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Five Questions with Devon Code

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Author Devon Code discussed writing his first novel, Involuntary Bliss and what advice he’d give to his past self. You can catch Code in Peterborough for a free event!

IFOA: What drove you to write Involuntary Bliss?

Devon Code: I was interested in reflecting on experiences, ideas and friendships of my early twenties. This is often a formative and tumultuous time in people’s lives and the novel tries to examine some of this through a long, circuitous conversation between two friends over the course of a weekend.

Though none of the novel was written in Montreal, much of it is set there. I have fond memories of my time in Montreal as a graduate student and the novel allowed me to revisit them. Stylistically, the novel provided an opportunity to learn from writers I admire like Thomas Bernhard, W. G. Sebald, and Roberto Bolaño, and to experiment with diverse techniques and try and make them my own.

IFOA: What was it like writing your first novel and has your process changed from writing short stories?

Code: It took me a long time to figure out how to write the kind of novel I was interested code-devon-involuntary-blissin. I didn’t want to follow a template, and I created challenges for myself in the way I told the story.

Coming from a background in writing short fiction, it was helpful to have feedback from trusted readers who suggested where I could develop certain scenes or aspects of character. The structure of the final product emerged organically after a lot of revision. I’m hoping that the process is more efficient for the next novel.

IFOA: What writing advice would you give to past you now?

Code: Don’t waste energy on self-doubt. Have faith that the work will be completed, that it will be worthy and will find a good home.

IFOA: What are you working on next?

Code: I’m researching and developing the conceptual framework for a longer and more ambitious novel that will deal with subject matter that’s new to me.

While writing Involuntary Bliss, I also wrote a lot of short fiction, much of it very short and resembling parables, fables or aphorisms. Some of this work was recently published by Found Press. I conceive of an eventual book-length collection of short fiction tentatively entitled Misgivings.

IFOA: What are you reading now?

Code: I just finished reading Geoff Dyer’s Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room, which is about my favourite film—the masterful Stalker—by Andrey Tarkovsky. I was impressed by the depth of Dyer’s fixation with this film, which surpasses even my own.

I’m currently reading Michael Helm’s After James, which was highly recommended to me and does not disappoint.


code-devonDevon Code  is a novelist and author of short fiction. Involuntary Bliss, his first novel, was published by BookThug and selected as a Best Book of 2016 in The Walrus magazine. In A Mist, his short fiction collection, was selected as a debut of note by The Globe and Mail and long-listed for the ReLit award. In 2010, he was the recipient of the Journey Prize for short fiction. His work has appeared in Canadian publications such as The Globe and Mail, National Post, Canadian Notes & Queries, and Geist, and in journals and magazines internationally. Originally from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, he lives in Peterborough, Ontario.

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