How did All-Day Breakfast get started?
I’d written half of a historical novel set here in Penticton, and it was going well until I accidentally steered myself onto another path. I’ve always read a lot of comic books so I took one of the Walking Dead collections out of the library, a while before the show came out. My wife was talking about a fictional character she loved, a massive American ex-MP named Jack Reacher, and all of his traits like wearing clothes for three days then throwing them away, only ever eating the same meal which involved a haystack of bacon, and how he wandered the country kicking ass in the name of homegrown justice. So thanks to the Walking Dead in my hands we spit-balled how Reacher might get along as a zombie—cross-country missions, kicking ass even while his limbs dropped off, craving bacon instead of brains. We have many wonky conversations like that but this particular hodgepodge had momentum. Plus I’d have to eat heaps of bacon as, you know, research, so in the name of non-stop good times All-Day Breakfast jumped the line in front of the historical piece.
Do you feel this novel’s good times right from the start?
I guess not. It takes a turn about page 20, but initially it’s sad. For such a possibly-cartoonish concept to feel halfways genuine I had to populate it from own experience, so right off the bat Peter wasn’t an unencumbered ex-MP, but a teacher and father of two who was unfortunately really grieving. I’d just lost my dad, grandpa and father-in-law and was about to lose my stepdad, and I really loved them all, so I guess it was a combination of what I wanted to write with what I needed to write—Peter just arrived in that state, there’d been no plan for it. At least he gets to be sarcastic from the first page.
As you worked were you heartened to see the rising popularity of zombies—The Walking Dead TV series, World War Z, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?
I assumed that tide would subside long before I finished, but happily it still seems to going strong. While I wrote I steered clear of reading or watching any new zombie stuff so that my guys could strictly be my zombies, without anyone else’s ideas inadvertently shuffling through. So I only learned yesterday, three years after the fact, that there’s a 2012 first-person zombie novel written by another Canadian author, Corey Redekop, though outside of that one conceit it doesn’t sound like there’s overlap. But his name made me jump, because Gary Redekop is my neurosurgeon!
You consulted a neurosurgeon for the novel?
Not deliberately. During substantive edits, after the years of writing were finished, my legs swelled and I had dizzy spells, and in March 2014, right before starting copy edits, I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Syndrome, which meant I had a benign tumour on my pituitary gland, right in the bottom of the brain. A small tumour can be pulled out your nose but mine was nearly the size of a Rubik’s Cube, a “massive macroadenoma,” so it had to come out the side of my head at VGH in Vancouver—Dr. Gary Redekop did an amazing job. And I’d written a similar, far less-precise brain procedure near the end of All-Day Breakfast, so that made two creepy parallels.
Are there any more?
Near the middle of the book there’s a lengthy misadventure involving Peter’s poor jaw, and when I first went into hospital they found I’d somehow broken mine—I have no idea how, though I realized I’d been eating only soup for the previous three days. I got to have true-life experiences based on a novel, rather than the other way around.
Do you still eat heaps of bacon?
Not nearly as much, though if All-Day Breakfast has one message it’s to eat as much as you possibly can while you have the chance.
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