canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Interview: Jim Munroe

Jim Munroe is his own one-man band, publisher and popular culture theorist. He writes for eye weekly, co-runs the Cultural Gutter  and back in the mid-nineties, was the managing editor at Adbusters. He lives in Toronto with his wife and has just released his fourth novel proper, An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil. There isnít much you canít find out about him on his thorough site but weíve tried. In 1999, Harper Collins (Canada) published his first novel, Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask. Then following year, he left Harperís and started his own No Media Kings because, according to Munroe, "monopolies scare me."

In a press release you mentioned selling 1000 dollars worth of books within the first day of your latest books' release. How do you keep on top of your contact list? You must have a huge contingency?

I mentioned that in an email update, which I send out a few times a year to a mailing list of about 1800 people. They're not just people who like my books, there's also a fair amount that find how I publish interesting enough to keep tabs on. I use a server-side email list that allows people to subscribe and unsubscribe automatically, so it's not that time consuming, but I do find it somewhat stressful to email that many people at once.

How long did you work at Adbusters for?

A year as managing editor in 1995-96.

Where did you go to school?

York University.

Why did you reprint Flyboy?

People kept asking me to--when it was readers I figured they were just being nice, but when booksellers asked for it I figured that it would probably sell. One bookseller bought $1000 worth up front, and that was the tipping point.

How did you piggyback with Insomniac in terms of distribution, and do you know for example, how many of each of your books goes where, how much control do you have over this?

They're good enough to put me in their catalogue and their sales reps sell my book along with the rest of that season's books. When bookstores in a Alberta order it, it's shipped from the distribution warehouse to them. So I know how many books are left in the warehouse but not much else.

With each of your releases you have a certain pop culture or mass culture reflection, now its blogging, before it was teaching English on foreign planets, (Angry Young Spaceman) then invoicing corporations for lexical appearances within your book, (Everyone In Silico) Is a moral or pop reflection important to your work?

I'm very interested in pop culture--it's fun, and I think it's a good place to begin a discussion about social and political things. I also think that I tend to enjoy injecting it into the weighty form that is The Novel--if I worked with a pop culture form like television shows or videogames I would probably push it in the other direction, to make it more substantial or weighty.

How much does it cost to publish a novel?


Since leaving Harpers, and since publishing all your novels yourself, have you been approached by publishers?

I sent a copy of the Canadian edition of Angry Young Spaceman to Four Walls Eight Windows with a handwritten note to the effect of "you might want to publish this down there." They did, and published my subsequent novel Everyone In Silico. But with my newest one, An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil, I've expanded No Media Kings to publish it in the US as well.

Who edits your novel? Who's on your dream team?

I have a dozen people who read an early ms. and mark it up, then I sit down with them and brainstorm on how to make it better. Then I wrote a second draft, and gave it to twelve more fresh sets of eyes and asked them questions assessing if the weak areas were improved. Then I write the third draft and hand it over to a copy editor. I pay her, but the first two waves of editors I buy dinner for and give them a copy of the book when it's done. I ask people who have given me good feedback in the past, or pointed out errors, or are particularly knowledgeable about the things I'm writing about (bloggers and women, in this case).

Who are your influences? Who's work do you admire?

China Mieville and Alice Munro are both really wicked. I read a lot but I tend to be more directly inspired by performances, music, movies, videogames...

Do you think you are more relevant than other fiction writers? Where do you think other fiction writers place their focal emphasis?

I prioritize my concerns differently, I think. I'm not terribly concerned with plot. I consider the depiction of uncommon characters--characters I don't often see as protagonists in novels--as being more important than beautiful, well-wrought prose, though I've nothing against that. I like my novels to be entertaining, but not so much that the characters have no structural integrity--if I treat them like little puppets and fall guys then the spell of reality is broken.

Nathaniel G. Moore interviewed Jim Munroe in the fall of 2004.







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