Nearly every article about Kris Bertin mentions that he's a bouncer and a bartender (at Bearly's House of Blues and Ribs, so go say hi). It's somehow incongruous that a brawny dude slinging beers writes imaginative and insightful fiction when he's not serving up a round of shots or helping someone who's had one too many into a taxi. But who better to tell interesting stories than a man who lends an ear to the woes of the city?
Apparently, it's a match made in heaven, as Bertin's accolades rack up like empty bottles on the bar. Two time winner of the Jack Hodgkins' Founders Award for Fiction, finalist for Malahat Review's 2012 Novella Contest, finalist and nominee for the 2012 and 2011 Journey Prize, respectively, the list goes on. Bertin says this recognition "can be the difference between a lifetime of toil and a publisher actually taking a chance on you." Bertin's certainly got the toil part down. His many irons in the fire include a short story collection (Bad Things Happen, to be published next year), several novels (Ron's Supper Club and Your Man to the East---both still in early days) and a graphic novel with artist Alex Forbes, which he describes as "a teen detective story drawn in the style of the illustrations from Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys pulps. The elevator pitch would be something like The Scooby-Doo Gang meets Twin Peaks in rural Nova Scotia."
Your Man to the East is written Choose Your Own Adventure style, but with Bertin's uniquely troubling spin. "So, for example you have the choice to go to page six and crawl into a sewage ditch to escape your scornful stepfather, or you can choose page 17's option and go after him with a length of pipe. Or you can hide in a field and weep," Bertin says. "It's the most fun I've had writing since I was a kid, I think."
Bertin's stellar The Eviction Process, published this summer in The Walrus (described on Bertin's blog as "gay deadbeats renovating a former hothouse are forced to evict their loser tenants with terrifying results") is equally dark. But when it comes to grit, Bertin wants to clarify. "I think we give the title of 'gritty' both to needlessly depressing stories with an intentionally upsetting aesthetic, and to ones with heavy, difficult-to-reconcile subject matter---a story that makes the reader face big questions about their own life---and I really, really don't want to be in the first category," Bertin says. "A lot of what I write comes about from trying to work out nagging, preoccupying thoughts I keep coming to in my day-to-day life. In the case of [The Eviction Process], I was thinking about autonomy, and wondering how many of us are truly able to make our own decisions. It's sort of terrifying to think about---how much free will do really I possess? I think if you're honest, it's much less than you'd like." One beer, please.