An Interview with local author, Darrin McCloskey

Interviewed By Aryan Etesami

Photographed by Noriko Nasu-Tidball


Born and raised in Prince Edward Island, Darrin McCloskeyis a successful local author with a mind full of imagination and creativity. Darrin obtained his Bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Prince Edward Island in 1992, after which he decided to go on an adventurous odyssey to Europe. Following his passion for books and writing, Darrin spent a year working at the Dillon’s, The  Bookstore in Cambridge, England, and decided to travel around Europe. After returning to Prince Edward Island and being struck by the reality of the industrialized twenty-first century life, he found employment at a local gas station and later made the choice to move to beautiful British Columbia in 1995.

Having arrived in BC, Darrin started a job as a dishwasher in Harrison Hot Springs and has taken on nearly a dozen of different jobs until 2001, when he started teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). Besides writing, he has been an ESL teacher, and has travelled to many different places around the world to teach English. Currently, Darrin runs his own publishing press named, ‘Black Ice Press’ and has already published two books:“Li’l Story: the true story of the rise and fall of the Great Canadian Novel” and “Garden of da Gulf”. Some random fact about Darrin: He is the youngest of six children (four sisters and one brother) and has run a half-marathon in 1:16:51!  Here is an interview I recently did with Darrin where he shared  some very interesting information about himself and his work:

–       You have been in Vancouver since 1995, so would you now consider yourself a Vancouverite?

A: I’ve been here since ’95, leaving my job as a gas jockey to find another out here as a dishwasher, but no, I don’t think I am a Vancouverite. I moved from Prince Edward Island, but I’m not an Islander either. Sort of, well, let’s just leave where I am from as a blank. Maybe if I ever get to where I am going I will know where I am from.

–        When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what inspired you?

A: It really began by writing lyrics for imaginary heavy metal songs. I had a bit of a tough time in high school, so it was an exercise that kept me sane. Wow, I just remembered; one of the songs I wrote was called The Metalloids Prayer. I mean, what’s a metalloid?  Anyhow, not much has change in the reason I write; I still write to keep sane. My style has changed. I hope.

–        Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

A: Usually I take a line from a notebook, or a paragraph and expand it. I never sit down and say ‘Okay, I am going to write about this or that.” For me, it’s more like trying to find something in my notebooks and then make something out of it. A lot of the time I’m just trying to find that diamond in the rough.


–        What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A: I’ve recorded some music under a pseudonym – Steve Heron. That was another exercise to save my sanity. (God, I seem to do a lot to maintain my sanity!) A few years back I couldn’t write anything. I was living in a rented room on Robson Street, sleeping in a bed that I bought from the previous tenant, only to discover years later that the annoying rash I had during that time came from the fact the mattress was infested with bed bugs. Anyhow, that’s a different topic. I had a guitar and wrote a song. I liked it, wrote some more, and recorded them. I did this for a few years, paying for it as I went along. But Steve Heron is dead now. Maybe.

–        How many books have you written? Which one would you call your favorite? 

A: I’ve written two novellas: Li’l Story and Garden of da Gulf. I’d have to say Garden of da Gulf is, well my favourite? I’m not sure if that’s the correct word. It’s the one I put the most into.  It’s a novella; thematically I drew from Margaret Atwood’s Survival and structurally I drew from John Metcalf’s An Aesthetic Underground. He spoke highly of the form of the novella. It took a long time to take shape. And I hired a local artist Carl Baird to do some illustrations and local book designer Markus Fahrner to do the layout. I really wanted it to have a special look and feel, and well, I think I achieved that. I mean, yeah, it’s something I put a lot into. I sent it to McClelland and Stewart. They said they liked it, but didn’t think they could make any money from it. Hopefully I will prove them wrong.

–        Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

A: Punctuation. Read as much as you can about punctuation. I know it sounds silly and painfully frivolous, but as your writing career expands you will eventually notice the people who take their craft seriously. They understand punctuation and its purpose. I still cringe when I look back at a story I published a few years ago, and can see how little I knew of punctuation.  I mean, if writing is my craft, I should at least know how to punctuate. Playing guitar is the same. You have to learn the basics and that involves repeating scales and lots of boring repetition, but in the end, your peers will admire you. And  punctuation is something you can learn.

–        Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of reactions have you gotten? 

A: Readers? What’s that? Actually, I don’t hear much, which I why I go back to revering Maud Lewis and artists like her. I’ll continue to write in spite of the obscurity. But I’ve heard a few responses regarding Garden of da Gulf. All have been favourable.  Actually, one response I really liked came from a girl who once lived in Riverview, New Brunswick. She said something like, “I loved Tommy (the character) but I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry.”  And that, to me pretty much sums up what growing up back there was like; one isn’t sure if one should laugh or cry. Many laugh though. And that is a good thing. I think laughing at one’s self, at where you come from, is healthy.


–        Do you have a specific writing style?

A: I only write in the morning. And most of my writing involves a lot of editing.

–        How did you come up with the title, Li’l Story: the true story of the rise and fall of the Great Canadian Novel?

A: In Li’l Story I’m really just making fun of myself and writers like me. Many of us think we have the Great Canadian Novel within us and if we could just get it together, the world would surely take notice.

–        Is there a message in “Lil’ Story” that you want readers to grasp?

A: Don’t take yourself too seriously. And laugh at your failures.  ‘The greatest failure is the inability to laugh at your failures.” I don’t know if anyone famous ever said that, but if they haven’t and I become successful and famous, I’d like to be known for that quote.

–        What was your underlying motivation to write “Garden of da Gulf”?

A: I sometimes joke that I wrote the book after reading a quote from John Metcalf who said, ‘Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are drunken and violent societies.’ After reading that, I thought, ‘Hey, what about PEI?’ – Jokingly of course. But yes, there is an underbelly that exists on PEI. It’s not all lush, rolling green hills and quaint little seaside towns. People can get trapped in some very self-destructive ways there.

–        What books have influenced your life most? What book are you reading now?

A: You know it’s strange. The one that was most poignant for me was Goethe’s, The Sorrows of Young Werther, which I read back in university. I don’t know why; I think I was going through some crazy stuff back then, but it really struck a chord with me. And Plato’s Symposium. That’s my favourite. But I don’t think either has had any influence on my writing style at all. Right now I am reading a lot of non-fiction. I’m presently reading a book about Thomas Merton and contemplative prayer. Every summer St. Mark’s College out at UBC has a big book sale so I went and bought a box of books on prayer and prayer life: Jean Vanier, Ron Rolheiser, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen. I recently just finished Dorothy Day’s autobiography called The Long Loneliness. I have a feeling that in years to come I will be writing about something much different than I am now.


–        Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

A: Gosh, in the form I am writing now, I’d have to say David Adams Richards has influenced me. Mercy among the Children blew me away the first time I read it. The people and the climate. I could really relate to it. Tommy, from Garden of da Gulf comes from that climate.

–        What are your current projects?

Paying for my latest project is my current project. Actually, I have a collection of short stories and another novella pretty much ready to go.

–        Anything else you want to share with our readers?

A: I don’t really consider myself an author, per se. A writer? Sure, yes, I guess that is what I do. And it began with writing lyrics for imaginary heavy metal songs back in high school. My writing style has change a lot since then.

I think my proudest publication is a poem I published last year with the Jesuit magazine, America. It’s called ‘The Lonely Place Apart’, and in it I talk about Maud Lewis, the famous folk artist from Nova Scotia. It’s really about just about being set apart from other artists, being unknown and being creative in spite of the obscurity. I think a lot of people, especially Canadians, are afraid of obscurity. Artists, poets and writers should welcome obscurity, and if they are true artists they will thrive regardless of being unknown – like Van Gogh. Being a self-publisher, and an unknown I respect people like Maud Lewis.  I mean, if you want to be an artist you should welcome obscurity. Putting a Canadian stamp on every creative thing we do limits us. I once wrote this very very short story about my travels. I am in Rome attempting to get back into my hostel and the proprietor screams at me from the window that I am too late, that I broke curfew, then yells some profanities about me being Canadian. And I yell back, “I’m not Canadian! I’m an Islander!” There’s meant to be a lot of irony in that statement.


–        Finally, where can we purchase your books?

A: I’m an independent so right now I only selling them from the independents:  Brigid’s on West Broadway andTanglewood on West Broadway. Oh, and The Bookmarkback in Charlottetown. Yes, only through the independents.  And of course from my website which is Oh, and I deliver.


Editor’s Note:

Have you ever felt you had a story to tell, but just didn’t know how to tell it? Join Darrin M. McCloskey as he talks about the various gestations in the creation of his latest novella Garden of da Gulf.  Learn many hands on and practical tools like creating your own independent press, getting ISBNs, printing costs as well as how to market your idea. Most importantly, however, learn about seeing your idea through.


KCC Creative Artist Series:

Sunday, April 7, 2pm – 3:30pm

@KCC Senior Centre’s Multipurpose Room

To register, please visit or by calling 604-257-8100, Children & Youth (5-18 yrs): FREE, Adults: $6