Randy Boyagoda

How did you become a writer?

In grade two, I wrote an acrostic poem for a girl in my class. My teacher confiscated the poem before I could deliver it and had a strong reaction. That’s when I realized I could move people with words.  

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

My writing influences are a combination of faith, fiction, and family life. These include, in other words, the Catholic intellectual tradition, a 2000-year global and cosmopolitan effort to make sense of human experience in the fullest possible ways, the work of writers like William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and (very much these days), Dante, and growing up the suburban son of Sri Lankan immigrants to Toronto who now is married and father to four daughters. Watching and listening around my house, while reading and thinking about stories, makes for the major influence on my work. 

When and where do you write? 

Anywhere and everywhere that I can, given my family life and professional life (when I’m not writing fiction, I’m the dean of a 5000-student undergraduate college, St. Michael’s, at the University of Toronto). When I’m writing a novel, I normally get up around 4 AM to work for a couple of hours before here comes everybody. 

What are you working on now? 

A novel about the creation of a Dante theme park in an opioid-ravaged small town in Indiana. It’s called “Dante’s Indiana.” Here’s an excerpt from the work-in-progress: https://thewalrus.ca/super-dads/

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

No time for writer’s block. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Always, always read and write more, and always, always talk about writing less. 

What’s your advice to new writers?

See above answer. 

Randy Boyagoda’s most recent novel, Original Prin, was named a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and Best Book of the year by The Globe and Mail. It’s the first in a trilogy. The author of two other novels, Boyagoda is a professor of English at the University of Toronto, where he is also Principal and Vice-President of St. Michael’s College and holds the Basilian Chair in Christianity, Arts, and Letters. He lives in Toronto with his wife and four daughters.