The Author Spotlight Series shines a light on writers creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their books and why they do what they do.
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“Andrew Wilmot (BFA, MPub) is a writer, editor, and painter based out of Toronto, Ontario. They have won awards for fiction, short fiction, and screenwriting, and have twice been nominated for the Ignyte Community Award for their work on Anathema: Spec from the Margins. Their credits include myriad online and in-print publications and anthologies. Andrew is also on the editorial advisory board for Poplar Press, the speculative fiction imprint of Wolsak & Wynn. The Death Scene Artist, their debut novel, was released under Wolsak & Wynn’s Buckrider Books imprint in 2018. Their second novel, Withered, will be published by ECW Press in spring 2024. They are represented by Kelvin Kong of K2 Literary (k2literary.com). Find them online at andrewwilmot.ca.”
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
From an early age, certainly. I taught myself to read around age three, via comics and Richard Scary books. But it wasn’t until grade five that I really fell in love with an author—Christopher Pike, actually—who made me think “oh, hey, this would be fun to try.” After that, it was an eighth-grade humanities novel-writing project that really provided me with the urge to write. I’d love to say that from then on writing was front of mind, but in truth, while I loved and wanted to pursue writing, it was third in line after visual art and conservatory piano. However, partway through my BFA (during which I focused on oil painting), I took some screenwriting courses, purely for fun, and that’s when writing charged to the head of the pack. Since then, it’s dominated my life. So, while I knew from an early age that this was something I adored, my path to being a writer was a bit more circuitous, with pitstops in other artistic practices along the way.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
Yes! A murder mystery “novel” (it was maybe 20 pages long at best) in seventh grade. Thankfully (?) it is forever lost to time. I do still have that project from eighth grade, however—we were instructed to write a work of period fiction taking place between 500 and 1500 AD. So, naturally, being the positive and uplifting person that I am, I wrote about the Black Death.
How did you develop your skills?
By probably the most predictable of ways: endless hours of practice, failure, and more practice. Outside of a creative writing class in twelfth grade and those two screenwriting courses taken during undergrad, I haven’t had much in the way of formal training. I’m simply someone with myriad narrative-based obsessions (books, comics, film, TV, certain video games) and an overwhelming desire to push myself toward a very specific goal.
Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?
I would say I have favourite books, not necessarily favourite authors (though there are some—Amelie Nothomb, NK Jemisin, Charles Yu, Emily St. John Mandel—whose work I will always gravitate toward, no matter what they are writing). For favourite books, in no particular order: Daytripper (graphic novel), by Moon and Ba; Hygiene and the Assassin, by Amelie Nothomb; Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel; The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes; How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu; Sub Rosa, by Amber Dawn; The Book of Dahlia, by Elisa Albert; A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan; Monoceros, by Suzette Mayr; The City and the City/The Last Days of New Paris, by China Mieville; and the Inheritance Trilogy, by NK Jemisin. And because I have to toss out at least one or two “classics,” The Count of Monte Cristo, by Dumas, and The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky.
How would you describe your work?
Sometimes surreal, dialogue heavy, character-centric horror. A lot of my work deals explicitly with mental health/eating disorders and queer identity filtered through a literary horror/SF lens.
What’s your writing process like?
But to go into greater detail, I’m a bit of a planner in that I will map out not plot but character and thematic milestones that I want and need to hit. I usually spend a few months figuring out the “why” of a project, and in doing so find my lead character. I don’t go in with an outline so much as a point-form list of ideas and notions and points of interest that I want to touch on, that have been collected and loosely pieced together by research into whatever I am obsessing over at the moment. And once I have my opening sentence, at that point it’s like someone’s fired a starter pistol in my brain. I write fast and obsessively, and by hand with first drafts. Usually, I make it to the end of a first draft anywhere from one to six months after starting. I don’t rush intentionally, but once I find my “in” with a story, it just waterfalls out and I try not to stop. If I run into any issues or points in a story where I know more work is needed, I slap a post-it note on the page and continue on. It helps me get to the end of more projects—back when I typed my first drafts, I would often get stuck in a cycle of wanting to re-read and edit whatever I’d completed the day before, making little forward progress. Writing by hand keeps me from doing that.
Tell us about your most recent book.
Well, I guess technically my most recent book is one that isn’t out yet (but will be in Spring 2024, via ECW Press): a YA/crossover novel titled Withered. It follows a young non-binary individual named Ellis as they move to a new and very small town, and into an old and very haunted house. But like many other projects I’ve worked on, both long and short, the focus here is on drawing a parallel between, in this case, a haunted house and a person overcoming their anorexia. My first book, The Death Scene Artist (Wolsak & Wynn 2018), is an epistolary horror film-centric trans narrative about an incredibly doomed love affair between a mysterious blogger and the man they’d fallen in love with, the titular death scene artist who has built an entire career solely out of dying or appearing dead across hundreds of one-off film and television roles.
What are you working on now/next?
I am currently working on the second draft of something written earlier this year, an art-heavy, anti-capitalist, anti-status quo literary spec novel tentatively titled Every Little Death. I don’t want to share too much on that right now, though if anyone is curious as to its makeup, the book is heavily inspired by two short stories of mine: “Born Again,” published in March of this year via Fusion Fragment magazine, and “Volcanic,” forthcoming later this year via Augur magazine. Together, those two shorts form the backbone of Every Little Death.