Keith Maillard is one of B.C.'s most prolific novelists.

Born in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1942, he went to military high school and then wandered between 1960 and 1967 to the Florida Keys, New England, New York, Los Angeles, Alaska, Alberta and Nova Scotia. During his 20s and 30s he worked at a variety of 'nutty jobs' that include sign painter, house painter, folk singer, busboy, sales person, feather dyer, ghost writer of university papers and attendant in a madhouse. More importantly, Maillard studied and taught music, and wrote for The Free Press in Boston. From 1968 to 1970 he also wrote and produced a weekly public affairs radio show called The Underground News for Boston University Radio. He was an anti-war protester in Boston who felt 'burned out' after the National Guard opened fire and killed four protesters at Kent State. ("I was draft-exempt. I convinced my draft board I was crazy.";). He immigrated to Vancouver in 1970 because he had a friend at UBC. "It was early spring--in Boston everything was feet-deep in snow... my friend phoned and said 'the flowers are blooming' and something just clicked."

In Canada he lived for a brief period at Alert Bay and became a Canadian citizen in 1976. Maillard worked as a bass player, music arranger and songwriter for The Ferron Band and also once pursued a career as a freelance photographer. As well, he taught music (recorder for adults) for the Vancouver School Board. He published Two Strand River, an exploration of androgyny, in 1976. Since then he has produced a series of mainly coming-of-age novels emanating from the fictional town of Raysburg, West Virginia, based on his upbringing in Wheeling. Of his eighth novel called Gloria, Tom Sanborn wrote in the Vancouver Sun, "Gloria should be evaluated in the context of the best of English language fiction, bearing favourable comparison to the strongest work of Julian Barnes, Joyce Carol Oates, David Malouf, T.C. Boyle and William Trevor. In an earlier generation, perhaps only Thomas Wolfe mined the veins of American memory as deeply as Maillard, who hails from the American South, has done in his Raysburg novels.";

Maillard received the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for Motet, his story about a UBC classical music professor investigating rare Dutch manuscripts from the 16th century. Although the novel's obscure composer, van Dorestad, is fictional, the theoretical basis for the novel is derived from the work of German musicologist Edward E. Lowinsky, author of Secret Chromatic Art in the Netherlands Motet (Colombia University Press, 1946). "As a novelist," he says, "I was attracted to the secret chromaticism on the level of metaphor; the musicological stratum of this novel was inspired by the beauty, complexity and daring of Lowinsky's pioneering work." The title Motet refers to "an unaccompanied choral composition based on a Latin sacred text and designed to be performed in the Roman Catholic service, chiefly at Vespers." Paul Crane, a newly separated professor, uncovers 'the devil in music' within an obscure motet. A sex-'n'-drugs driven drummer simultaneously uncovers the spiritual depths of rock music. The drummer and the professor are in love with the same woman, Kathy, a former saxophone player. They all share the same house near the UBC Endowment Lands in Vancouver. The story contains desperate sex and murder for good measure.

In 1989, Keith Maillard was hired fulltime as an Associate Professor at UBC's Creative Writing Department, where he first taught lyric songwriting. His only book of poetry, Dementia Americana (Ronsdale Press), won the Gerald Lampert Award for best first collection.

Set in West Vancouver,Keith Maillard's 14th novel Twin Studies (Freehand 2018) follows a twin researcher at UBC named Dr. Erica Bauer who meets a set of pre-teen twins, raised by a single mom, who are evidently fraternal, but who urgently insist they are identical. It's an examination of gender and identity, class and money, and the complicated bonds between twins and siblings, lovers and friends. Maillard was far ahead of his time in 1976 when he published his first novel about gender fluidity, Two Strand River, which also explored the nuances and complications of non-conventional sexual identity.

For decades Maillard taught creative writing at UBC where he worked with such writers as Zsuzsi Gartner, Joan Skogan, Rosalind MacPhee, Allan Wilson, Zoe Landale, Tammy Armstrong, Steve Galloway, Maureen Medved, Eden Robinson, Laisha Rosnau, Madeleine Thien and Lee Henderson. Maillard is married and has two daughters.

Formal Education:

West Virginia University,
Vancouver Community College School of Music.

Maillard's novels include:

Two Strand River (Press Porcepic 1976, reissued with a new afterword, Harper Collins Canada, 1996)
Alex Driving South (Dial Press 1980)
The Knife in My Hands (General Publishing 1981)
Cutting Through (General Publishing 1982)
Motet (Random House 1989, reissued, HarperCollins, 1997).
Light in the Company of Women (HarperCollins 1993)
Hazard Zones (HarperCollins 1995)
Gloria (HarperCollins, 1999; HarperFlamingo 2001)
The Clarinet Polka (Thomas Allen 2002, Thomas Dunne, U.S., 2003)
Difficulty at the Beginning
--Book 1. Running (Brindle & Glass, 2005)
--Book 2. Morgantown (Brindle & Glass, 2006)
--Book 3. Lyndon Johnson and the Majorettes (Brindle & Glass, 2006)
--Book 4. Looking Good (Brindle & Glass, 2006)
Twin Studies (Freehand 2018) $24.95 978-1-988298-31-3

Poetry:

Dementia Americana (Ronsdale Press, 1995)

Awards:

Gloria - nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, 1999.
Hazard Zones - short-listed for the Commonwealth Literary Prize, Canadian and Caribbean section, 1996.
Dementia Americana - winner of the Gerald Lampert Award, 1995, given by the League of Canadian Poets for the best first book of poetry.
Light in the Company of Women - runner-up for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The B.C. Book Prizes, 1994.
Motet - winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The B.C. Book Prizes, 1990.

From Two Strand to twins

Set in West Vancouver, Keith Maillard's 14th novel Twin Studies (Freehand $24.95) follows a twin researcher at UBC named Dr. Erica Bauer who meets a set of pre-teen twins, raised by a single mom, who are evidently fraternal, but who urgently insist they are identical. It's an examination of gender and identity, class and money, and the complicated bonds between twins and siblings, lovers and friends.

Maillard was far ahead of his time when he published his first novel about gender fluidity, Two Strand River (1982), which also explored the nuances and complications of non-conventional sexual identity.
978-1-988298-31-3

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2018]