A question for author Mathieu Poulin
How fun was it to write such a fun novel?
When I set out to write Explosions, I naively thought it would take four or five months. I’d thought up a premise that I found hilarious: Michael Bay as the main character of an action novel and the greatest intellectual since Plato. For the first few days, I sat chuckling to myself in front of my computer. I just wrote, without asking myself too many questions. But after a week or two, something changed. I started taking the project more seriously. I wanted it to be more than slapstick humour and a glut of over-the-top references. If I was going to write a novel, I wanted to do it right. After all, it might be my one and only novel… Sure, I wanted to make people laugh, but I didn’t want the whole thing to be one big joke. So I started setting out tighter constraints, trying to map out points of convergence between the real life of Michael Bay, the content of his movies and Ancient Greek philosophy. It was hard to write a single sentence without questioning its relevance or overthinking. What had started out entertaining was turning out to be less fun than I’d expected. Five months turned into five years. Five years of doubt and constant fear that the project I was obsessing over would be funny only to me. I thought of giving up more than once. And more than once, I didn’t write a word for months. Then some friends I’d talked to about the book encouraged me to do a test: to read an excerpt in front of an audience. So I did. I stood there in front of a crowd, surely as nervous as Michael at the premiere of Bad Boys, and read out a chapter at an event on pop culture. It was a turning point: the audience’s reaction was so positive that most of my doubts disappeared entirely. Before that evening I’d spent four years writing a third of the book. I wrote the rest in just six months.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in 1983, Mathieu Poulin preferred movies to books for the longest time. He teaches literature in Montreal and began writing only recently. Explosions is his first novel.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
Aleshia Jensen is a Montreal-based translator and former bookseller. Explosions is her first translation of a novel and was shortlisted for both the Governor General’s Award for Translation and the Cole Foundation Prize for Translation.