Monday, 5 September 2011

Author Visit: Andrew Kaufman

Everyone [no matter where you are in the world] who replies to this topic by September 30th will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of Andrew's fantastic book: 'The Tiny Wife.'

ANDREW KAUFMAN's critically acclaimed first book, All My Friends Are Superheroes, was a cult hit and has been translated into eight languages. Kaufman is also an accomplished screenwriter and has completed a Director's Residency at the Canadian Film Centre. He lives in Toronto with his wife and their two children.


Andrew! Howdy! Grab a seat. Get a drink. Eat some biscuits, but don't talk with your mouth full. Very important. So. How are you celebrating the release of The Tiny Wife?

I’m over here in Toronto, so the festivities involve mainly a lot of Googling, Twittering and some perhaps obsessive checking of my Amazon numbers. I asked Scott [The Friday Project] to sent me pictures of the book in stores, and he sent the word out and now I’ve got tonnes of pictures sent by bookstore staff. Which is pretty awesome. I love people who work in bookstores [Jen: Shucks, thanks!]. They’ve basically made it possible for me to keep publishing…

Tell us about the book [and also about how pretty it is, because it is very pretty]. I mean, I've read it, and I love it – but sell it to the people who have yet to discover how wonderful it is. [Also, I should tell you that I read this book on the train from London to Edinburgh, and I was wearing a dress that was the exact same shade of red. By accident. I'd colour-coded my outfit with a book BY ACCIDENT. Amazing. Anyway, yes. Sorry. Back to you]. Tell us about The Tiny Wife.

A thief robs a bank in the West end of Toronto, but instead of taking money he demands - and receives - the item of most emotional significance from everyone. Claiming he’s taking 51% of their souls with him, and it’s up to them to grow them back, the thief then exits. Everyone in the bank then begins to experience something unusual. One woman’s husband is a snowman when she wakes up. Another discovers that she’s made of candy. Our hero discovers that she has begun to shrink and she has to find out how to, and if, she can stop it before she shrinks away to nothing.

How long had you been working on it?

Well, some of the stories are really, really old. There’s one I remember writing shortly after Kurt Cobain died. But the manuscript came together in a little over a year. Which is very, very quick for me. (As a side-note, though, I wrote of big chunk, in fact most of the first chapter, i.e. the idea that really frames the whole work, on the train from London to Edinburgh. That was accidental too – just like your dress!) [Jen: Clearly we're both fantastic.]

What's your story of 'from writing your first manuscript to publication'?

Big picture? My first book was called ‘All My Friends Are Superheroes.’ When I started writing it I was struggling to be a film director, when I realised that I was never going to make any money making indie cinema. So, I said to myself, I might as well not make any money doing what I really want to do, which is writing.

I remember the exact moment when this happened. I was walking across the living room. It was snowing. I started AMFAS the next day. For this book, I met Scott Pack when I did the Book Swap a little over a year ago. We really got along, so he was the first person I thought of when I got the manuscript for the Tiny Wife done!

Did you buy anything exciting/poignant with your first writer's pay cheque?

I bought the suit I got married in. Not the shoes, or the shirt, or the tie or he belt. Just the jacket and the pants. It was not a very big cheque.

Which of your books did you find the most difficult to write?

The Waterproof Bible. It was not a pleasant experience. Lots of self-doubt. For the record, let me say that The Waterproof Bible is by far the best book I’ve ever written. Maybe ever will write. But man, was it a hard birth.

[Re: 'All my Friends Are Superheroes'] What would your super power be?

When I’m on – Inthemoment. When I’m not, Mr. Narrator.

If the thief from The Tiny Wife came up to you right now and said he wanted your most prized possession, so that he would end up owning 51% of your soul, what would you have to give to him?

When my son was born my wife gave me a Yard-o-led mechanical pencil, and when my daughter was born she gave me the matching pen. I carry both of them with me at all times in a green leather pouch. I would have had to have given that over. As for what that would have done to me – I don’t know. Without the love of my wife or the presence of my children I think I’d just start getting thinner and thinner until there was nothing left of me…

I met Neil Gaiman last week, and he was saying he's a massive fanboy of Ray Bradbury. I love how writers are still fanboys to those they consider 'higher' writers. Who do you fanboy over?

Richard Brautigan. I really love him. In Watermelon Sugar, The Abortion these are books that I know I shouldn’t love so much, that my tastes should be better and more sophisticated, but man, I really love them. For the record, and in a desperate attempt to make you think that I’m still cool, I’m also a bit of Salinger fanatic.

What are you up to when you're not writing?

You know, the usual. Bowling, driving around…

Talk to us about writing for film. What have you been working on with regard to that?

Right now it’s a TV show called ‘Curious and Unusual Deaths!” where, each week you get three of the most bizarre ways that someone has died and the science that explains it. It’s a pretty fun gig. For movies, I’m working with Topsail Productions on the script for the movie version of AMFAS [Jen: Eeek!]. I’m anxious to start working on a movie-script based on ‘The Tiny Wife.” I think it could be just beautiful.

On my book forum we have The Book Tree where members choose their favourite book and post it round to each other in a circle, writing comments in each others' books as they go. If you were to choose a book for the Book Tree, which one would you pick, and why?
 Lightboxes by Shane Jones. It’s a beautiful story and one of those ‘those who like it like it a lot’ books. I’d be fun to read the comments of those who just don’t get it right beside the ones where readers are being blown away!

And, finally: what are you working on at the moment?

I’m surprisingly close to completing a ‘Three Generations of Family Saga’ story. In this one, a grandmother gave each of her grandchildren a special ability at the moment of their birth, which have had the unforeseen consequence of completely ruining their lives. Right now it’s called ‘The End of the World and Everything That Came Next.” It could also be called ‘Shark Bites’ or “The Waterfields” or ‘Your Impossible Standards.’ At this point, I’m open to suggestions…

[Jen: I love the first title very very much]

You can buy The Tiny Wife from your local bookshop, or from Amazon.

Andrew Kaufman's website / Follow Andrew on Twitter.


  1. Who else besides me saw the title of this post, and just for a second, though that Andy Kaufman had risen from the dead?

  2. Am I really the first to comment?
    Great interview, Jen and Andrew - hope I stay in front when it comes to the book draw.
    Best to you both

  3. A Canadian, yayy!

    So how this book escaped my radar, I don't know. As a bookseller, I'm embarrassed. But as a bookseller, I also did just sell AMFAS a couple of weeks ago... Thanks for bringing The Tiny Wife to my attention. What I love about Kaufman is the magic realism, and this one doesn't sound short on it! Looking forward to it.

  4. I have to say Jen, this is the first interview on your blog that I've read and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. As a girl who aspires to be a journalist/writer when she's older I find it fascinating to read about other writers and the way they go about writing their books. It's interesting that Andrew just seems to know in himself that The Waterproof Bible is the best book he's ever written, even though he says it was a very hard slog. And what a lovely complement for him to say how much he loves booksellers like yourself! Hope you're well xx

  5. I've read about this book on a couple of sites and I really really want to read it. It's an added bonus that Andrew Kaufman sounds like he kind of man I'd enjoy a cuppa with :-)

  6. Lovely interview - Andrew, I can't wait for "Curious and Unusual Deaths!" Just up my street! Please enter me in the draw for The Tiny Wife, it sounds magical.

  7. A really wonderful interview, thanks Jen!

    Don't put me in for the draw though, I have dozens of copies piled up in my office.

  8. Great interview. Sounds like a good book to read.

  9. He seems like a lovely person. The premise of the books is very interesting!

  10. 51% of my soul for a copy of this book! What an intriguing concept and a terrific interview.
    I work in an historic lodge near the Rogue River in Oregon and many writers stay with us. I often tell them about your blog (and cadge copies of their books)as an example of good blogs on books, authors, and writing in general.
    Keep it up!

  11. I liked reading what he was reading (the titles, that is).

  12. I must have this book.

    (but postage would be to Australia, so not sure if that's an issue for the competition...)

  13. Sanna - postage to anywhere in the world! x

  14. Sounds like a great book - thanks for bringing it to my attention! Paul

  15. This book sounds amazing! I can't wait to read it. Love the interview too!

  16. Great interview, love the blog!

    I'll definitely be getting this book when it comes out!

  17. Sounds like a fantastic book! The Tiny Wife reminds me a bit of Samarago, but mostly of a Dutch book by Jan Terlouw, "Koning van Katoren", one of my favourite books as a child and in fact one that I still reread from time to time. In one of the towns Stach visits, a wizard comes knocking on doors for alms. Every night a different door, and the town lives in fear, because the 'alms' must be something dear to the owner.

    Thanks for the tip!

  18. I have read Andrew Kaufman's two other books and loved those! Please could you enter me into the draw?

    Thank you :)

  19. I'd somehow never heard of Andrew Kaufman, but I love the sound of his books! I've added them to my ever-growing 'to read' list. Thanks for the introduction!

  20. The story must get pretty close to the bone for the wife to become tiny, I imagine her like a little Chinese woman with bound feet but much tinier.

    Check this poor little lady out she only got to 23 inches!

    Thanks for introducing me to Kaufman and thanks as well for all the book recommendations. Please enter me for the draw!

  21. I adore All My Friends Are Superheroes and I have heard The Tiny Wife is equally amazing, can't wait to read it!

  22. Please enter me in the draw - I loved All My Friends are Super Heroes

  23. Great interview (both of you).
    Wonderful insights into the process of writing - thanks to Jen for drawing them out and to Andrew for offering them.
    Have added Andrew Kaufman's name to my 'must read' list. Please put my name in the draw - it may expedite that action.

  24. Maybe the thief got to me too ... some days I feel invisible whilst others I'm far too noticeable. Ah, that's just life you say? Hhmmmph

  25. Another author to look up, thanks Jen!