Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Lucky Seven Interview, with Lindsay Gibb

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Lindsay Gibb

Whether having his face swapped with John Travolta's, stealing a sexy Mustang or scream-begging "not the bees!", Nicolas Cage is one of the most talked about and debated actors alive. Neither critics nor viewers seem able to agree whether he is a genius, a hack or something in between, but he has undeniably captured the imagination of the viewing public in a way few actors could ever dream to do. So Cage makes for rich fodder for the latest instalment in ECW Press' Pop Classics series, Lindsay Gibb's National Treasure: Nicolas Cage.

We talk to Lindsay today about the inscrutable Cage and her process of becoming a devoted Cage fan through writing this book. She tells us about working in TIFF’s Film Reference Library and how a book that makes you angry can still be a great one.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book, National Treasure.

Lindsay Gibb:

My book explains why Nicolas Cage makes the choices he does and contextualizes his style of acting.

Basically I had developed somewhat of an obsession with Nicolas Cage. What started as mild admiration turned into intense devotion because the general consensus seemed to be that Nicolas Cage was a terrible actor, and everything I’d seen proved the opposite to be true. So, after TIFF ran a three-month retrospective of Cage’s work I decided to start a Nicolas Cage Film Festival Club with my friends. We were watching one of his movies every month and discussing his performances. Then when my friend Richard Rosenbaum told me he was writing a book about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for ECW Press’ new Pop Classics series I though, this might be my chance to tell the world the truth about Nicolas Cage. Luckily ECW gave me that chance.


Is there a question that is central to your book, thematically? And if so, did you know the question when you started writing or did it emerge from the writing process?


It took me a long time to start writing because I was suffering from the over-researching part of writing non-fiction, and also because I wasn’t really sure how I wanted to structure my overflowing thoughts about Nicolas Cage. I suppose the central question was a pretty broad one: What is Nicolas Cage doing? I eventually narrowed it down to deal with the main criticisms levelled against him: that he makes bad choices and is a bad actor. So I aimed to make sense of the trajectory of his career and explain why he’s choosing the films he does and what his style of acting is all about.


Did the book change significantly from when you first starting working on it to the final version? How long did the project take from start to finish?


Yes, it changed a lot in editing. Pitching took about a year and writing and re-writing took another year. I didn’t really figure out the structure of the book until the second draft. I just started out by throwing down all my thoughts about Cage and then it wasn’t until I took another stab at the text that I lost a lot of what I originally wrote — which was more of a descriptive defense of Cage’s acting choices — and gave it shape into something that put his career into context.


What do you need in order to write — in terms of space, food, rituals, writing instruments?


Food is key. When my brain is working hard I get hungry fast and often, so I always need to have snacks around or else I’ll get distracted and won’t get much done. Working in TIFF’s Film Reference Library, while great in terms of research materials, was hard because there’s no food or drinks allowed in the space. I need to eat almost constantly.

I need space to spread out so I can see all my research at once, I usually have papers everywhere (notes I’ve taken, interviews I’ve printed out, charts of the structure of the book) and I have a ton of windows open on my computer with all my notes and interviews. Organizing everything takes a little time before I can start writing each day.


What do you do if you're feeling discouraged during the writing process? Do you have a method of coping with the difficult points in your projects?


I usually talk my husband’s ear off about all my worries or any spot where I think I’ve hit a snag. While writing National Treasure: Nicolas Cage, whenever thoughts seemed to blur together I would grab him and ask him questions about what I’d previously said about a certain movie or role. I’m lucky that he has a way better memory than I do, so he’s usually able to help me out of a jam in my own memory. It also just helps to talk to someone about my thoughts to help clarify them to myself. I was really lucky to have a partner who is also interested in Cage, and to have a whole film club to talk to, as well.


What defines a great book, in your opinion? Tell us about one or two books you consider to be truly great books.


Chuck Klosterman’s collection IV is probably my most re-read book. Not because I agree with his pop culture analysis all of the time (in fact, when I read Sex, Drugs and Cocoa-Puffs I found that half of the book made me angry), but because of the clarity of his writing. When I was writing for a trade magazine and finding the material really dry and uninspiring, reading that book somehow made me look at the material differently and helped me give life to stories about the corporate structure of television companies. So I read it again as I was writing this book, too.

I guess a great book for me is a book that you can read over again and get new information from it, but that is clear enough that you didn’t have to read it multiple times just for it to make sense.

I think that’s also why I love And Also Sharks by Jessica Westhead. I read mostly non-fiction, but I tore through her short story collection because it was so conversational and compellingly descriptive.

I’m very literal so if a book is too abstract I’ll just lose interest and start reading articles somewhere else.


What are you working on now?


I have another book idea but it’s in such an early stage that I don’t want to talk about it yet. It’s another pop culturey non-fiction book, this time about a musician. Film, music, zines… That’s pretty much all I write about.

Lindsay Gibb is a librarian and journalist with a specific interest in zines, film and comics. She co-programs the Toronto Comic Arts Festival’s Librarian and Educator Day and her writing has appeared in Shameless, This Magazine and Playback. She was the editor of Broken Pencil magazine and co-founded Spacing magazine. Lindsay lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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