“I drink what most people would consider a large amount of coffee every day,” Truro author, Leo McKay, Jr. says. “I probably drink as much Tim Horton’s coffee as most people in Truro. But my own snobbish preference for dark roasted beans usually sends me to somewhere I can get that.”
McKay is currently on the road throughout Nova Scotia promoting his new novel, Roll Up The Rim, and will read at its Cape Breton launch on Friday, March 22, 7 to 9 pm, at McConnell Library, the Sydney branch of the Cape Breton Regional Library.
McKay’s first novel, Twenty-Six, is a darkly, meditative work inspired by the Westray Mine disaster, and was a critical and bestselling success. Along with being a Canada Reads book of the decade, it was the first One Book Nova Scotia selection in 2012. His 1995 Giller nominated story collection, Like This, was an equally gloomy exploration of lives in a fictional Nova Scotia town.
McKay’s work connects with Cape Breton on many levels: he writes about working class families, often coal miners, who live in row houses, a lot like Cape Breton company houses (and which provides the name for McKay’s independent publishing company, Red Row House).
For Roll Up The Rim, McKay delves more into comedy, a reaction to the long time it took him to plumb the fictional depths of Twenty Six.
“I tore my guts out writing Twenty Six,” he recalls.
A media release promoting Roll Up The Rim says it “follows the disastrous but comic missteps of a Tim Horton’s employee obsessed with the grand prize in the Roll Up the Rim to Win contest.”
McKay says, although the new book is lighter in tone than his first novel, “It’s still hard to structure a relatively plot-driven book like Roll Up the Rim, though. There’s a lot of subtle timing involved.”
And, by taking on a Canadian cultural icon, he did have to tread lightly in another way.
“I heard from Tim Horton’s before the campaign was over last year,” McKay says. “They were justifiably concerned about how their trademarks were being portrayed. I was very fortunate at the time to receive great legal advice from Wickwire Holm, a Halifax law firm. We met with some people from Tim’ s. It was all very positive. I actually learned a lot about intellectual property law in the process.”
Another positive experience for McKay was how the book was independently financed through an online funding campaign McKay ran himself on IndieGoGo.
“About half of my support came directly from the town of Truro,” McKay explains. “IndieGogo compiles information about where people who came to my campaign page came ‘from’ on the internet. About 90% of the traffic on my IndieGogo page came directly from one of my own social media sites: My personal Facebook page, my professional writer’s page, or my twitter account.”
“I think this is typical,” he adds. “It’s what IndieGogo tells you to expect when you’re getting ready to launch a campaign: Your support is not going to be anonymous. It’s going to come from people you know and people who already are familiar with your work.”
“One Book Nova Scotia did so much to help me pave the way for this new book,” McKay says. “It reminded a lot of people that there was this guy named Leo McKay who writes books. It also put me in touch with a lot of great book lovers and especially with librarians across the province. I don’t think I could have so quickly arranged a book tour
without the help of all the awesome people I met through 1BNS in the fall.”
McKay has already had launches in Truro and New Glasgow. After his Sydney appearance, he is confirmed for Halifax (Saturday, March 23, 1313 Hollis Street 7 to 9 pm), Antigonish, (Friday, April 5, The People’s Place Library), and Wolfville (Sunday, April 14, Wolfville Public Library).