The Terror of the Metaphysical: Iain Reid Represents His Niche - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The Terror of the Metaphysical: Iain Reid Represents His Niche

The Terror of the Metaphysical: Iain Reid Represents His Niche

Published March 26, 2019

Björn Halldórsson
Photo by
Lucas Tingle
Bob Whelan

Over the past few years, Canadian author Iain Reid has seen rising success after the publication of his first novel “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” Dubbed a “philosophical thriller,” the hit debut is currently being adapted into a Netflix film by famed writer-director Charlie Kaufman. Iain, who incidentally is the brother of Iceland’s first lady, Eliza Reid, is one of the dozens of authors attending this year’s Reykjavík International Literary Festival at the end of April.

Writing as self-discovery

With two previous publications in the field of memoir, Iain says that his first novel felt more personal than his earlier work. “In ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ I was looking at ideas and concepts that I found unsettling in my own life,” he explains. “I’ve always found the metaphysical to be far more unsettling than most horror, and if I’m truly unsettled by something it keeps me engaged and makes the writing come out naturally. If I try to create that feeling out of nothing, I can’t maintain it.”

Fuelling the writing with doubt and uncertainty makes for a rather meandering creative process, Iain admits, and says that he actually does little planning before sitting down to write a book. “I’ll have maybe a setting and few images in place, along with some question that I’ve been obsessing over. Then I just start writing, feeding off these different elements. As I get further in, the writing gains momentum and I have to write more and more in order to understand the question better, learn more about the story and the characters.”

The absence of genre

Despite its metaphysical elements, “I’m thinking of Ending Things” also has the familiar structure of a suspense novel and can be read as such, while his latest book, “Foe,” applies elements of science-fiction to its world building. Even so, Iain says that he pays little heed to ideas of genre and doesn’t care what labels get attached to his work.

“In bookstores, my books end up in the thriller section as well as the ‘literary fiction’ section,” he points out, applying jaunty air quotes to the latter term. “I’m fine with that. If you choose not to think about such things, you can’t be upset if someone pins a certain genre on your work.” He laughs. “Anyway, I know my books can be a bit of a headache when it comes to marketing them to readers. I’m forever thankful that there are people out there who take care of that end of the equations. I’d like to apologise to anybody who has ever had the job of finding the right ‘niche’ for one my books.”

The Reykjavík International Literary Festival will be held in Reykjavík April 24th – April 27th. You can find more information about the festival in English here.

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