News and Interviews

Andrew Battershill is Ready for Round Two in His New Pugilist-Mystery Novel, Pet, Pet, Slap

Interview with Andrew Battershill banner. Background image of wooden siding on house with author to the right of the banner, young man standing with hands in his pockets with a short beard and cropped hair, wearing a stylish button-down jacket and leaning against wall. Solid red area to the centre left of image with text and Open Book logo overlaid.

Back for Round 2 in novel form, boxer ‘Pillow Fist’ Pete Wilson returns to the page for a big comeback fight in Pet, Pet, Slap (Coach House Books). But has he lost his edge? Will he find the motivation to carry on and train for his bout?

We first encountered the protagonist in Pillow, the Giller Longlisted debut from Andrew Battershill. With his trademark humour and pathos, and an real verve for voice and wonderful strangeness, the author has brought this unforgettable character back in a work that is "part underdog sports story, part work of neozoological surrealism, and part existential mystery novel."

With a new bent for Veganism and exotic pets, and a roommate called Sherlock Holmes who faked his own death and is now helping Pillow dope for his fights, the stakes are raised further than ever before. When Pillow's car and pet shark Rigoberto go missing, he and Sherlock must unravel the mystery and get the boxer back on track before he eats canvas.

Lace up your gloves and join us in discussing the new novel with the author!


Open Book:

If you had to describe your book in one sentence, what would you say?

Andrew Battershill:

Pet, Pet, Slap is a novel about a veteran boxer trying to ethically divest his exotic animal menagerie while (barely) training for his last title shot and solving existential mysteries with his roommate Sherlock Holmes.

Andrew Battershill

Andrew Battershill


Do you remember how your first started this novel or the very first bit of writing you did for it? 


The very first bit of writing I did for Pet, Pet, Slap went as follows: I made a too-strong Aeropress coffee, sat at my kitchen table in an ergonomic position you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy and wrote about 6,000 words straight. 

A lot of those words are still in the book! For my other books there’s been pre-work, noodling around, aborted short stories, cannibalized notes, etc. before the novel project began in earnest. But this time I just sat down and started blasting. So, it’s safe to say this novel started with a random burst of creativity. 

Although writing a prequel to an obscure, small-press Canadian novel eight years later might appear to be the product of a cany, calculated careerist, I can assure you it was, rather, the improvisations of an obscure, barely-hinged Canadian novelist with all the business instincts of a newborn mole-rat. 

Also, if anyone out there is Aeropress curious, I say go for it. If you’re worried about the paper filters, they have metal ones you can buy to save on waste.


Did the ending of your novel change at all through your drafts? If so, how?


The ending of Pet, Pet, Slap was the most stable element of the various drafts. The final chapter has been written in a relatively intact form since I was about 20% of the way through the first draft. 

The content of my books has tended to the “quirky” side of things, but I’m fairly traditional in terms of how I narratively structure novels. For all my books I’ve used a simple three-act structure with all the conventional beats in all the conventional places.

For me, the important thing a stable narrative structure reinforces is that a novel is an aesthetic product where the writer is fully empowered to decide what the story is and how it gets told. There is no objective beginning to a piece of fiction, there is an opening beat. And, of course, there’s no end, simply a closing beat. The distinction is that it doesn’t so much matter what happens, but what you leave the reader with. For all my novels, I’ve known and written toward the final beat of the story because it’s the most important one.


Did you find yourself having a "favourite" amongst your characters? If so, who was it and why?


Pillow! The protagonist of this book is the same as my first novel, Pillow. So, I’ve been with this character a long time now, and I’ve thought a lot about him, and he’s my favourite by a long shot. 

I’m not actually sure I’m all that sure how good a writer I am, in the scheme of things. But I feel pretty strongly I made a genuinely good character in Pillow

Pet, Pet, Slap by Andrew Battershill

Pet, Pet, Slap by Andrew Battershill


Did you include an epigraph in your book? If so, how did you choose it and how does it relate to the narrative?


The epigraph of my book is from the late, great boxer Pernell Whitaker. Prior to one of his fights, he said: “I’m not worried. I know what I have to do. I’m going to go out here and dazzle myself. I’m going to surprise myself with how good I’m going to look.”

And that energy is exactly what I wanted for this book. I think this is a book about one strange man’s journey to stop taking things for granted and appreciate a little bit of time in his body and brain, while he’s still got them. It’s also about Sherlock Holmes and giraffes. But the sentimental thing I just said about appreciating the process of living is still the main point emotionally, or whatever


What if, anything, did you learn from writing this novel?


Put simply, I learned to enjoy writing again. I was dealing with a really very strong dose of burnout and disillusionment and had essentially quit writing for money or as my primary occupation prior to beginning this book. And that’s probably what let me feel the freedom to write it.

Ultimately, I think I just hit a point where art wasn’t a release or an outlet, it was the inlet to bad feelings and self-judgement and angst. I didn’t feel artistically free, just pressure with no payoff. I felt my artistic failures and setbacks deeply, and I felt nothing at all when things went well. 

With a few wobbles along the way, it was the total opposite with this book. I started writing it with no expectations at all. I did it for fun. And it was fun. I loved writing this book. And love is learning. 


Andrew Battershill is the husband of the writer Suzannah Showler and the father of Djuna. He is the author of two previous novels. His work has been longlisted for the Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and he was the winner of the 2019 ReLit Award in the Novel category. He works as public librarian on the unceded homelands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Buy the Book

Pet, Pet, Slap

Rocky meets Elmore Leonard meets Miranda July as Pillow Wilson, a past-his-prime boxer, trains for his last title shot. Shenanigans ensue. 

Boxer ‘Pillow Fist’ Pete Wilson should be preparing for his big comeback fight. But, having recently undergone an ethical awakening, the new vegan is busy trying to find humane new homes for his menagerie of exotic pets (including Jersey Joe the sloth and Rigoberto the shark). His roommate, Sherlock Holmes, who faked his own death by waterfall, is now Pillow’s in-house doping expert.

Pillow just can’t get motivated to train, and he’s further distracted from his push-ups when both his car and Rigoberto mysteriously disappear. Luckily, Sherlock is a master of deduction. What follows is part underdog sports story, part work of neozoological surrealism, and part existential mystery novel.