Interview with Garry Abbott

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I would say my alarm, but I almost always wake up about one minute before it goes off!

Being a 'working' author, as in, I work a full-time job alongside my writing, I have to carve out the time where I can to complete my projects. But my wife, my family, my friends and my work are my reasons for blinking sleepily into existence each day...
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Writing, recording and performing music is my joint-first passion in life alongside my writing. I can sit in my studio writing songs all day long. I play a lot of instruments and like to sing, so I do solo stuff and play with other bands now and again.

I also work full time in the social housing sector, which I find rewarding (otherwise I wouldn't do it!). When I'm doing none of these things I like playing strategy board games with friends (things like Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan... that kind of thing). I'm also a fully fledged computer 'gamer' - I love new interactive technology and the rise of story telling and epic scale in modern games.

My wife and I like visiting old houses and castles and going for nice walks in the abundance of beautiful countryside we are blessed with in the UK and especially around our home county of Staffordshire.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
When I was about nine years old I wrote a story for my school's annual 'English Award'. I was reading Tolkien for the first time and wrote a story about a dragon. I don't remember what happened in it, but I won! (I'm still waiting for the engraved trophy).
What is your writing process?
I don't set off without an idea and the general direction of travel in place - usually a bullet list of plot notes and chapter guides. I start with basic character profiles too and build these up as I go along. These will almost always change many times as I start drafting, but it keeps me on track.

After that I try and draft quickly. I have limited time, so I only sit down if I think I can get a chapter or major section of a chapter down in one sitting. I like chapters to have a shape or place in time and plot, rather than just cutting them arbitrarily.

When I have a finished draft, I will start the edit and any big re-writes to sections or chapters I don't think are coming together, or may take a little more fleshing out. After that it is more edits until I am ready to send for proofing - then more edits... There is a lot of rereading and editing, usually.

I work on a word processor, but sometimes will use a notepad and pen if I want a change of scenery or it is too sunny to sit outside with a reflective screen! This can work well because writing up the notes is also an edit.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Other than lots of children's books (especially Asterix!), the first book that had an impact on me was called 'There is a happy land' by Keith Waterhouse that I read when I was around eleven or twelve. I was quite young for it really, but I remember it being happy and harrowing all at the same time. It made me cry.

I've never tried to write 'slice of life' fiction like that myself, gravitating soon after that towards fantasy and science fiction, but all stories should have that potential to pull at your emotions, and I think that's when I first discovered it.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read all sorts with a heavy smattering of science fiction. I've recently read 'Dracula' for the first time, and loved it. I think I would like to read some more classic horror at some point, but I'm currently working through a short story collection compiled by Brian Aldiss, and them moving on to finish Asimov's Foundation series (I've read the first one).
Describe your desk
It is a mess of papers, musical equipment, electronic adaptors and mug stains. Occasionally I clean it and watch as it descends gradually into anarchy over a period of six months or so. I sit between too many guitars in front of over-filled bookshelves.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up mainly in Stoke on Trent in Staffordshire, where I still live. This means that the Midlands and the North feature in my writing more so that the South, because that's what I know. I also think there is a sensibility regarding power and being disenfranchised in the Industrial North that lends itself well to bleak future visions and tales of shadowy elites!

Apart from that, Staffordshire, and Yorkshire (where I was born and lived the first nine years of m life), are beautiful counties, with fantastic countryside in stark contrast to the industrial centres. They are great backdrops for anyone looking for a little literary mise en scene.
When did you first start writing?
I started seriously writing in my late twenties after having always dabbled with poems, song lyrics and the occasional scrappy idea or children's story. I wanted to get better at it so I enrolled in creative writing classes at the Open University, which eventually turned into part of a fully fledged degree along with philosophy. This all helped immensely, and continues to do so. I would recommend them to anyone looking to learn and improve.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Without repeating the blurb, 'The Great Connection' is about what happens if we ever finally come to terms with the fact we are never going to reach other planets physically, and instead start to explore using deep space telescopes and virtual reality. I wrote a short story that became the Prologue of the book, where this concept is laid out pretty concisely. I think it could happen one day, in one form or another. It probably already is.

To navigate through this premise, I also wanted to project to a near future where we have continued to sow social division and place consumerism over almost everything else. Then I wanted to see what happens when a typical boy from this world finds something in the simulation that he doesn't trust to the 'powers that be', and how he (and his companions) would deal with this, especially given the alien worlds that begin to emerge, and the capabilities they may have, above and beyond our own.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Surprising myself. I used to think it was rubbish when people said that their own character's would do something they didn't expect, like: "how can they do that?! You're writing them!" But actually, it can, and does happen. At best, you can feel like you are just documenting something that already exists, and making stylistic choices along the way. Even when it isn't flowing as easily, that's where the graft comes in, and if you keep on grafting and drafting, it will come back. It's similar to music in that way, I find. It's something to do with the act of being creative, almost spiritual, beyond need for reduction. Yeah, that.
Published 2016-10-20.
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Books by This Author

The Great Connection: Worlds in Waiting
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 82,020. Language: English. Published: October 19, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Raif Masters finds himself forced by his overprotective parents to spend his last school holiday exploring extraterrestrial worlds in ‘The Great Connection’: a real-time simulation of the observable universe, rendered into virtual reality home entertainment. His crew discovers a secret from the other side of the galaxy that could change the future of the Earth, forever.