I’m delighted to interview Colin Garrow on my blog. Thanks to his irreverent sense of humour and great writing, he’s become one of my favourite authors.
This weekend, he’s releasing the excellent Curse of the Baskervilles, the third book in the Watson Letters series. You’ll find it on Amazon, along with my 5 star review.
Please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.
I started writing when I left school, but for a long time found it difficult to write well. In fact, it wasn’t until I embarked on a degree in Drama as a mature student that I began to understand why some things worked and others didn’t. At uni I wrote plays (some of which were eventually performed), but it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I settled down to write my first novel.
When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?I didn’t really want to be an author to begin with, though it’s always been at the back of my mind. When I was 16, I wanted to play in a heavy metal band and go on tour. My guitar skills were pretty good, but I was very shy, so that particular career path never really got off the ground. Nowadays I’m more into folky-type music and am quite relaxed about singing and playing, but I think that’s more to do with the fact that I’m past the stage of caring what people think.
Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?
The first thing I remember writing (after deciding I wanted to be ‘a writer’), was a radio play called ‘Down Where the Moon is Lonely’. It was meant to be a sort of spoof of ‘Under Milk Wood’ by Dylan Thomas. I convinced myself it was a fantastically clever play and fiddled around with it for a few years , tyring to get it right. Eventually I sent it to the BBC, who recognised it for what it was – a pile of crap – but I’d had problems with endings for quite a while, so I was glad to have written something I’d actually been able to finish, even if no-one wanted to read it.
What do you most enjoy about being an author?
I love creating stories and characters, but mostly I enjoy entertaining people and, with any luck, making them laugh.
What do you least enjoy about being an author?
The length of time it takes to become rich and famous 🙂
I see from your Amazon biography, you’ve had quite a variety of interesting jobs. Any particular favourites you’d like to tell me about?
I studied Drama at university and subsequently did a lot of freelance work, including storytelling, mask making, and running writing and drama workshops. I loved the variety, though there was never enough work to keep me busy full time, so I’d have to take on less enchanting jobs (like working in a fish-processing factory, or handing out leaflets), to make ends meet.
How much did your work inspire your writing and the subjects you write about?
Hardly at all, though a few years ago I co-wrote a stage play called ‘No Phones on Planet Pluto’, a piece about mental illness. The play consisted of a series of monologues, including one I wrote based on my own experiences of depression. I also performed in the play and found the whole thing quite cathartic.
You also publish a variety of books from children’s to humour to detective mystery. Perhaps you could tell me about this.
Mainly, I write about murders, mysteries and adventures, starting with children’s novels (because the ideas I had at the time seemed suited to that age group). It was only after I’d begun writing short stories aimed at literary magazines and an older readership that I got interested in writing for adults. (Although the stage plays I’d written previously where mostly for adult audiences.) My first novel for adults, ‘Death on a Dirty Afternoon‘, was inspired by a short story I’d written called ‘How Green Was My Lovely Big Sleep’ – a spoof Raymond Chandler tale.
I’ve now written six novels for children, including my first venture into the horror genre. I had the idea of writing a series that would rival RL Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ series (yeah, right!), setting it in one town and featuring many of the same characters. The first one in the series is called, ‘The Demon of Devilgate Drive‘ and was inspired by the Suzi Quatro song of (almost) the same name. I even called one of the characters Suzi Q as a sort of homage to the leatherclad rocker.
Tell me about the inspiration and motivation to write ‘The Watson Letters’. Were you worried you might upset fans of Sherlock Holmes?
The Watson Letters started between myself and a friend as a series of emails taking the Mickey out of literary characters, the main focus being Holmes and Watson. Then I built a website about the Conan Doyle books and the Watson Letters Blog became part of that. Eventually my friend didn’t want to do it any more and that’s when I started to think about developing the stories, instead of the disorganized mess they’d become.
The first book (The Watson Letters Volume 1: Something Wicker This Way Comes), was an experiment to see if I could take the essence of the Blog and make it into a readable book. Book 2 was more structured, though the stories were (and still are), published on the Blog first, then edited into book form.
I don’t really worry about offending Sherlock Holmes fans, since there are already loads of people on the Conan Doyle bandwagon. And there’s plenty of variety to choose from if my innuendo/fart gag scenarios don’t appeal – my particular favourites on the more serious side are ‘House of Silk’ and ‘Moriarty’ by Anthony Horowitz.
Which type of book do you most like to write and why?
My favourite type of books are the ones I can finish. At the moment, I have one unfinished novel which has been doing my head in for quite some time. It may be that my method of not planning my books is partly to blame, but I could never write a novel where I already knew the ending – the reason for writing is to find out what happens and quite often it’s a surprise to me as much as anyone else.
Who inspires you? Why?
I’m inspired by good writing, so I strive to be as good as the writers I admire: Stephen King, Peter Carey, Margaret Atwood, Sharon Bolton, Tim Winton, Mo Hayder, Raymond Chandler, George Orwell, Christopher Brookmyre, Louise Welsh and of course Ian Banks.
If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?
Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, because they’re all absolutely fabulous, and the lovely Victoria Wood, because she was the funniest comedy writer ever.
Please tell me about your latest project.
I keep telling myself to stick to one book at a time, but at the moment, I’m working on the next Terry Bell Mystery, ‘A Long Cool Glass of Murder’, the second of my middle grade horror books, ‘The Curse of Calico Jack’, and the third Christie McKinnon adventure, currently titled ‘The Phantom of Fiddler’s Lane’. And of course, I’m also posting on The Watson Letters Blog which will eventually become book four in that series.
Thank you for your candid insights, Colin, and for taking a break from your busy schedule to answer a few questions. Good luck with The Curse of the Baskervilles and I look forward to the next Terry Bell mystery.