Aside from his books, Rod has had short stories anthologized in The BlueJean Collection, Opening Tricks, What is Already Known, Horror and200% Cracked Wheat published by Thistledown, Red Deer and Coteau Books respectivelyas well as numerous educational publications and radio broadcasts.
In the Air, Dancing Sky Theatre, Meacham, 2012. The Sins of St. Dave, Twenty Fifth Street Theatre, Saskatoon,1996. Harvest Moon, Station Arts Centre, Rosthern,1991-93. Nice Guy, Twenty Fifth Street Theatre, Saskatoon,1991. The Other Party, Wheatland Theatre, Regina, 1990.
Toy Boat, (Drama) CBC, Regina, 1984. A Room Fullof Men, (Documentary) Heartland Motion Pictures, Regina,1993. TheRink, (Drama) Cinépost Productions, Saskatoon, 1997.
Toy Boat, Sask Film Showcase, Best Children’s Drama,1985. The Rink, the Vicky Metcalf Short Story Award,1993. The Sins of St. Dave, the SWG Literary Long ManuscriptAward, 1993. A Room Full of Men, Sask Film Showcase, BestEducational Documentary, 1994. The Rink, Sask Film Showcase, BestChildren’s Film, 1998. Takes, the 1996 Saskatchewan Book Awardfor Best Educational Book;1997 Canadian Librarian Association YoungAdult Book of the Year. The Crying Jesus, Saskatchewan Book Awards, SaskatoonBook of the Year, 1998. The Ring, Saskatchewan Writers' Guild ShortManuscript Award, 2004. Feeding At Nine, Saskatchewan BookAwards, Children's Literature Award, 2007.
Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre (SPC)Saskatchewan Writers' Guild (SWG) founding member of the Guild of CanadianPlaywrights now Playwrights Union of Canada, (PUC) and the Canadian Society ofChildren's Authors, Illustrators and Performers. (CANSCAIP).
Roderick Peter MacIntyre was the oldest of five children. His mother was Frances Germaine from Burr, Saskatchewan, a first generation immigrant from St. Petersburg, Russia; his father, Duncan MacIntyre from East Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, was orphaned during the 1930s. Stationed at Camp Dundurn during the She Second World War, he met Frances and they were wed shortly after. Roderick Peter was born in St. Paul’s Hospital, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on February 18, 1947 when the population was 46,028 and horses still towed milk wagons, water wagons, “honey” wagons; trolley cars ran up and down 20th Street.
Rod went to St. Mary’s School on the west side, then to Holy Redeemer College in Edmonton, a juvenate, where he thought about becoming a priest for his first two years of high school. He finished high school at St. Paul’s High in Saskatoon. After a year of driving truck for a drug company, Rod attended the U. of S. for five years where he obtained an honours degree in English and Sociology in 1970. It was during this time he met and began living with Sharyn Swann.
Rod went to the University of Ottawa and attempted a post-graduate degree in English but barely lasted a year before moving to the east coast, mostly Prince Edward Island where he and Sharyn lived till 1981 and where their daughter, Zoey was born. It was on Prince Edward Island that Rod worked as an actor for stage and television then gradually shifted into writing for theatre.
During the 1980s and early 90s, Rod still worked as an actor and playwright in Saskatoon before the first of his YA fictions was published in 1991.
Rod and Sharyn currently make their home in La Ronge, Saskatchewan where his daughter and three grandchildren are welcome visitors. Rod remains active as awriter and activist within the provincial and national arts community. To ensure that Rod is not a dull boy, he rides a 1990 Goldwing back and forth across the continent, still plays recreational hockey, golf and pool.
As Rod and I could find neither a common time nor place to meet for aninterview, we took advantage of modern technology and, via e-mail, leisurelyconversed over a three-week period with Rod patiently responding to myquestions. (The interview was subsequently published in CanadianReview of Materials Magazine.)
CM: What did you read as an adolescent and why?
MacIntyre: When I was in adolescence, I remember reading comic books(the funny kind; I wasn't into the Superheroes - with the exception ofSuperman), then the "Hardy Boy Mysteries." And I probably would havestopped there, but I went to a "Juvenate," a minor seminary, when Iwas fourteen and there wasn't anything to do. The reason I read was toalleviate boredom - to be entertained. I jumped directly from the "HardyBoys" to historical novels like The Robe and the Chalice. There was no"transition" type of literature for me. However, in this Catholicseminary was a book by A.J. Cronin. It was The Keys to the Kingdom, the bookthat changed my life (doesn't everyone have one of those?), the one that got megoing - made me think - a book really about the triumph of love over faith. AndI was deeply, profoundly moved. That became the reason for reading - to bemoved. And I have read for the same reason ever since.
CM: When did you first discover YA literature?
MacIntyre: I initially encountered YA lit "after" Ipublished my first (only) novel, Yuletide Blues. It honestly never occurred tome that such a thing existed. Then it was pointed out to me that there was aliterature called "Young Adult" and that the voice I use for much ofmy fiction fits into that categorization. If there was a pattern upon which Ibased that voice, it was unquestionably, Catcher in the Rye, which Iread when I was eighteen. But I'm sure that J.D. Salinger never thought he waswriting YA either. I personally don't accept the categorization that has becomea "genre" - even though I acknowledge that it exists. What I writeare stories that happen to have "young protagonists," although Idon't target my work at a specific young adult audience, despite the fact thatit appears to be the obvious market. Now, of course, I find myself in a uniqueposition: I love and respect those who have become my audience, and they (thosewho make up my primary audience) seem to reciprocate like feeling. However, Istill resist writing "for" them, or "to" them, or worse,"at" them. My stories continue to be what I would call, metaphors ofdiscovery. Metaphor is the stuff of poetry, and I began as a poet. I think (hope)everybody begins as a poet. The word is everything.
CM: As you were growing up, what did you want to be?
MacIntyre: I grew up on the West Side of Saskatoon, on "thehill" as it is called (Pleasant Hill), a working class/immigrantneighbourhood. My dad was a Cape Bretoner with grade eight; my mom a farm girlwith grade seven. I was the first of five children. My next brother is fiveyears younger than I - followed by two more brothers and a sister. When I lefthome at fourteen, my baby sister was three. I've only grown to know my siblingsas adults, after I arrived back from the Maritimes in 1982. We are still a"close" family. --Books did not abound in our house. In order, Irecall wanting to be a fireman, a clarinet player (I saw The Benny GoodmanStory), a hockey player, then a priest. I actually attended a seminary fora couple of years. But, somehow or other, I became what I am, a sinner. I don'trecall ever wanting to be a writer. It was not a conscious choice. In fact, itwasn't until I was thirty-five that I finally acknowledged that I, indeed, wasone. I've always maintained that it takes a special kind of stupidity to be awriter and I've been blessed with lots of that.
CM: Since "author" was not one of your childhoodaspirations, how did you come to be one?
MacIntyre: The path that led to me being a writer had more to do withthe Beatles and Bob Dylan in the early and mid-sixties than any real literaryconsciousness. I wrote reams and reams of "bad" poetry, styledagainst the lyrics of songs I heard in those days. But a man by the name ofRobert Weaver came touring the campuses in 1968 looking for poetry from youngstudent poets for his program, "CBC Anthology." I had no idea whatthat was, but I was a student who wrote poetry, and I sent him a handful. Iremember one of them.
stands or walks
stand or walk
and if I turn too suddenly
I can see how all those children
had their mother's eyes.
Lo and behold! he published four, and he sent me a cheque for $38.60. Ithought that was a pretty interesting way of making money. When I leftuniversity - I think I went for six years and only have a BA to show for it - Imoved to PEI where I started "freelancing" for the CBC. I didsatirical radio commentaries featuring local political issues and the like.Meanwhile, I got involved in amateur theatre and soon moved to professionaltheatre where I began writing plays. I had five plays produced (mostly schooltour stuff) before I published Yuletide Blues in 1991.
CM: What is it about the short story form that appeals to you?
MacIntyre: I suffer from the opposite of writer's block. I have toomany story ideas, most of which could not sustain a novel. The short story is simplythe most efficient way for me to get some of those ideas on to paper. I likethe bite-sized diversity that a short story collection offers. However, I alsolike the luxuriousness afforded by the novel.
CM: If you have "too many story ideas," what are thesources of your stories?
MacIntyre: :My stories generally evolve one of two ways: either acharacter starts yattering in the back of my skull, and I just write down whatthey say, eventually figuring him or her out, placing them in situations they don'tparticularly want to be in; or, I start with a situation and build a characteraround that situation. Yuletide Blues began as a character. The firstlines were, "I have this theory that parents are from another planet, someplace long ago and far. The proof is this: look in their eyes. See anythingthere? Etc" "Cut" began as a character who said, "Ifyou want to have fun these days, you got to jump up and down on people's headsor go live in somebody's nose. Like, who needs it. You can't even have sexwithout worrying about your 'thing' falling off." Stories that began assituations are "The Code," "Shadow Dark Night" and "TheCrying Jesus." For me, there is a truism about story, one thing allstories have in common: characters in a situation they don't want to be in. Asa writer, there are two ways of approaching this: either you start with acharacter, who you get to know so well that you are aware of the situation theywould most like to avoid, and you put them there, or you start with a situationand you build the character around the situation. For example, about five yearsago, there was an item in the newspaper that caught my eye. Apparently, someteenagers had been playing a deadly game of Russian roulette resulting in oneof them dying. The article, however, went on to discuss the cop, whose gunthey'd used, and how come he didn't keep his bullets separate from his gun. Iwas so annoyed. Who cares about the goddamn cop! I want to know about the kids- what's the story there? It festered in me for days. Then I suddenly got anidea: "What if (the magic 'what if') some kids are playing Russianroulette and they blow off the back of someone's neck, and he lives?" Ah,that's my situation - someone who has survived this deadly game. What's thestory? Well now I have to build a character around that situation. Hence "ShadowDark Night".
CM: In high school English curricula, novels appear to be at the topof the pecking order while short stories suffer from the Rodney DangerfieldSyndrome - no respect. Why has that been the case?
MacIntyre: I think short stories in high school lit curricula areburied beneath the heap of everything else. As a literary form, it is decidedlyat the bottom. The short story does not have the tradition of the novel, theplay or the poem. It is a relatively recent form, and no "canon" hasbeen established for teachers to lean on. It doesn't have "respect"because of its shoddy reputation as mere popular entertainment - its heydaybeing the era of the Saturday Evening Post. The burden then, of selectingstories, falls on teachers themselves, and, since the majority of teachers -including English teachers - are not readers, the status of the short story isnot likely to improve. I think the reason there are so few collections and/oranthologies of so called YA short fiction is because there is no market forindividual stories. For example, I've just written one for a competition - butthere are no magazines or other publications that use that kind of materialunless it has severe content restrictions on it (i.e. some religious magazinesuse "YA", but its purpose is didacticism). However, presses likeThistledown, whose directors are not uncoincidentally teachers, have recognizedthe dearth of short fiction in school curricula and have almost single-handedlycreated, then filled, the waiting niche.
CM: Most students only know the short story as something that appearsin textbooks with accompanying questions. Consequently, a Pavlovian S-R ofshort stories = work, not pleasure, is established. What should the appeal ofthe short story be to adolescents and teachers?
MacIntyre: The appeal of the short story is obviously its brevity.It's how people entertained themselves before TV. You could read two or three aweek. It appeared in your weekly magazines. It can be chewed and swallowed in asingle sitting. It might take an afternoon to fully digest, but it won't leaveyour stomach in knots like poetry, nor overstuffed like a novel.
CM: You write in many different literary forms, but when you sit downto write, do you know what literary form is going to come forth?
MacIntyre: I'm not so sure that I consciously write for differentaudiences, but I know that the form of what will appear is determined entirelyby my protagonists. The younger protagonist will likely appear in fiction andwill appeal to a younger audience. An older protagonist will likely appear in aplay and appeal to an older audience. One of the projects I am currentlywriting is an adult novel; however, it actually began as an adaptation of anearlier play.
CM: The majority of your YA short stories, plus Yuletide Blues,have male central characters. Do you feel more comfortable writing in thatvoice?
MacIntyre: I most often write in the first person, present tense,using the voice of a young male. I like its "in your face" immediacyand energy. It comes, I think, from having written eight plays. Playwrightingcontains the largest body of my work and has little in common with the fictionI write - with the exception that it, too, is first person, present tense (asare most plays). When I occasionally use a female voice, it is slightly moremature, intelligent and poetic (Joyce thought he wrote his best stuff as awoman - so do I).
CM: Given the "importance" of hockey in the lives of somany Canadian adolescents, especially males, surprising few Canadian YA authorshave written about the subject in a genuine way, that is, by going behind theon-ice action to examine the real world of juvenile hockey. "TheCode" in The Crying Jesus certainly revealed another aspect ofhockey. How did it come about?
MacIntyre: I play on an old-timers's hockey team named (cleverly),the "Deja Blues", composed mostly of Catholic school teachers. We'reall over fifty but love the game as much as we did when we were ten. I'veplayed some sort of organized sport much of my life. I know the smell of thedressing room. I know "the code", recently expressed again by theAmerican Olympic hockey team: "Nobody tells on a team mate." Thebirth of "The Code" (the story) arose from another newspaperaccount I found very interesting. It involved a football team, the SaskatoonHilltops, a team in the western Canadian junior football league. This team hadwon some championship or other and were out to celebrate. And, like the hockeyteam in the story, some of the players had been refused entry to a nightclubbecause they were underage. There is a man in Saskatoon who wanders around witha plate in his skull as a result of being beat up by some members of the team. Theinteresting thing to me about this whole event is that no single individual wasever brought to justice - at least not to my knowledge. (This speaks soprecisely to that whole notion of what male team sports teams are about. Iobviously don't know about women's team and am very curious to know if the samereality applies - I hope not. I hope that this is truly onedistinguishing characteristic between the sexes.) The "situation" forme was: what if someone wanted to accept responsibility for the act? Build acharacter around the event. Mike. He wants to tell, wants to "quit" ahockey team. The structure is simply not in place for that to happen. And, asthe subtext of that story indicates, the whole of male patriarchy (if I can usea feminist phrase) supports that silence - that code. Having said all that, thereal root of the story comes from me trying to quit my studies towards thepriesthood. Another kind of team. I could just as easily been wandering aroundwith a white collar around my neck as not. The details of that particular storydirectly parallel the events in "The Code."
CM: Budge Wilson's The Leaving was the first collection ofshort stories to win the C.L.A.'s Young Adult Canadian Book Award. Takeswas the first time an edited collection of short stories received this award.How did you react?
MacIntyre: I was utterly surprised and totally delighted by the awardoffered Takes - mostly because of the history of the collection. I hadbeen a juror for an earlier competition that Thistledown had developed and wassurprised by the book that emerged, Notes Across the Aisle, because, inmy estimation, many good stories had been omitted. I cajoled the publisher intoletting me see if I could assemble something out of the reject pile. And thusthe Phoenix rose from the ash.
CM: You've had some of your work "translated" into othermedia, e.g. "The Rink" on TV and Yuletide Blues serializedon CBC's "Morningside." Did you work on the scripts?
MacIntyre: I'm in favour of recycling. I wrote the teleplay that wasadapted from "The Rink" as well as the radio-formatted YuletideBlues. The story called "Toy Boat" was, in fact, adaptedfrom a teleplay I wrote in the early '80's. Film exists in time and space - thepage, only in space - that's why the two have differing structuralrequirements. Film also pays a lot better.
CM: Amongst those who write for adolescents, whom do you like?
MacIntyre: My favourite YA writer would have to be Brian Doyle.Doyle's stories are relentlessly Canadian and invariably have a very dark edgethat is mitigated by his great sense of humour, often equally as dark and oftensatirical, like Uncle Jack, the hopeless alcoholic in Up to Low and theMcCooey's in Uncle Ronald.
CM: Do you have another YA novel on the way?
MacIntyre: I don't have any immediate plans to write a youngprotagonist novel, although I've been thinking about Boog (a character in YuletideBlues) a lot lately and wonder what his story is. (Some characters createdin one story have made cameo appearances in others."Shane", forexample, in "The Rink, is the same "Shane" in "CursingShane". He's just older now.)
CM: As someone who is an author and an editor, what advice would yougive those seeking to write for adolescents?
MacIntyre: I don't know if it is appropriate for me to advise, butI'll happily make some observations that may or may not be true, and then sharethe advice I give myself. Bear in mind that, as young people have greatbullshit detectors, you must strive for honesty. The most interestingprotagonists are usually motivated despite their beliefs, not because of them.That's where the tension lies. If you, as a writer, have something to say, thenyou probably shouldn't be saying it. I am suspicious of any writing that seemsto have a predetermined theme or judgement or moral. A story cannot have any ofthose things before it's begun. A theme is like a fart - it comes after themeal. I assume, as well, that my audience is at least as smart as I am. And itis. I assume that by the age of fifteen, you know it all. I did. I was fullyformed, as smart as I was ever going to be. I had pretty much come to termswith all the big ontological questions. The only thing I lacked was experienceand vocabulary, neither of which necessarily make you smarter. I recognizedthat fact when I was twenty-one. It made me realize I was essentially nodifferent from anyone else. That's probably why I'm a writer. As I saidearlier, there's a certain kind of stupidity required to be a writer. I've beenblessed with lots of that.
So, my bottom line, is to make sure you've somehow experienced what you'rewriting about. Make sure your protagonists are at least as smart as you are(preferably smarter) and that they act despite their beliefs. If you place yourmorality onto your protagonists and make them articulate it, they will make afool of you because they will be lying - although you may be telling the truth.Listen to young people and their music. Learn to love it. Learn to love them.Learn to be stupid - there's wisdom in it.
This interview originally appeared in the special "Young AdultFiction" issue of Prairie Fire, 13(3), 49-55 (Fall, 1998) under the title,"Metaphors of Discovery: An Interview with Rod MacIntyre.”
Copyright © Dave Jenkinson and the ManitobaLibrary Association.
Published by The Manitoba Library Association
CM: Canadian Review of Materials is copyright © The Manitoba LibraryAssociation.
LT: What makes a good story?
MacIntyre: Character, plot, sense of discovery.
LT: Where do your ideas for stories come from?
MacIntyre: Media, friends, family – the ethers… everywhere, anywhere.
LT: Do you have a process you usually go through as you create astory? For example, do you begin with the character and build a story aroundthat person? Do you start with a conflict or problem and then place thecharacter in the situation? At what point do you consider the setting for yourstory….or is your method for developing a story different each time?
MacIntyre: I begin stories both ways, but quickly distil it intocharacter. Setting is whatever I need to make the characters believable
LT: How thoroughly do you think through plot before you begin yourstory?
MacIntyre: Not much – it’s what I work on most while writing.
LT: What makes a truly believable character?
LT: What advice would you give students about character development?
MacIntyre: Make sure they have minor conflicts in their major traits.
LT: What is the secret to writing good dialogue?
MacIntyre: Brevity and rhythm.
LT: How do you decide which point of view is best for telling yourstory?
MacIntyre: You’ve stumped me. I have no idea.
LT: Common advice for writers is, "Write what you know."What is your interpretation of this comment? Do you think this is sound advice?
MacIntyre: You can only write what you know, and if you don’t knowit, you’d better find out because you can be sure that someone will know it andchallenge you if you’re wrong. You cannot write believably if you don’t"know it." That includes SF and Fantasy – in which you literallycreate the reality you’re talking about – and therefore know it. It’s very soundadvice.
LT: Do you consciously build such devices as theme, metaphor orsymbolism into your stories?
MacIntyre: Sometimes, but not often. I usually add it after I have adraft. Or remove it. Theme is not something a writer thinks about. It comes afterthe story is created and usually from a teacher or critic. If a story is ameal, then theme is like gas – it always comes after.
LT: What should students look for when revising their stories?
MacIntyre: Make sure it’s got all its parts: protagonist, antagonist,plot, setting and climax.
LT: Do you have any advice for students who wish to become writers?
MacIntyre: Read more than you write. Learn how to live in poverty. Expect rejection from family, lovers and publishers. (I know this isn't advice; it's a warning.)
Take care, Rod MacIntyre, 06/11/02,