Instigated by Troy Palmer

When Kevin Hardcastle’s Debris and Jess Taylor’s Pauls both came out in the same month (October 2015, from Biblioasis and Book Thug, respectively) we thought it would be a great idea to interview these two friends and tour mates (and also two of our favorite writers) together. But then we thought, you know what, it could be an even better idea to pit them — and their story collections — against one another. So that’s what we did. It’s an old-fashioned throw-down. No holds barred. Writer vs Writer. Book vs Book. Taylor vs Hardcastle.

Here’s the blow-by-glorious-blow…

LF: Okay, let’s do this. Debris or Pauls — which book would win in a fight?

JESS: Debris. My characters would be too busy dealing with their emotions. Also one of my characters, Paul in “Breakfast Curry”, actually hurts his leg in a fight, which leads him to discover he has a blood disorder. Not champion material. Paulina in “We Want Impossible Things,” “Multicoloured Lights,” and “Degenerate” is a little scrappy though.

Kevin and I have a similar approach to writing action and violence, although he includes more in his stories. But we totally differ when writing about emotions and the aftermath of such violence. What do you think, Kev?

KEVIN: Yes, in a flat-out scrap I think the battle-hardened rednecks of Debris would take it. They are almost always fighting or shooting at somebody or defending forts, so it is not really fair in that regard.

They would, however, not effectively process the complex emotions they experienced in the leadup to or aftermath of the fight, and that could be their comeuppance. While Jess’ characters seek medical attention and therapy, mine would lick their own wounds and drink all the whiskey, and possibly unravel.

LF: Jess, if your book was called Kevins how would it be different? Kevin, feel free to throw down a rebuttal.

JESS: All the stories would take place in Midland, Ontario or maybe feature characters who’ve moved from Midland to Toronto. There would definitely be one about working in Alberta being sad. A lot of the stories would take place in basement apartments where the character drinks beer and watches basketball. It would also mention a lot of weird fights and getting thrown out of establishments in Simcoe County with people who are mentioned by first and last name and then never explained. They may get mentioned again in a later story. All the Kevins would be the same Kevin to reflect Kevin’s strong sense of self, unlike my Pauls who are searching for self.

KEVIN: That sounds like a very good book. But, I don’t know that it would be less than 450 pages, as each action and incident of violence or natural disaster or Alberta sadness would have to be balanced by complex psychological pathways into the characters’ minds and emotions. Then again, the unity of Kevins as all one true Kevin would perhaps streamline or simplify it some.

LF: Jess, which character in Pauls most resembles you? Which one most resembles Kevin?

JESS: I feel like I’m like all my characters and also completely different from them. I need to be like them in the way that I am able to relate to their pain or have a starting point of understanding. Then they need to be totally unlike me in other ways so that they surprise me. For instance, Paulina in “Degenerate” kept reacting to other people in ways that surprised me. I got really excited wondering what she’d do next.

Kevin isn’t really like any of my characters. A lot of my male characters are kinda douchey, which doesn’t really fit Kevin. He’s a decent guy, maybe a little like Nathan in “Claire’s Fine” but a little tougher. Maybe Will in “Breakfast Curry”... he’s a mechanical engineer who’s a good friend to people and likes to drink beer! Kevin loves / loved beer.

LF: Kevin, same two questions for you… which character in Debris most resembles you / Jess?

KEVIN: I am like many of my characters from Debris, as I write a lot from real life and may or may not know things written in there firsthand. I also tend to write a lot of protagonists who aren’t necessarily bad, not rotten or repugnant, but who do some bad shit. Often that makes it easier to root for them, and to identify with them, and you might even think what they’re doing is justified. But, in talking about “Alberta sadness,” let’s say I’m most like that poor fucker in “Hunted By Coyotes,” in that the main character actually was me. A lot of my life has been trying to keep a roof over my head and suffering bad work a long time. I guess that is good training to the writing business.

As for Jess, let’s say she is most like the woman in my story “Spread low on the fields” (a long-lost acquaintance of the main character, Sean O’Hara, who meets him when he returns to town), in that she is able to engage with somebody ready to make a bunch of bad decisions and meet their rudimentary man-codes with the suitable measure of responsible-person disdain and perplexity, and without some kind of sanctimonious judgment on it. The kind of person that will listen to and offer support to such a human, while not being dragged into that kind of nonsense herself.

LF: Jess, pretend you’re Kevin and blurb Pauls.

JESS: “A bunch of whiners complaining about their feelings and not letting go of the past. They’ve got similar names or something. They are too wee to know the actual sorrow in the world.”

LF: Nice. Kevin, pretend you’re Jess and blurb Debris.

KEVIN: “The best book ever written about Simcoe County, beer, ski-doo crime, fisticuffs, and hillbillies. Very few adjectives. Nobody emotes and I’ve learned nothing about their thoughts or dreams…”

LF: Well played. Kevin, hypothetical situation: you’ve just finished a story collection called Jesses. What’s the first story about?

KEVIN: It’s about a Jess who is an army brat and new to a small town with a bunch of Jesses who will not accept her. The Jesses will not allow her to be her own Jess. They try to take her Jess-ness from her through psychological and physical warfare. This Jess has different ingredients though. She will not quit being Jess. She will out-Jess the Jesses. She will fight and destroy the other Jesses until only one Jess remains… 

LF: That sounds pretty good actually. Any parting shots before the final bell?

JESS: I love Kevin’s book and wish I’d written it. It is beautiful. I wept throughout. My tears grew a plant and my cat ate one and the powers within made it jump through the wall and then ride a tractor over all the hipsters in Roncesvalles. USA! USA! USA.! (definitely written by Jess Taylor)

KEVIN: Paul is a weird name to use profligately. But props for going for the gold and believing in your dreams. I am very much looking forward to Kevins.

JESS: I do not condone the comments attributed to me above nor condone any of the comments said by Kevin in general except for those nice things. But Debris is a pretty okay book, please get it for your friends and lovers. Thanks for having us!




Purchase DEBRIS: Biblioasis | Indigo | Amazon | IndieBound

Purchase PAULS: Book Thug | Indigo | Amazon | IndieBound

Read some Little Fiction stories from Kevin and Jess:

WE GOTTA SAVE THE LEG by Kevin Hardcastle

ANTHILL by Jess Taylor


follow us: