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19 Jun

Starting with a lousy internet connection into stories to tell, meet Leslie W. P. Garland…

 

The Red Grouse TalesJR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

LG: I was born in 1949, qualified as a Chartered Civil Engineer and worked for several years on projects in the UK, the Far East and Africa. During this period I won the Institution of Civil Engineers “Miller Prize” for a paper on tunnelling. Changing times resulted in a change in direction and after qualifying as an Associate Member of both the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Royal Photographic Society I started my own stock photograph library and wrote for the trade press. An unexpected break in my Internet connection fortuitously presented the time to make a start on a long cherished project of a series of short stories, and the first two of “The Red Grouse Tales” were drafted. Two more have followed and I am now working on a second batch of tales. I live with my wife in Northumberland.

That’s a simple summary of “me”. On the more personal level, I enjoy the outdoors, though don’t get enough of it. I used to do a fair bit of rock climbing and mountaineering, but these days confine my efforts to walking. Travel still features in my life and of course I still take photographs, but nothing like as seriously as I used to. Unfortunately, writing doesn’t tend to fit in well with anything physical, by which I mean “the doing of anything” – you can’t go walking, swimming, or to the gym and write at the same time! However, not all of writing is typing, a fair bit of it is “thinking time” and the physical pursuits give time for this.

 

JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?

LG: I started about 7 years ago when my internet connection went down and I took the time to work on a couple of stories that had been turning over in my head for some time. Quite when the ideas for those started, that’s a difficult one! As for who spotted that talent? I think I am still waiting for that! Some kind reviewers have been giving my stories four and five stars and I am averaging over four stars on Amazon, which is pleasing, but I have yet to impress a main stream publisher.

 

JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

LG: No, absolutely none. However, I have written technical papers, and won prizes for same, so I guess that helps. I like to think I can put one word in front of another and have a reasonable grasp of both grammar and spelling, though the latter is a weak point of mine. Do I think  A formal education in writing is necessary? No, but I do feel that more than a basic grasp of the language is essential.

 

JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

LG: No I am not. I am now in the lucky position of being retired, so my writing is just a hobby. This is great. My photography started out as a hobby, but I know from experience when you have to earn your crust from any creative endeavour the money almost inevitably starts to come first and then the creativity suffers. I think I have answered your second question, namely pension! How do I organise? We all think, “when I retire I will have all the time in the world”. Take it from me, you won’t have! Trying to fit everything in during a day doesn’t get any easier. So I end up grabbing time when I can.

 

JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

LG: I certainly did not have writing as a long term plan. Ideas just came into my head and when I read David Almond’s book “Skellig” I realised that the subject matter was not so different to my ideas. So I decided to give it a go and get my thoughts down on paper – and as they say, five stories later!

The what or who? Authors; obviously David Almond. Two other writers that have really grabbed me are Joseph Conrad and William Golding. I like the structure of Conrad’s story telling – a group of sailors on a lighter going down a river together and one starts telling a story – it is a wonderful way of pulling the reader into the story. You can guess where I got my idea of the Red Grouse Tales from! And I like the way his stories build – “Heart of Darkness” becoming more and more insane as it goes on. Of course Golding captures the dark side of human nature so well. His “Darkness Visible” and “Rights of Passage” are absolute gems – if that is the way to describe two such books?!

I also have to mention the Bible – no, I am not really religious and I thought I would never have found myself saying this – but it is a wonderful book. The stories in it are very different to each other, are variously; darn good stories, wonderful allegories, contain some superb fantasy, can be deeply philosophical, as well as, of course, being religious. It is one of those books that contains something for everyone whether you are religious or not, and you can take what you want from it – which is probably why it has lasted for over two thousand years!

John LeCarre has to get a mention for the way he puts his plots together – there is nothing accidental in his books, no seeing where an idea takes you, everything is meticulously worked out and I like that.

And there are many, many more. I’ve picked up snips from all over the place. In my “The Little Dog” story, I gleaned the name of Blackman from Henning Mankel’s “Depths”. In “The Golden Tup” I realised afterwards that I must have absorbed more of Trollope than I had realised at the time! I love Dickens for the names he gives his characters and confess that I have copied this for people and places in my stories. And of course in “The White Hart” William Shakespeare might have just had the tiniest of influence!”

 

JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

LG: My Red Grouse Tales stories are novellas rather than novels. However, the last one published, “The Bat”, is only a hundred or so words short of being a novel and I expect one that I am working on right now, “The Ghost Moth”, could well turn out to be a novel. The time taken is always longer that one would wish, because the idea is buzzing in the head and one has to go shopping, or take the car into the garage, etc.! The actual writing doesn’t take too long. However, There is the research and most importantly the editing. I find that the only way I can deal with this last aspect is to put the thing down, work on something else and then come back to it after a reasonable break. Do we count all that waiting time? In which case we probably talking well in excess of a year.

And the hardest part? That’s easy; the marketing! The amount of time one has to waste on social media trying to get reviews in the first place and then readers to buy in the second, drives me mad!

 

JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

LG: That is more for others to judge rather than myself. My own feeling is that I am now less hung-up on how I express myself, feeling that I will write as I feel and if people like they do, if they don’t they don’t.

 

JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

LG: This is a favourite question and I guess is a serious problem if you are trying to earn your crust from writing – the manuscript has to be finished in order to pay the bills! However, when money is not the reason for one’s writing, so called writer’s block is not a problem – the blochage just becomes a part of the story that needs working out. I find that putting the thing down, going for a walk or a swim, or giving the whole thing a miss for a week or two usually works, as this gives one’s brain time to chew on the problem and in one way or another resolve it.

 

JR: Do you have professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

LG: Having been a professional photographer for most of my working life, I design my own covers.

 

JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

LG: Has anyone any ideas they can share with me?!

 

JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

LG: Having bashed away at self-publishing and found how dispiriting and draining it is, if a main stream publisher offered me a deal I think I would take their hand off!

 

JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

LG: Five are now published. “The Little Dog”, “The Crow”, “The Golden Tup” and the “The White Hart”, all novellas, can be bought separately or in one volume called “The Red Grouse Tales.” And a fifth one “The Bat”, which is just a hundred words or so short of a novel, is just out. This will probably be the first tale in “The Red Grouse Tales – Volume 2”.

I also have a story which is already fully drafted, though has yet to have its “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed, ready for RGT; Vol 3, called “The Blue Horse”, which muses on time, this life and the next. Another project which is reasonably worked up, called “The Rat”, is one in which I am planning to go through the seven deadly sins, may be for Vol 2.

And if that lot isn’t enough, I also have a further idea based loosely on Dante’s Inferno – possibly for a Vol 4, or maybe something totally different – all worked up in note form, called “The Tunnel”.

Goodness knows when I will actually get the time to write all this lot. I need another life!

 

JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

LG: Ah, this is a tricky one! Whatever genre my stories are I always find that drop down box descriptions don’t cover them – I would like to describe them as contemporary folk tales – and there is never a slot for these. Although they have fantasy elements in them, they are nothing like “Harry Potter”, so are not what I would describe as fantasy stories. Likewise although there are philosophical and religious aspects in them, I would not describe them as philosophical or religious stories. When you’ve read them, I’ll ask you the question!

Why?  Folk tales and fairy stories often contain all the elements I have just mentioned; a bit of fantasy, or the fantastic, might contain a nod towards a religion, and usually have a bit of philosophy or a moral of sorts in them.

 

JR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

LG: The one I am working on right now – “The Ghost Moth”. This tale takes the form of two stories running in parallel, one set in the medieval past and one set in the present. In the earlier story we learn about a young novice monk and of the conflict he has between his faith, as practised in the monastery he attends, and his desire to be a normal man and have a relationship with a woman, though unfortunately for him nothing is normal! And in the contemporary story we learn how the narrator’s son becomes ill after visiting a strange local landmark. Is the past connected to the present and if so …….. ? However, the aim of this story is to question the conflicting natures and attitudes of the sexes to each other, show up some of the attitudes in religion and point out that all of these have had their share of certifiable zealots.

 

JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

LG: Give it a go! Better to have tried and failed than to have to live with “what if I had ……”, “if only I had …..”

 

JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

LG: I have a web site at www.lesliegarland.co.uk , am also on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14872399.Leslie_W_P_Garland, and of course you can track me down on Amazon where, as well as having a listing of my books, I also have an author page.

 

Below are his books detail.

All books are in e-book form and can be found separately or, for the first four, in one volume “The Red Grouse Tales”, on Amazon.

The Little Dog: A story of good and evil, and retribution.The Little Dog, a story of good and evil, and retribution, is told by Bill, a retired forester, who muses on what makes men evil as he recounts a week in his early working life when he and an unsavoury colleague found a little dog out in a remote part of the forest – how did the dog get there and what it is doing there? As the week passes his concerns about his colleague heighten and when he notices that the little dog has disappeared can’t help but think that his colleague has something to do with this. Troubled, he discusses the nature of good and evil with his local priest. The next day events take and unexpected turn and the young naive Bill starts to learn some awful truths.

 

 

 

The Crow: A poignant tale of misunderstanding, dying, blame and bitternessThe Crow, a sad, poignant story of misunderstanding, bitterness and blame, takes the transitory nature of life and our almost desperate desire to leave something to mark our time of this Earth as its theme. Mad Father Patrick, a dying and embittered Irish priest, tells a young Dave of the rise of a local councillor and MP, Reginald Monday, and the part he (Monday) played in the construction of a dam which flooded a valley. Father Patrick’s story becomes gradually more bitter and fantastic, but how does it end and why is he so bitter towards Reginald Monday?

 

 

 

 

The Golden Tup: A dreadful tale of paradise being cruelly taken by latent evilThe Golden Tup, a dreadful tale of a young couple’s paradise being cruelly taken from them by latent evil,  looks at the concept of evil in a place and is told by Verity who was a friend of the wife of a young couple who shocked the village by killing their new born baby. It is told in a series of flash backs. How they bought and renovated an old farmhouse and how gradually, with references to Milton’s Paradise Lost, their new found paradise was lost. As the young wife gradually reveals a dreadful past, Verity realises that she is holding something back, but what? What is the terrible truth that caused her and her husband to kill their baby?

 

 

 

The White Hart: A happy ghost story, if there can be such a thingThe White Hart, a happy ghost story, if there can be such a thing! is a tale told by a bachelor and keen fell-runner, Pete Montague, and takes the form of his recalling three strange incidents which he initially thinks are unconnected. The first is his encounter with a little albino deer which he finds trapped in some wire in the forest when he is out for a jog. The second is that of a chance meeting with a beautiful girl at a remote chapel and of their conversation in which she tells him the story of the daughter of the family which built it. And the third incident ……

 

 

 

 

The Bat: A coming of age story involving a search after truth, doubt and a bat!The Bat A coming of age story involving a search after truth, doubt and a bat!

With “fake news” hitting the headlines, I thought it would be nice to look at “truth” and muse on questions such as “what actually is true?” and “what is Truth?” using a fantasy story as a foil for same.

In this coming-of-age story Thomas recounts the events of a term at school when his class returned to a new beautiful class teacher, a donation of stuffed animals and birds by an eccentric benefactor which he and his friends subsequently discovered weren’t quite as dead as they looked, an exorcism in which a bell-jar which had contained a bat shattered, and then things, which up until then had been strange, turned to being sinister and frightening.

In an attempt to understand what was going on, Thomas found himself reading up on Black Magic, Satanism, the early Christian Church, and the worship of evil, but instead of assisting his understanding this made him more confused than ever. Even a conversation with his local priest failed to resolve the problems he found himself wrestling with. What was true? What was the Truth? And of course, where was the bat?
An adult fantasy story for those who like to think about what they are reading.

***Warning to sensitive readers; these are stories for adults and so some do contain references to sex and the occasional use of bad language

 

Leslie W P Garland