About Carl Hare:
My life has followed many routes from the beginning. I won the Rutherford Gold Medal when I graduated with an English Honours Degree, and later I finished an MA in English with a thesis dealing with Shakespeare, both degrees at the University of Alberta (I was born and brought up in Edmonton). But in between the two degrees, for a year I taught English and Philosophy at Victoria College (before it became the University of Victoria), went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in England and acted professionally there. I returned to Canada to finish the MA before the time limit, taught theatre for a year at the University of Saskatchewan, then acted professionally in BC before being lured back to the new University of Victoria to start work toward a Department of Drama.
After there was a new chairman, on my leave I went to England to the Laban Art of Movement and to Paris to train with Jacque Le Coq, and when I returned, I created Company One Theatre, which toured for three years. As a result of the reputation of the company, I was invited to teach at the National Theatre School, which I did for three years before returning to Victoria. In the 80’s I became the Chair of the Department of Drama at the University of Alberta, where I continued as a faculty member and as a professional actor and director until my retirement in 1997, when my wife and I moved to Kelowna, where I also acted, and in Edmonton and Kamloops.
What has all this to do with me as an author? Well, while at U of A I wrote a play about Henrik Ibsen and Suzannah, his wife, The Eagle and the Tiger. Now, it’s necessary to know that before he was forty, Ibsen wrote much in poetry, including both plays and letters. And so, I wrote the play in verse. Of course, before I could do that, I had to learn to write poetry in all its forms, and I wrote many poems for weddings, funerals, birthdays, and so forth, until I was ready to write the play. And from then on, I have become a poet.
What inspires you to write?
It sometimes depends on the moment, as with poems for occasions. Here are two others:
o When I drove my children to playschool or kindergarten, I used to make up little poems, which I sang to them, usually about animals, and I did the same with my grandchildren as well. I compiled a number of them, and when Malcolm Forsyth had me come to act as a narrator for his cantata Evangeline, I gave him a gift of these and other poems. Much to my surprise, he set six of the poems for children to music.
o When my actor son and I did a Fringe tour of a one-man show based on Kings, Christopher Logue’s adaptation of the first two books of The Iliad, I had run out of reading material when we got to Winnipeg. I went to an old bookstore near the Fringe and discovered The Poetical Works of Spenser, and a forty-year tinge of guilt afflicted me because in English Honours, I had read only bits of his epic poem, The Fairie Queene. And so, I bought the book and read the epic. But I also read his biography and discovered to my horror that one of the greatest English poets, while he was writing this allegory about the virtues, simultaneously was writing a treatise that, in effect, advocated the genocide of the Irish. It was this paradox, which I read in 1993, that has led me to write a three-book epic trilogy, On the River of Time, covering three thousand years. The first two, Odysseus and Spenser, have been published; the third, Archer, is in its final draft. An inspiration can last twenty-seven years.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Keats, Seamus Heaney, Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw.
Why George Bernard Shaw? Because when I was about to write my provincial exams in Grade 12, I chanced to read one of his plays. The glory of his language washed over me, overwhelmed me—and within two weeks, day and night, I had read all fifty-six of his plays and his prefaces. I don’t know how I passed my examinations, but I did discover how glorious language could be. And there is a saying in the theatre: If you can play Shakespeare and Shaw, you can play anything in the repertory.
Tell us about your writing process.
It all depends on the length of the work. For example, the epic involved an immense amount of research and organization, given the travels and the time factors in all three books, and the fact that ultimately, they all should connect. I have six very large binders and presently, nine notebooks filled with materials and notes. My outlines, which changed at least four times during the research and early writing, are all in the notebooks.
On the other hand, I may start to make an outline for a Petrarchan sonnet but write it before completing that outline, for it is in my head.
Only occasionally do I write sketches of characters, although I do write notes about major figures as reminders. You need to remember that I am also an actor and a director, and characters do not lie outside, but in us. Any scene or activity I not only see as the character but feel. The character must be deeply understood by me; then, scenes write themselves.
At the same time, I am not writing in prose. For Spenser, I used a modern adaptation of his own “Spenserian,” stanza, so that action and speech had to flow smoothly through the intricacies of the verse. In a sense, it is much like what an actor does, who not only is responding and speaking but also knowing where to stand, what tempo is necessary, what projection is needed, and at what emotional level the character is at—all simultaneously.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I let the character talk, but I sense myself as the character talking as I write. I am fully in the scene, seeing it with the eyes of the character, or sometimes as a camera watching the action. This can get brutal when involved with a battle.
What advice would you give other writers?
Learn your craft: learn how language is constructed, what its structures and sounds, and rhythms are in their profundity. Whatever the genre which you use, what is different about it from other genres? What can it be used for? Watch people and how they act; listen to how they talk; examine how they relate; what are their “characters”? What instigates a need to write something? Why do you decide to write a novel, a short story, a poem, a play? What meaning do you find that underlies what you are writing? Watch, listen, ponder, until you must write what you need to write, endure.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Essentially, by chance. My book of poems, A Weathering of Years, was one I had not even thought of. For the retirement of the Dean of Arts at the University of Alberta, I read an epyllion (a tiny epic) in comic praise of her. Afterward, a poet I knew, who now is involved with a publishing company, asked me if I would submit a manuscript. I had never thought of one, but I collected the poems, had it edited, and submitted it. It was rejected. However, my editor knew a publisher in Toronto; we met him, and he was interested in it as a self-published book, and it was done. It was also an accident for the epic trilogy. My editor had met another publisher who became interested and has published the first two books of the trilogy (the third is still being edited).
My adventures indicate how haphazard it is for new authors to find a publisher. All I can suggest is that you join a group that deals with the genre you write—I belong to the League of Canadian Poets. Also, be diligent—check out the publishers in your genre and make what contacts you can. Publishing has a very fragile and arduous path.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
This is a strange time for publishers. With the pandemic bookstores have been closed for several months; some publishers are near bankruptcy; the major publishers are attentive to the possibilities of a best seller and put their strongest interests there. And yet, bookstores still do business. In BC, some bookstores in the interior have an active mail-order business=one northern one has been selling over a thousand books a month, with loyal readers; and there are still active book clubs. As well, eBooks appeal to another public, and the audiobook has become increasingly popular. The problem is how to break into these markets. But, despite prophecies of doom, people continue to read in one way or another.
What genres do you write?: Poetry, including epic poetry, plays
What formats are your books in?: eBook, Print, Both eBook and Print, Audiobook
Carl Hare Home Page Link
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.