#WhatsYourStory Featuring Sam Wiebe
Sam Wiebe is the author of the Vancouver crime novels Last of the Independents, Invisible Dead, and Cut You Down. Wiebe’s work has won an Arthur Ellis award and the Kobo Emerging Writers Prize, and he was the 2016 Vancouver Public Library Writer in Residence. His short fiction has appeared in ThugLit, Spinetingler, and subTerrain, among other places. Visit samwiebe.com or follow at @sam_wiebe .
Years ago, long before I wrote anything even the most generous editor would call fit to publish, I took a course on American Lit. I was already reading voraciously, and struggling through my non-literary courses, and and trying my hand at stories of my own.
Our professor introduced our unit on poetry with a video interview of Robert Frost. To this day I remember a phrase Frost used—that to write you have to start “on insufficient knowledge.”
That phrase broke down my biggest assumption about successful writers—that they knew.
To this day, writers publicly hype the amount of research they do, the forensic or procedural authorities they consulted—as if this grants their work authenticity.
I don’t know about authenticity, but it seemed to grant them confidence, something my younger self didn’t possess in abundance. Frost was the first writer I heard who hinted that he, too, had felt unprepared for what he was about to undertake.
I finished my second year of college and then quit. Held a bunch of different jobs, most terrible and low-paying. Wrote sporadically and accrued rejection slips.
In my mid-twenties I went back to college, finished my bachelors, and went on to grad school. Around that time I realized if I didn’t put the time in to write a novel, to finish what I started, then I was probably closing the door on that dream. I had to start. Even worse, then I had to finish.
Without really knowing what I was doing, I wrote a novel. I stole time between classes, on the bus, in the library carrels after others had gone home. I finished a book. It was awful, a mess. But it was a complete, finished, awful mess.
Each year I make a goal for myself, and that year my goal went from “write a book” to “write a good book.” Something I’d be proud of, something I’d be comfortable to submit.
Obviously I’m glossing over a few things, like hard work and luck, but my point is, every step was taken with insufficient knowledge—in other words, in faith.
Faith is a weird word to someone who’s not all that religious. Maybe you prefer confidence. Fine by me. Whatever you call it, with writing, ultimately you learn what to do by doing it. Books on writing, classes, critique groups, only take you so far.
When I was working on what became my debut novel, Last of the Independents, I met Ian Rankin at the Vancouver Writers Fest. After his panel I asked him for advice. His answer was, “Remember, Sam, we’ve all been where you are now.”Nothing ever removes doubt, but other writers—every writer—has felt that same doubt. Maybe there’s some comfort to be found in that.
An ex-cop who navigates by a moral compass stubbornly jammed at true north, Dave Wakeland is a talented private investigator with next to zero business sense. And even though he finds himself with a fancy new office and a corporate-minded partner, he continues to be drawn to cases that are usually impossible to solve and frequently don't pay.
When Wakeland is hired by a terminally ill woman to discover the whereabouts of her adopted child-who disappeared as an adult more than a decade earlier-it seems like just another in a string of poor career decisions. But it turns out this case is worse than usual, even by his standards. With only an anonymous and vaguely worded tip to guide him, Wakeland interviews an imprisoned serial killer who seems to know nothing about the case, but who nonetheless steers him toward Vancouver's terrifying criminal underworld.
And it all goes downhill from there.
Whatever ghosts drive Wakeland, they seem to drive him inexorably toward danger-a journey he's content to take so long as it means finding out what happened to someone the rest of the world seems happy enough to forget. With nothing to protect him but his wit and his empathy for the downtrodden and disenfranchised, Wakeland is on the case.
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Where to Buy Invisible Dead
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I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.