Monday, May 23, 2011

The Monday Interview -- Gary Dobbs

I'm taking a brief hiatus on posting new Monday interviews.  I'll be reposting some recent interviews over the next couple of weeks...


Gary Dobbs joins us here at Tense Moments from the United Kingdom, for what I hope is a grand introduction to American fans of really good western writing. Gary is a freelance writer, actor and novelist. As an actor he has appeared in Doctor Who, Torchwood, Gavin and Stacey, Moonmonkeys, Larkrise to Candleford, and The Risen. As a novelist using the name Jack Martin, his début novel, The Tarnished Star is available now and a second novel Arkansas Smith is also available. 2010 saw Gary's mystery debut with A Policeman's Lot. And his third western, The Ballad of Delta Rose will be available from Black Horse Westerns in June, 2011. Gary lives in Pontypridd, Wales, United Kingdom.

Tell us about your new novel:

My newest novel, The Ballad of Delta Rose owes a lot to the comic books and adventure novels I used to read as a kid. In one particular comic there was a character called D Day Dawson and the premise was that he was shot during the D Day landings but the bullet was too close to his heart to be removed and will eventually kill him and so he fights on with nothing to lose. That was interesting to me - I thought that if you feared your life could end at any moment you would try and atone for things you've done in the past. And thus, The Ballad of Delta Rose starts with the main character waiting to die and hoping he has enough time left to right some wrongs. A ballad is to my mind essentially a sad song, almost a lament and that's what I think this new western is - a sad song.

How is this novel different than your previous novels?

I think my style this time is every hardboiled, several sections of the book are dialogue driven with little if any description which I think allows for a compelling story based on character. I really am proud of this book and think it's the best thing I've ever written. I also found writing the end very powerful on an emotional level and I know from advance readers reports that it worked for them also. I do hope people like Delta Rose but at the end of the day this was the only way I could tell this dark story. And in many ways the story told itself and I was just the vessel to get it down on paper.

Do you feel like you have to defend yourself for writing genre fiction?

I have in the past argued over the merits of genre fiction with many people. Once I got into an argument with literary writer, Rachel Trezise because she was, to my mind, dismissing all genre fiction. I was driving a cab at the time and when I told her I write also, westerns. she sort of seemed condescending. As if western fiction and her stories of fucked up valleys folk were a million miles away. To be fair I was driving my cab and she was returning home after a night out and I don't think she took me seriously but nevertheless I pointed out that Hemingway wrote genre fiction, so did Conan Doyle and what is Shakespeare if not genre fiction. I pointed out that all literary fiction really is is writers who are too lazy to plot. But the fact remains that out of all genre fiction it is perhaps the western which is the most maligned. I don't really take any notice of that since the people who dismiss western fiction are ill informed about the genre. They think it's all cowboys and Indians when in truth the western can confront any issue presented in so-called literary fiction and quite often do a better job of it.

Why do you write westerns?

I could say it's because I love the idea of freedom and self-reliance that is critical to the western. I could say it's because I was brought up on the old western movies. I could even say I wanted to emulate my heroes, people like George G. Gilman, Louis Lamour, Elmer Kelton and Elmore Leonard. Or then again I could say it's because deep down I want to be out there riding the range myself. And I guess all of that would be true but I guess the real reason is that western stories are invariably the things I dream about. I just hope my readers can share in my dreams.

When did you know you were a writer?

I think I was always aware that I wanted to write. At school when the teacher set us an essay I would end up turning in a couple of thousand words of fiction. I went to a rough valleys school with idiotic teachers and basically a system that just wanted to get you out of the doors at the end of the day with as little fuss as possible. No wonder that I skipped school a lot and vanished into the woods - usually with a western or two to keep me occupied until home time. I learned more out of school then I ever did within its institutionalized walls. I once skipped an entire school year and then had six of the best with a cane when I returned. I didn't care, though - if you were working class you had little chance in the comprehensive school situation and I still think that applies today. But I discovered early in life that when I was writing I was mentally somewhere else and the thrill I got from creating characters and situations was like nothing else I'd ever known. Even these days I think of writing as a kind of high. It takes one out of reality and all without the need for brain altering chemicals. I don't think any writer would be able to explain truly why he/she writes. It's just something we do. Something we are.

What’s a work day like for you?

I'm very strict with myself and usually work more than a ten hour day but it's split rather than in one session. When I've got nothing else on besides writing I'm usually at the keyboard by 6am. And then around 11 I'll take a break and walk my boxer dog, Lennon, and then I'll take a nap. I do like a hour or two's kip in the afternoon. Early afternoon I'm writing until say 5 or 6 and then I'll usually do another hour before I retire for bed which is always after 1am. Sometimes of course I'm acting so my routine is messed up but even on the busiest days I manage a hour or two at the keyboard. And even when I'm not working on a book or an article, I'm blogging, Twittering or such like.

What’s a day off like for you?

Day off - What's that?

If you could be anything other than writer, what would it be?

Angelina Jolie's underwear.

How do you define success?

I think success is getting those books out there and into the hands of the readers. Sometimes you make a lot of money, more often than not you don't but I don't think financial rewards are the true measure of success. If you manage to scrape a living and at the same time people enjoy your books then that to me is the ultimate level of success. Up until a year ago I had to drive my cab to make ends meet and these days I very seldom drive the cab. I still go out sometimes because it can be fun to do so but it's more a part time thing now whilst my writing has become my main function. That's successful enough for me.

What’s next for you?

Well I'm finishing up my second Arkansas Smith novel which should be print early next year and I'm also involved in producing a script of my first novel The Tarnished Star which will begin filming in 2012. The film will have a title change (and here's an exclusive for you since I've not even announced this on The Tainted Archive yet) and will be released under the title, LawMaster - written like that as one word but with the M capitalised. Not only is it a nice design issue for the posters but it refers to Cole Masters, the wronged sheriff of the book and film. It's being directed by the highly talented Neil Jones - check out his current award winning movie, Risen which will be available on DVD soon. As well as all that I'm already thinking of my next western novel which will probably be called Wild Bill Williams and tell the story of a Welsh cowboy.

For more information about Gary visit;

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