Armchair travel at its best. Vividly descriptive travels with Bill as he traces the steps of vikings, infused with a great sense of humor. An epic journey that had me laughing out loud one moment, imagining I was sharing a table with Bill and enjoying the local cuisine another moment, and hiking the trails in the next moment. Beautiful writing! Thoroughly enjoyed it!
Today we travel to Vancouver, Canada to chat with Bill Arnott about how traveling, socializing with other artists, coffee, a sense of humor, acoustic Indie Folk, a belief that we’re all the same, a weatherproof journal, throwing away ten years of research and writing, New Zealand, a giraffe in a pub, and a miracle in a book store come together as part of Bill’s current and past life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey Camilla, thanks so much for the invite. I love MTA and it’s a privilege to be featured!
I’m Bill Arnott, author, poet, songwriter, and my home is Canada’s west coast, in Vancouver. I spend most of my time writing, travelling, or socializing with other artists. Bill Arnott’s Showcase is one of the ways I feature and promote creative peers.
In which genre do you write?
My first five books were nonfiction, published over fifteen years, but I recently leapt into poetry and fiction and love the breadth of genres.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
A decent view and access to coffee, a pint, and buddies with a sense of humour!
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just reread two favourites by mentor/friends Tim Winton (Land’s Edge) and Anna Badkhen (Waiting for the Taliban).
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
I perform a lot – acoustic Indie Folk and spoken word, so I’m often rehearsing. If it’s my poetry, I rarely read, but instead LEARN it (different, I feel, than memorization). It takes a lot of time but shows respect for an audience.
If you could have a fantasy coffee date with an author or famous person, who would it be?
I have a circuitous answer but stay with me, I think it’s worth it. I adamantly believe we’re all the same. I’m not one for pedestals. Yes, I have role models and folks that may view me that way but we’re still all the same. So when I encounter a famous (living) writer I’d like to visit with, I reach out to them. If they’re surrounded by gatekeeping agent/publicists, well, I’ve gained some insight into that individual and probably won’t be as keen to connect. But most often, a sincere intro to a genuine person results in a lovely exchange. I’ve in fact had great visits and connections with most of my heroes – good people who’re in the very same boat as all of us.
This is beautiful, Bill. I believe we are all the same, too. I just wish we could all see that and treat one another as equals.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
I was surprised to realize I no longer care what people think of me. Not much, anyway.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve experienced or remember while writing a memoir?
Every performance, even a performance you KNOW will be brutal, results in a memoir story, which is why I won’t shy away from a potentially bad gig. A favourite was the event with ZERO attendees. Now THAT’S good material!
This is such an excellent point. Thanks for sharing it with us!
Do you journal or keep a diary? Has this helped with your published writings?
When I’m working on travel memoirs, a weatherproof journal’s essential – my writerly bread and butter. A story I like to share as a life lesson is the time I finished a 110,000 word manuscript – ten years of travel, research and writing. I had it in a Word doc. But we were moving (packing boxes, paring down). This, combined with the fact I’m lazy, I threw out all my journals and notes. Every bit of it. I had my Word doc after all, so I was solid. (Of course you know where this is going.) Did I back it up? Certainly not. I’m too busy and important to waste time on such trivialities. Suffice to say my computer crashed, my manuscript vanished, and I had to start again from scratch with a handful of photos. The lesson? I’m a moron.
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
I just watched Hunt for the Wilderpeople, New Zealand being a place that I love. I trust Taika Waititi as a filmmaker and LOVE artists who create poignant stuff and still pepper it with zany humour.
A giraffe knocks on your door and is wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?
Here’s the thing about a giraffe in a hat. He’s spiffed up, right? So he and a buddy go to the pub. They get there and the giraffe has a lie down. Bartender says, Oi, what’s that lyin’ there?! The buddy says, Ain’t a lion, it’s a giraffe! (Needless to say this a joke for telling, not writing, but YOU brought up the giraffe.)
Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?
I do. I was shopping for, dare I say, a spiritual book, at a colossal retailer. And chose to release into the moment, simply let go (I actually closed my eyes) and a book fell from a high shelf – literally dropped, and I caught it midair – James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy. And I thought, if I ever have the confidence or indifference to share this story, it was one of those moments Deepak Chopra talks about. It shifted my perspective of everything.
Lovely story, Bill. I can see and feel how this would cause a shift in perspective. Wow!
Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it.
I actually have a couple, radically different stuff I’m equally proud of. Firstly, my travel memoir Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, a Whistler Independent Book Awards Finalist, now with Rocky Mountain Books. And secondly, Allan’s Wishes, an all-ages graphic novella I created with brilliant Vancouver artist Brett Jasch.
It was great having you be a part of MTA, Bill. I really enjoyed getting to know you better. Wishing you all the best and if you’re ever near Reno, Nevada, look me up and let’s have coffee! – Camilla
Gone Viking: A Travel Saga. Bestseller Bill Arnott takes readers on a personal odyssey, trekking Europe to Asia, the UK to Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland and the New World in the wake of history’s greatest explorers. With a small pack and weatherproof journal, Bill writes with a journalist’s eye, a poet’s prose, and a comedian’s take on everything else. Prepare yourself for an armchair adventure like no other!
This is definitely one of the best reads of the year. – Silver Bow Publishing.
An extremely well-documented travelogue with beautiful imagery. – Ottawa Review of Books.