Chad Pelley is a multi-award-winning writer from St. John’s, Newfoundland. His debut novel, Away from Everywhere, was a Coles bestseller, won the NLAC’s CBC Emerging Artist of the Year award, and was shortlisted for the for 2010 ReLit award, as well as the Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer of the Year award. It has been adopted by multiple university English courses, and a film adaptation is in the works. Recently he took AE’s Proust Questionnaire.
AE: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
CP: Can you imagine if we lived in a world where we willfully woke up, Monday to Friday, and went to work on another person’s dream … making that person rich off the fruits of our labour? Just because we had bills to pay? That would seem like a global-scale recipe for misery. Your time not being your own, I mean.
AE: Where would you like to live?
CP: The 1800s. I’ve always felt I was born in the wrong century. Those people were dapper, loved a good old-fashioned courtship, and had values. They were riveting conversationalists, whereas people these days: you’d swear the real world was in their cell phones. A few nights ago, I sat at a table in a pub, looking at the tops of my friends’ heads as they clicked their Facebook statuses into their phones.
AE: What is your idea of earthly happiness?
CP: I’m quite sure those who make art or even play an instrument are tuned into something more meaningful than anything else this life can grant you. I’ve not once heard an artist say, “I’m bored.” Not once.
AE: To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
CP: Idealism, mainly. I put women on pedestals, for example, and it’s hard to date someone you’ve put out of reach. Or, I expect the world to behave better, but apparently there’s no money ethical business, etc - Hence all this war and environmental degradation. I expect publishers to publish a novel because they loved it, not because they can sell it, or the writer. Aside from idealism - baked goods. They keep me 15 pounds overweight, but so be it.
AE: Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
CP: Michael Winter’s fictional alter-ego, in his earlier work, Gabriel English. I owe that man. He converted me from a semi-happy scientist into the damn happy writer I am now. His musings on the every day for a year showed me how to turn 300 blank pages into a novel – capture something, and say it like no one else has. And the book also showed me all you can learn about yourself and your world in writing fiction.
AE: Who are your favorite characters in history?
CP: Basically, anyone who’s done exactly what they wanted to do be doing with their time. So, Henry David Thoreau, to me, is a deity. And proof I’m not crazy. That quote of his, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” it’s why I have far more respect for those kids downtown with their runny noses and out-of-tune guitars, playing rock star for a day, and loving it, than I do for a rich but outrageously unhappy CEO, with three bathrooms and no time to shit in them. It’s a short life, and only the Buddhists get a refund for a life poorly spent.
AE: Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
CP: Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Smith; two writers from the 1800s. Stronger willed and better writers than the men they were with, and just exploding with life in a way most people read as despair instead of boundless passion (quashed by reality as it may have been). They were such big, bold, honest thinkers. And, what Lisa Moore can do with language in her fiction verges on super powers.
AE: Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
CP: I like that wack-job, Audrey Flowers, from Come, Thou Tortoise, for being so damn full of life and amazed by it. I wish I could find this world as miraculous as she did. That goes for the characters in Jessica’s short fiction, too. I also loved Helen from Lisa Moore’s February: a strong-willed woman with a boundless capacity to love.
AE: Your favorite painter?
CP: My ex-girlfriend, Peggy Lynn Tremblett. There’s something so unencumbered by formality in her style. It makes the ladies she paints so candid, vulnerable and evocative in the subtlest of ways, and builds and an emotional bridge between your eye and the canvas. But more-so than that: they look quite catching on a wall.
AE: Your favorite musician?
CP: Any of the five modern folk super-heroes: Joe Pug, Josh Ritter, Damien Jurado, and the Avett Brothers.
AE: The quality you most admire in a man?
CP: A lack of awkward caveman manliness.
AE: The quality you most admire in a woman?
CP: Female grace: it’s like a soft blade to the guts.
AE: Your favorite virtue?
CP: Passion. Whether it’s for a person, a cause, or a hobby: it’s the only path to happiness and meaning in this life.
AE: Your favorite occupation?
CP: Fiction doesn’t count, right? We make 2 dollars a book. That’s like calling pan-handling a profession. I once read an article about a New York City Beggar who earned more than a bestselling author in 2010. Last year, I found a happy medium, writing ad and PR campaigns at a great marketing firm. There are moments when nailing the right campaign for the right client, is as hard and satisfactory as writing a solid piece of fiction. Moments, I said. And truthfully, the right climate change awareness campaign has a better shot at saving the world than my stories of relationship pessimism. Owning a vineyard, though, minus all the hard work, would be ideal. But Newfoundland’s terrain is terrible. Zookeeper: also ideal.
AE: Who would you have liked to be?
CP: Anyone who answers this as anyone other than themselves is doing something wrong, aren’t they? And you don’t know another person’s baggage until you’re in their shoe