Kevin Chong’s novel The Double Life of Benson Yu has been longlisted for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Kevin Chong is the award-winning author of several books of fiction and nonfiction. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Rumpus, and more. He currently lives in Vancouver and is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.
What inspired you to write The Double Life of Benson Yu?
The pandemic, the recent death of my grandmother, and a spate of samurai movies I’d recently watched were all on my mind when I started writing my book in spring 2020. On another level, I’d already started thinking about how we view relationships from a new light as time passes and the way the imperatives of masculinity can shut men off from admitting a lot about themselves.
What do you hope readers take away from The Double Life of Benson Yu?
I want them to think about how abuse shapes the stories we tell about ourselves.
Where is your favourite place to write? What is your process?
I have an office in a desk in my house and I do most of my work there. Sometimes I write in my shared office on campus at UBC Okanagan. Occasionally, I’ll write a coffee shop but I am liable to get distracted. When I’m motivated (not too caught up with teaching work or getting a book through publication), I typically try to write about 500 words a day until I figure out the story. Then I might write 1000 words a day until I’m done.
Is there an activity you do to help inspire writing?
Walks. When I get into obsessive writing mode, I’ve noticed I also start playing an iPad version of a board game Agricola.
What’s a book you recommend others read and why?
There are a lot of books to recommend. But for writing manuals, I recently read and admired Matt Bell’s Refuse to Be Done. And in terms of fiction I think people should read, I’m always making my students read stories from Souvankham Thammavongsa’s How to Pronounce Knife.
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