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Perry Chafe, author of Closer by Sea

By Kobo • October 01, 2023Author Interviews

Perry Chafe is a television writer, showrunner, producer, and songwriter living in St. John's, Newfoundland. He is currently a writer and producer on the CBC series Son of a Critch.

Closer by Sea is his debut novel.

Kobo: What inspired you to write Closer by Sea?

Perry Chafe: Much of the inspiration was drawn from my time spent growing up in the small fishing community of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, surrounded by family, friends, and the vast North Atlantic Ocean. I wanted to set a coming-of-age tale in a similarly isolated fishing village during an incredibly turbulent time in my province’s history: the collapse of the fishing industry. The government-enforced cod moratorium of 1992 had a devastating impact on hundreds of communities, as it put an end to a centuries-old way of life in Newfoundland and Labrador, creating a climate of fear and uncertainty about the future.

Kobo: What was the most fun aspect of writing pre-teenaged characters? What was the most difficult?

PC: The entire experience has given me a wonderful opportunity to reflect back on my childhood days growing up in a small outport fishing community in the ’70s and ’80s. It was fun to relive some of those moments and be able to share them with the reader. Creating a world with intriguing yet relatable characters can prove difficult, but the story seems to have resonated with many readers.

Kobo: How does writing a novel compare to writing for television?

PC: Writing for television is very different in a number of ways. First off, there’s the time frame. In the scripted world, we are continuously feeding a production machine that is in constant need of scripts. It’s the creative fuel that keeps the production running, so time is a luxury we cannot always afford. The novel had key deadlines that I had to adhere to, but it did not have the same everyday urgency of a script. As well, the novel was much more descriptive in nature than anything I had written previously. I really had to focus on every single detail, from the sound of a make-and-break engine to the sights and smells of an active fish plant. And finally, this was in many ways a solo journey. In the scripted world, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with gifted writers who I can break story with and then share notes at various stages of development. But with a novel, I felt as if I was on my own island, creatively speaking. Though I had two incredible editors, this was very much a me project.

Kobo: What are some little-known facts about Newfoundland that you’d like the rest of Canada to know?

PC: Newfoundland and Labrador is a unique place. Like my hometown of Petty Harbour, there were hundreds of small communities throughout the province that depended on the cod fishery for survival. That all changed in 1992 with the cod moratorium, which is still in effect to this day. Despite some 30,000 people finding themselves without work, we managed to survive and, in some instances, flourish thanks in large part to the spirit of a people who have called this place home for many generations. Also, I’d love for the reader to get a sense of the rugged beauty of this place with its rocky shores and many coves and inlets and, in doing so, to get a feel of what it was like to work in and around the cod fishery.

Kobo: After the success of Closer by Sea, do you have plans to write more novels?

PC: I’m overwhelmed and humbled by the response to my debut novel with it becoming an instant bestseller. I have thoroughly enjoyed this new storytelling vehicle and am already planning my follow-up book.

Kobo: What is a book you read recently that you could not put down?

PC: Most recently, Jesse Thistle’s incredibly powerful memoir From the Ashes proved difficult to put down. Also, Nita Prose’s The Maid was a page-turner. I’m also a fan of Fredrik Backman and am currently having a hard time putting down Anxious People. ◼

Closer by Sea by Perry Chafe

From the writer and producer of the hit TV shows Republic of Doyle and Son of a Critch, a poignant coming-of-age debut novel about the mysterious disappearance of a young girl and the fragility of childhood bonds, set against the backdrop of a small island community adapting to an ever-changing landscape.

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