Get to Know Them First: Daniel Goodwin & Sons and Fathers

To kick off our month-long series focusing on first books from some great Canadian writers-to-watch we’ve got a novel by Daniel Goodwin. Sons and Fathers, published by Montreal press Linda Leith Publishing, has been called “a wild, page-turning ride” by author Terry Fallis.


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To kick off our month-long series focusing on first books from some great Canadian writers-to-watch we’ve got a novel by Daniel Goodwin. Sons and Fathers, published by Montreal press Linda Leith Publishing, has been called “a wild, page-turning ride” by author Terry Fallis.Goodwin, a communications expert who has worked with politicians, journalists and literary types, has long been fascinated by how people use language differently. He uses this fascination as his basis for delving into the complicated relationships men have with their fathers.Prepare to go behind the book as we chat with the author and the publisher of Sons and Fathers.

The Book

Sons and Fathers is a novel about men. Three friends, three sons, each with a talent for words he learned from his father. Eli, Michael, and Allan were friends at McGill, and their lives continue to intersect as they make their ways in the shadow of the Peace Tower in Ottawa.Set against the backdrop of national politics, journalism, and spin, Sons and Fathers explores how men’s lives and their relationships with one another and their wives are ultimately shaped by their relationships with the first men in their lives: their fathers.

The Author

Born in Montreal, Daniel Goodwin has lived and worked across Canada as a journalist, teacher, and communications and government relations executive. His writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Telegraph Journal, Antigonish Review, and Literary Review of Canada. He lives in Calgary with his wife and three children.

We asked the author Daniel Goodwin about a few of his firsts …

Tell us about the first time you realized you wanted to be a writer.I’m not sure there was ever a specific time when I first realized I wanted to be a writer. It’s almost like I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I remember. In fact, my first piece of “writing” is associated with my earliest memories, which are of going to Greece with my parents one summer when I was two years old. The trip was so different from everything that had come before. It made such an impression on me that I wrote, or more accurately dictated, my first poem, on the plane ride back home to Montreal, before falling asleep. My mother kindly wrote it down for me. It was called “Stars” and it went like this:
Stars are in the night
and snow is on top of the buildings
and between the pillars of the Parthenon.
And sometimes it comes down in big balls
and lands on the ground.
I wasn’t fully aware of the fact growing up but writing has always been the way I try to make sense of the world and of myself. For the longest time I wanted to be a poet and it wasn’t until later that I became interested in fiction. I’m sort of doing things backwards from the traditional sequence, because it was only after my first novel was about to be released by Linda Leith Publishing that I learned Robyn Sarah, the poetry editor at Cormorant, wanted to bring out my first book of poems.What is the first book you remember reading?I don’t remember the first book I read. My mother read to me a lot as a child and I’ve always assumed the first book I read was by Dr. Seuss, likely The Cat in the Hat. I used that book to teach my daughter Anneke how to read!However, I do remember very clearly the first book I ever bought with my own money, and that was a finely illustrated hardcover edition of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers at the old Classics bookstore on Ste. Catherine Street in downtown Montreal. The stairs didn’t have risers to them and you could see the first floor as you ascended to the second. I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with heights and I remember feeling queasy every time I climbed those stairs. But the books on the second floor must have been strong motivation! And I remember the year when my father and I read the Bible together. It wasn’t the first book I read but it was the first book I read very deeply and over an extended period of time. And I was reading it with my father.Tell us a little bit about the experience of writing your first book.Writing my first book was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It might have been even harder if I hadn’t written two novels before it! Both were unpublishable, of course, but they taught me a lot about writing fiction, including how to sustain a narrative, develop characters, organize action, and get past the various challenges that anyone trying to write more than a few pages invariably encounters.I wrote it over the course of about a year, while my wife Kara was pregnant and in the months after our third child Isaac was born. Kara was nursing and going to bed early and I would stay up to write. I didn’t force myself to write a certain number of words a day, nor did I write the novel in sequence. I used to think you had to write one line before you wrote the next one until I read P.D. James describe how she wrote the way movies are filmed: sometimes out of sequence. I had been making a lot of notes for about six months before starting to write, and then it came, a scene here, a chapter there. Sometimes I woke up early to write. Sometimes I wrote a bit on planes. I wrote the last line first, but I can’t tell you what it is because it is part of the twist ending. I like both literary fiction and thrillers, and I wanted to give the reader a bit of a surprise in the end, partially because life is often full of surprises.Who did you tell first that your book was being published?The first person I told that my book was being published, after I got over my elation and surprise, was my wife Kara. After sending the book off to several publishers and agents without success, I had put the manuscript away in the virtual drawer and half forgot about it. For my 43rd birthday Kara bought me Charles Foran’s excellent biography of Mordecai Richler. We were spending a few days up in the Rocky Mountains, and each afternoon, after our children had skied or snowshoed or swam in the pool, I’d sit in a comfy chair with a view of the mountains and the snow falling and read about Richler. His example of making himself into a writer through sheer determination and dedication to his craft inspired me to pull out my manuscript and send it off again. Less than a month later Linda Leith agreed to publish it. The second person I told was my mother. I wanted her to know that her taking dictation on the plane when I was two years old was finally paying off!What are the first five words that come to mind when you describe your book to someone?Sons and Fathers, of course! But if I can’t use those, then Men. Friendship. Writing. Love. Death.For the longest time, I found it hard to describe the book. For me it’s about so many things. It’s about three men, their friendship, and how they compete with each other and the examples set by their fathers. It’s about how men relate to each other, how they use words to make sense of themselves and the world around them. There’s also a lot about writing in the book: hopefully I’ve made it interesting. And amidst all the masculine stuff, there’s love, for one’s wife, for one’s father. And, as you know from the prologue, one of the main characters is dying. I won’t say anymore or I might spoil the suspense! I wanted to describe what it was like to be a certain kind of man in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. These guys are all very articulate and thoughtful and self-aware up to a point but they’re also clumsy, occasionally self-deluded, and they sometimes do dumb things.What was your first pet?My first pet was a cat. She was an adult female calico when we adopted her. She was two years old and I was ten. I’d been begging for a cat for months and finally my parents gave in. Her name was Minnie but after about a week it had morphed to Minchka and that is what it stayed. My mother did a painting of Minchka lying on a colourful pillow and I often have that painting on the wall behind me when I write. My wife and I enjoy cats – we had four at one time – and they seem like the right kind of pet for introverted writers. They are so self-contained. They have that reserve, that sense of mystery. They give off the vibe there is more going on beneath the surface and they’re not sharing. It’s the essence of suspense.

The Publisher

Linda Leith Publishing is a Montreal-based literary house created in 2011 by Blue Metropolis founder Linda Leith. Its publishing programme, which features literary and samizdat work in print and electronic formats for Canadian and international readers, includes cartoons by “the best of the best” of Canadian cartoonists, literary fiction, and a pioneering series of Singles essays.

We asked publisher Linda Leith a few questions about publishing first books & Sons and Fathers in particular

Why do you feel it’s important to publish works by new authors?Publishing a first book is important – this is how a new writer is born – and it’s also exciting and rewarding. LLP has published five first novels – five first books – and a second novel by a couple of the same writers, and we’ve published a total of seven novels since we started publishing in 2012. All the fiction we’ve published, in other words, is by new writers. I’m very proud of that – and of the fact that every one of those first novels has been honoured with prize nominations and other national and international awards.When did you first know you were going to publish this book?This is a novel that grabs you from the first page. By the time I’d read the first couple of chapters, I knew I wanted to see more, and I’d decided to publish it long before I finished reading the whole novel.Tell/show us the first cover concept for the book and how it differs from the final look.Sons and Fathers is a novel about men who have known one another from youth. One of them becomes prime minister, and the other two are involved in communications about politics. For the cover, we first thought of using an image of a BlackBerry and of including an image of the Peace Tower in Ottawa, only then I found the image of three men in business suits, and that was perfect: there they are, the three of them, walking up the steps of a downtown office complex. To find out who they are, however, and about what connects them, about their passions, anxieties, loves, jealousies, and hopes – to find out what makes these men tick – for that you have to read the novel.***Thank you to Daniel Goodwin & Linda Leith Publishing for sharing Sons and Fathers with us!We’ll be highlighting 11 first books over the month of October; if you love discovering new authors follow along with us here.