Visualise the setting for this interview: a few drinks on the patio in his backyard on an English summer’s afternoon. (No matter that it really took place over the internet, and that it might be summer for Gary, but it’s cold and wet here on the Shipwreck Coast.)
Firstly, Gary, do you have a routine for writing and, if so, what is it? What are some of the things that tend to get in the way?
My writing routine used to be 9am to 11am, 5 days, religiously. That’s when I love writing and just about the only time I can write new stuff. Editing I can do at any time, but again I try to keep it to mornings. After writing I head into the office, which is about five minutes from my house or to site, which could be anywhere.
Having a meeting at work is what breaks my routine these days. If I can avoid it I will, but sometimes a meeting at 12 could take me three hours to get to, so I’ve got to get on the road early. I’ve recently bought a laptop (to go with the computer in the house and one at the office), in a bid to snatch more writing time as I’m only writing three times a week, which isn’t enough for me.
Writers come from such a diverse range of backgrounds, it’s always interesting to hear how they earn a crust… before the royalties start rolling in (and the Cayman Islands bank account needs to be opened!). Could you tell us something about the business you’re in and whether it connects with your life as a writer?
I earn a crust in construction. I own my own firm and we specialize in the installation of granite paving. We do commercial contracts, which include a lot of city centre work. At the moment we’re laying cobbles, setts, flags and kerbs in Leicester, Wakefield, Liverpool, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Middlesborough and Stockport. I say WE very loosely, as I haven’t laid a flag in my life. I’m hopeless with anything practical and would starve to death if I had to do a manual job for a living.
I have a quantity surveyor in the office and, depending on work load, 20+ men on site at any one time. I run things part time and the day-to-day stuff is controlled by the working-foreman on each job.
What I like about it? I work with some great blokes, real grafters that snarl if a seven-day week isn’t on and they’ve become good friends. Taking them on a night out, which I do every couple of months or so, is shortening my life expectancy a great deal I expect. I also enjoy the buzz of winning contracts, making money, spending money (which Karen doesn’t mind helping me out with), and generally being my own boss.
Writing and construction? So far no connection whatsoever. When I’m writing I’m away in a different world, conjuring up stories and characters, mixed with experiences I’ve had. I write in total silence when I’m doing new stuff, then in the afternoon I switch the mobile on and BANG! I’m into chaos. Although I claim not to, I think I love both sides of the mobile.
Perhaps you could describe how you first developed an interest in writing and whether there’s any particular reason why this interest might have developed? Did you have a burning ambition to be a novelist, for instance? If not, what has been an abiding ambition of yours?
I’ve always read a lot. And I mean A LOT! When Karen and I were backpacking we’d buy a huge bag of secondhand books and take them with us to some island and read them all, lying there chilled out. At home I’ll have one book in the toilet, one beside my bed and one in the car.
When we came back from America in the year 2000 I was smoking three cigarettes to every pint and both Karen and I thought it wasn’t doing me any good (that’s the mild version of the conversation). Anyway, right there, after New Year’s Eve, I gave up and decided to have a go writing stories. I sat down every day and wrote and wrote until I finished my first novel. Absolute crap, but I loved it and just carried on, book after book, each one getting less crap than the previous.
That was that. I just kept reading and writing and thoroughly enjoyed it. Escaping every morning from the rat race was pure bliss. Before this I’d never given writing a thought.
Ambitions now? Number 1 bestsellers worldwide, cult status, red carpet, enough ££££$$$$ to buy a villa in the south of France and still be enjoying it when I’m too old to see what I’m writing.
Read Part Two of the Gary Davison interview.
For the printed edition of this interview in TVFH magazine go here.