I originally know Author Lee Garratt from speculative poetry, but he is also a novelist! When I asked him how he might describe himself as an author, he replied: “Regularly entertains delusions of grandeur.” Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.
Hi there. My name is Lee Garratt. I am 49 years old and, after rather a varied career history, I am currently teaching High School English in the English Midlands. I have a 10 year old son, Alfred.
When and why did you begin writing?
As a serious thing after a marriage break up 7 years ago. I suddenly had more time to myself and I thought it was either now or never. Writing was always something I was going to do – it was time to either get busy or to drop that dream.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s an interesting question. It is something of a sliding scale isn’t it? When I first started writing I went to a local poetry club. There, the first thing I wanted to do was to write poems that would stand up against the others and get good feedback. Once I had achieved that, I set myself a goal of getting one of my poems or stories published. And when that happened, when I finally saw my name in print, it was, as every writer knows, a very exciting moment! Since then, I have been lucky enough to have more things published and even, more recently, whole books of my own.
Whether I consider myself a writer though, or ‘just’ a teacher who writes in the evenings is a moot point. I think, until I could quit the day job, I would feel a little bit of a fraud giving myself such a grand title! To be a writer, to actually be one, is really quite something.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
Certainly. It is, I would say, a YA fantasy novella It is set in a land (a future Earth?) where society has, to a large extent, broken down. Culture only barely clings on in an almost mythical faraway place, SeaCity. The protagonist, Alfred, grows up in a dysfunctional, barely alive, settlement stranded in a dystopian waste. Events conspire to send Alfred on a dangerous journey to Seacity.
What inspired you to write this book?
I think the genesis of it was just the image of a place; a barren wasteland where people barely cling on after some unspecified cataclysmic event. The place itself captured my imagination and I started from there.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Ooh. That’s interesting. I think my ‘natural’ writing style is a kind of rational exposition similar to, in my mind at least, John Wyndham. I think it probably seems a little ‘old fashioned’ to some these days.
I play around with different voices though. I recently wrote a story in a more fevered Irvine Welsh kind of manner (or that was my intention). I’ve tried imitating a Stanislaw Lem voice (very difficult). It is fun to play around with these things.
The settling on a ‘style’ is an interesting thing actually. You read the vast majority of authors and they certainly do this. It’s surprising actually, how many of them settle on a single ‘voice’. Perhaps that is a good thing – perhaps most of us have one true authorial voice that, if we are lucky enough to discover, would be best advised to stick to. On the other hand, I sometimes wonder whether, given the sheer infinite amount of forms a story can take, many authors aren’t just settling for safety?
How did you come up with the title of this book?
It took a little while to get there actually. Indeed, I had another title in mind, ‘Dirt’, until very late in the day. When myself and the publisher decided on the cover image it was only then that I decided on ‘Remains’.
I like the process on deciding on a title – when you hit on the right one it just fits somehow.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Hmm. I think I am a little obsessed with the randomness of life. And how often things, actually, aren’t ‘meant to be’. So, if there is a message, it is perhaps something of how the world is a big place that couldn’t care less about you as an individual – even if you do happen to be a fictional character in a book!
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in
your own life?
I’ve not thought about that, Directly no. But the protagonist is called after my son so there might be something there.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
Great question. I was something of a ‘bum’ in my 20s and 30s. So, for me, Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain, Hemingway (and Tolkien too with his hobbits setting forth on journeys from the shire) have a lot to answer for!
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
As in all time, alive or dead?
I think I would probably choose Ursula K Le Guin. As well as being a truly wonderful writer of genius she always strikes me as a woman of wisdom and kindness. I love Hemingway but I’m not sure how good a mentor he would be. I imagine we might fall out after a big boozy night!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
The first thing you write, try and make it incredibly, undeniably brilliant. You will then, in one fell swoop, have got yourself a publisher, an agent and lots of money, so can spend the rest of your life writing rather than having to bother yourself with all the boring stuff the rest of us have to.
Belper, Derbyshire, UK
Publisher: Dimensionfold Publishing