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He writes hard for the money

by Amanda L. Shore March 13, 2012
He writes hard for the money

“Five years ago, I was ready to kill myself or join the army,” said Concordia creative writing student Ian Truman. Today, he’s a self-published author, celebrating the success of the MainLine Gala for Student Drama’s second year and is getting ready to receive his degree this fall.

“It’s not just hard work and luck. I changed my life around. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, I stay healthy,” said Truman. Hard work may be an understatement however, as Truman has had a lot more to handle than the average creative writing student.

Shortly after being accepted into the creative writing program, Truman’s wife gave birth to a baby girl. Although this was a blessing, it did complicate things. “We actually ended up baby swapping in Concordia,” he recalled. “I would need to get out of class five minutes early because her class was starting when mine finished. I’d run down the stairs, we’d meet in the Hall building and switch the baby.”

While in school, Truman continued to work as much as possible, but finances were still tight.“We got lucky. At one point I was considering dropping out because we were out of cash,” he said. “My wife wasn’t working that much because she was still a student and when you go on parental leave you can’t be a student. So what happened was she applied for a bursary and I ended up taking parental leave [from my work]. She got the bursary and it was enough to make it.”

On top of his studies, working and being a father, Truman was trying to write. Before attending Concordia, Truman worked at a number of factory jobs that inspired his first novel, The Factory Line. While on the job, he would jot down the things he observed, collecting little memos that would eventually fuel the novel’s plot.

“The Factory Line, I wrote on the job. It’s all true, well true-ish, it’s a tall tale,” he said. “I tried to capture how people talk in factories and the kind of situations that they live every day. Some of them are really nice people, some of them are insane and you get to deal with both.”

Turning these notes into a narrative wasn’t an easy task. A lot of what he’d written took place
over the span of two years and came from moments at multiple factories. Furthermore, Truman had to overcome a language barrier.

“How you do dialogue in French is different than in English, so I did dialogue in French but with English words, which doesn’t work. People gave me a break because I’m francophone and English is my second language, but you need to step up and it’s a steep hill,” he explained. “My English is okay for everyday life, but I wanted to be a writer so I needed to go back to grammar and grind those hours rewriting and learning to do dialogue in English.”

The novel did eventually come together and after finishing his classes at Concordia, Truman began looking for ways to publish it. He sent his manuscript to several publishers in Canada and the United States, but there were no takers.

Unwilling to give up, Truman decided to self-publish; he created a blog, started working the social media scene and hooked up with e-book providers. He hired an editor and a graphic designer to finesse the finished product and will be printing several copies of the novel to distribute at book fairs and zine fests. Sales have yet to pick up, but Truman isn’t too worried. He’s currently putting the finishing touches on a second novel, Tales of Lust, Hate and Despair, due out in late June, and has already begun writing a third novel. Truman hopes that by having three novels out and circulating, buzz will pick up and sales will increase.

Truman continues to work full-time and care for his daughter, writing whenever and wherever he can—before work, on the bus on the way to work, during work and in brief periods after his daughter has gone to bed.

“If you’re going to be a writer, you need to write. I try to write at least 800 words a day,” he said. “If I don’t work an hour a day on writing-related stuff, it’s not going to work out in the end.”

It’s this sort of discipline and hard work that Truman says accounts for his success, but he concedes it was also a bit of luck as well. “If we didn’t get that bursary two and a half years ago, we wouldn’t have done it, me and my wife.”

Check out Ian Truman’s blog at iantruman.wordpress.com and look for his book The Factory Line on Amazon.

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