canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR INTERVIEW: Jerry Amernic

Jerry Amernic is a Toronto writer. He published his first novel, Gift of the Bambino (Boheme Press, 2002) in the spring. The novel had spent 11 years bouncing between agents and editors.

Michael Bryson interviewed Amernic by email in August 2002.

TDR: Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your background? How do you make a living? 

AMERNIC: I'm a journalist and public relations consultant. I've been a newspaper reporter and columnist, and magazine writer, and I've had three books published before this, all non-fiction. But, as for income, I generally make my living doing corporate PR. I've also done some teaching in the public relations and corporate communications programs at two Toronto colleges. 

TDR: You recently published your first novel. It has an interesting pre-publication history, which I think people would be curious to hear. What happened to the book before it finally landed in stores? 

AMERNIC: My novel GIFT OF THE BAMBINO sure did have a pre-publication history - about 11 years of getting nowhere. The manuscript was seen by agents and publishers on both sides of the border and I have a very nice collection of letters, many of them saying how wonderful the book was, but no cigar thank you. And then I decided it was time to try some small literary presses for a change and a fellow named Michael Bryson suggested Boheme. They bought and did a very nice job with things. 

TDR: Your book integrates local Toronto history with one of the biggest baseball icons of the 20th century (Babe Ruth). Were you intimidated at all by the subject matter? Any problems balancing the fictional and the historical? 

AMERNIC: If a writer feels 'intimidated' by the subject matter, I suggest doing something else for a living. You should embrace the subject matter with enthusiasm. I have always been a student of history and now that I'm getting increasingly into fiction I find that I very much enjoy taking a historical character and events, and putting them into a novel. It does require a lot of research, however, but I like doing this sort of thing. 

TDR: What kinds of writers do you turn to for inspiration? 

AMERNIC: I guess the writer who most influenced me was James Michener. I just love his epic tales that weave people around history and archaeology, but even a great writer like Michener penned a few clunkers along the way, which is reassuring for the rest of us. I like stories that deal with history because I am in awe of things old. Any work of fiction that looks seriously at history is probably a candidate for my bookshelf. 

TDR: What's one question you've always been dying to answer (and the answer)? 

AMERNIC: Why do I write? I write because I am absolutely obsessed with it. It's like an addiction to a drug. The more you do it, the more you have to do it. The downside is that it takes a lot of time -- much more than people know. To write for years without any reward or recognition, as I and countless other writers have done, requires large doses of insanity and perseverance. But there was always this feeling that some day I would make a go of it. 

TDR: What are you working on now? What can readers expect from Jerry Amernic in the future? 

AMERNIC: I now have an agent who feels he can sell GIFT OF THE BAMBINO in the States and he has already read my next novel, QUMRAN, which has a Middle East flavour, and he likes it. Since last summer I've been working on another one that was inspired by a newspaper article I did for The National Post. It's about the legacy of the Iroquois and how the First Nations people have been vilified by North American society. I honestly feel that every novel I've written (this one is my fifth) is better than the last. You learn as you go. But it's awfully nice to have a work of fiction in the stores and have someone else call me a novelist. That really is the highest honour you can get!

Michael Bryson is the editor/publisher of The Danforth Review.







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