Local Author Spotlight: Nicholas Ruddock
Nicholas Ruddock is a Canadian physician and writer. He has won numerous international prizes and was shortlisted for the Moth International Poetry Award (Ireland) in 2020. His first novel, The Parabolist (2010), was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award and the Arthur Ellis Award. His second novel, Night Ambulance (2016), was a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist.
He is the author of Last Hummingbird West of Chile, published by Breakwater Books in June 2021.
Nicholas has been published in numerous international publications in Canada, England, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.
The narration style of this book is markedly different from that of most books, with a hummingbird, a tree, and the landscape all narrating the book at one point or another. What made you choose this style of narration? Did you find it to be restrictive, or more freeing than more ‘normal’ forms of narration?
It’s true that the presentation of LHWOC is marked different. There are more than twenty-five different narrators, all speaking in the first person. Some of these are birds and animals. Some are islands or reefs. Most are human. There was a danger to this technique, in that it could devolve into a babbling polyglot of accents and tongues, but in fact all narrators speak in perfect English. They differentiate themselves by content, aspirations, attitude. So the book progresses seamlessly from one voice to the next, circling the world. I chose this style because it seemed unfair to grant humans the only audible and intelligent agency, and if hummingbirds could speak among themselves, so should wild boars and scorpions. This was not a restrictive choice but a freeing one. It allowed nature to take its proper place in the beating heart of the story.
Follow-up question: What perspective was your favourite to write from?
The hummingbird, I suppose, for his bravery. But like a parent with many children, this question is impossible to answer. I really like the donkey, for example, on the coal road from Suez, though his appearance is very brief. I like the Nuns, the Navigator from Kuala Lumpur, the merchant’s wife, the girl from The Island, the hired assassin, I like them all.
This is not your first book. Which of your works has been your favourite to write? Was that one also the easiest to write?
This one is my favourite. I can open it at any page and enjoy it, even now, after multiple edits. No, it was not the easiest. It took four years to build up, cut down, finalize. And it required research, something I had not done before.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
For this one, a hummingbird got his beak stuck in the screen of our porch. My wife managed to push it out with her fingertip, but the bird then buzzed us for ten minutes, fiery, furious, demanding respect.
How does your job as a physician influence your stories?
The Parabolist and Night Ambulance had medical settings. This book, however, has broken entirely free from that world, though there are several sections related to the ravages of TB (the ongoing pandemic of the 1800s).