the story that is really important. It’s a lot to work but it’s alright, all this work is not lost as for me to be able to create a perfect world in 1000 words, means to write far more than 1000 words.
What I have been working on the last years, is theatre.
I tried to teach myself how to write musicals. Not the music- I can’t compose the music, but the lyrics and the acts.
I am really passionate about musicals and theatre.
To be honest I am more excited about theatre than about novels. At least at the moment.

I do have a novel that before I die will come out. But for the moment my attention is to the theatre.
I would like to find people to work together with. Don’t get me wrong, I love to work by myself and to have full power about the story, but it’s a different kind of thing collaborating with other people and building something together.

Q: How would you describe the best version of yourself?

A: Shakespeare, in my opinion, is the greatest writer; what he created is amazing and probably in his life he liked writing which is good for him.

But now, it doesn’t matter for him that almost 400 years later we are speaking about him. He is dead.
To have this reputation after your life is finished it’s good. I am a better person because of him. I love his plays, because of them I am a better person, but for Shakespeare, it doesn’t mean anything at this point.

So I want to enjoy my life, to have fun and I want to be kind, to travel. So far I have been in 35 countries. I want to have friends that I love.
Just working is not the best version of myself.
Have fun, be kind! That is the best version of myself.

Q: What about your family?

A: I have my parents which I spend time as much as I can.

But I don’t have a family for my self.

Why not?

It’s just the way it is, but that doesn’t mean that I am not happy. I have a very happy and fulfilment life. 

Q: Are you now focused on your writing or your career as a teacher?

A: On writing. I have so much work that is not published. You won’t believe it.

For me, my writing doesn’t need to be published to have value.
I don’t need other people to read it and say if it’s good or bad for me to find value.
Don’t get me wrong; I do plan to show more writing to the public, in the future.
I just don’t need to publish to pay my mortgage or bills. I am in a very good position right now, and I am grateful because I know how lucky I am.
Because out there are people that need to publish this year so that they can provide for their family. And that is alright. For me is not the case.

Q: Do you have any advice for the writers at the beginning of their path?

A: On day one of creating your character, remember that only 20% of your creation is true. And only if you keep writing and spend time with your character you can make it true 100%.

Thank you, Andrew! Was lovely to meet you and thank you for your time!
I had such a lovely time, and now when I am finally putting the interview together I can’t stop smiling. It’s been over a year since we met and it is an honour to publish this interview with you!
Till we meet again!
And you, dear reader, keep reading and keep writing!

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