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One Book, One Community author Linwood Barclay talks books and writing at EDSS

Linwood Barclay was at EDSS Sept. 26 discussing Broken Promise, the One Book, One Community choicse for 2018. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

The book is dead. Long live the book.

The wave of electronic book popularity may have peaked, with the good, old-fashioned printed version making a bit of a comeback, says bestselling author Linwood Barclay.

“In terms of sales, ebooks I think have peaked,” Barclay told an audience at Elmira District Secondary School last week. “And this is sort of anecdotally what I hear in the industry. Is that when it began, ebooks were like ‘wow!’ People got whatever device they had, their iPad or their Kobo, and they downloaded 30 books into it, 28 of which they still have not got to. So ebook sales were kind of huge for a while, then they peaked, and then leveled off. And print sales have started to come back.”

His discussion about digital books was part of a presentation that touched on his writing career, including his time as a journalist – initially at the Peterborough Examiner, before working at a variety of jobs at the Toronto Star, including chief copy editor, news editor, and humour columnist.

“I went in for an interview for a reporting job at the Star, and they said ‘we don’t need any reporters – what we need are editors. We’re really short of copy editors, do you have any editing experience?’ And I said ‘yeah, sure,’ which was a complete lie,” said Barclay with a laugh. “It turned out, I was really good at it. I could edit stories quickly, I could check facts, I could write punchy headlines, all this stuff, and I could do it quickly.”

Barclay’s passion for writing didn’t stop there, having penned over 20 novels since 2004. His breakthrough came in 2007 when he published No Time for Goodbye, which was met with international success.

“The best part of being a writer is you get to do what you love to do. A lot of us – and I’ve been there – are stuck in jobs, that are just a job,” said Barclay. “But writing is what I always wanted to do – it’s what I love doing, and I get paid to do it.

“The other best thing is when you finish a book, and it’s done – it’s like all of these cinder blocks just come off your shoulder. Like wow, I’ve got through that one. But I think it’s a privilege being able to do what you love – whether you’re an actress, or a dancer, or a musician – if you get to do what you love… that’s the greatest thing.”

While most of his award-winning novels are thrillers, Barclay expressed his fondness for comedic writing and satire, which shone through in his presentation.

“The perils of writing satire when things that you have written to mock are overtaken by actual events,” said Barclay. “When the real thing that happens is more outrageous than what you wrote to make fun of it. And that’s the era we’re in now.”

Barclay’s Broken Promise was selected as the region’s One Book, One Community read for 2018. The organization that promotes Canadian writers and aims to build a sense of community through the shared experience of reading.

“We have hosted the One Book, One Community event here at the school about every other year for the last few years,” said Jennifer O’Connor, a teacher at EDSS. “And the folks from One Book, One Community contacted us and asked if we would be interested again, and we said ‘Absolutely!’”

O’Connor expressed her plan to continue the tradition of One Book, One Community for students in the future.

“We talked to the students today, and they said that they enjoyed it,” said O’Connor. “They thought it was really informative and encouraged me to continue the tradition.”

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