Life in a Conversation
I’m on a once-a-month author interview series, having kicked off the New Year with the divine Ms. Shey and her Mr. (and just lovely they were).
Today, I’m talking to Geoff Le Pard — a man of many words — who started writing in 2006 and still hasn’t left his keyboard. As Geoff says, “when he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry.” He also writes short fiction and has his own blog. The U.K. resident and former lawyer turned full-time writer has four novels, two anthologies and a memoir which he’s published independently. He describes himself as “married but always on probation.” The dog, cat and tortoise owner also has a couple of kids and a serious addiction to baking, spinning, gardening, traveling, skiing, drinking coffee, visiting family and art galleries, exploring his home city of London, and volunteering at a homeless center and a youth club (how does this guy find time to write?!), but his fav thing is chatting up his wife over morning tea.
What else does Geoff do? Well, he walks the dog — where his best ideas originate — and cooks, “if not with precision, than passion.” Funny guy, right?
His new book, Life in a Conversation is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released on February 28, 2019.
Meanwhile, it sounds like it’s time for Geoff to answer a few questions:
How long have you been writing and were you formally trained?
Since July 2006 – I started at a summer school in Marlborough in middle England and haven’t looked back. I took several courses culminating in a Creative Writing Masters at Sheffield Hallam University 2011-2013.
Do you have a writing routine?
I write best in the evening and often write from seven to ten and then maybe eleven to one. Otherwise I fit it in when I can.
Do you write on the computer, longhand, dictate, papyrus, or something else?
Oh goodness, computer. I can’t read my own writing so long hand is impossible.
I can’t read my own writing either! Do you work out while writing, take breaks, or simply gut it out?
When I started I still worked full-time as a commercial lawyer in the City of London. My hours were often crippling and I had to find time to squirrel in the writing. So I’ve always written in fragmented segments and I find it impossible to write for more than an hour without some kind of proper break. Anyway, writing, for me, is emotional and I’m drained after that hour. I soon refill but it sometimes feels like the ideas are a liquid and they are sploshing around my head. I need to let the liquid thoughts settle or they’ll pour out of my ears.
Wonderful metaphor. I like the idea of your thoughts and words spilling onto the pages. So what’s your favorite book?
Difficult there are so many. Currently The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Another sod of a question. Aaronovitch at the moment. Plus Chris Brookmyre, Stuart MacBride, Neil Gaiman, Samuel Trollope.
What is your favorite genre of book to write?
Crime and thriller.
What’s your favorite writing prompt?
For flash fiction, pictures. Sue Vincent’s #writephoto probably. For novels, some life event.
Have you had any brushes with writing greatness, e.g., a writer that you’d love to meet and then suddenly, there they are, standing in front of you in the checkout line?
Nope. The writing world has steadfastly ignored me so far.
Do you think writing is a form of therapy and, if so, has it helped you work through anything in particular?
Not in the sense of a personal issue that I needed to deal with. But I find it just so overwhelming, this need to write and, hopefully be read (though the writing bit is the bit that really grabs me). I have so many ideas and I love finding them and giving them form. I think a lot of it is ego. When I write: a blog post, a poem, any sort of fiction, it is all mine. My idea, my words, my twists, my humour. Up until I wrote fiction, all my work, any creativity had been a team effort. This is mine.
I agree. Work, especially working as a lawyer in a large organization can be such a collaborative effort while writing is such a personal experience. It provides a nice balance. Sounds like a learning experience. So what has been your greatest writing lesson?
So many. Do not give a bugger for what anyone else thinks but always listen to your critics. If their intentions are honorable and they want to help then they’ve probably found something that might be improved. However, if they suggest a solution be extremely wary of adopting it. You will have read your work countless times; they might have read it once. Who knows it best?
Smile and the world smiles with you.
Have you reduced that lesson to writing?
Nope. I can be a curmudgeon on the page if the story requires it.
I know you are a lawyer so maybe you’d like to tell us something about that.
It paid the bills; it allowed me to retire from the legal coal face at 60 and write. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of working out the solution to a knotty legal problem. I made some good friends. I learnt the art of negotiation. I have no interest whatsoever in being a lawyer ever again. People around me either don’t believe me or don’t think I should because they still ask my views on the law and legal issues. Every Jan 1st I say I will not answer them. I fail miserably. One gift I realise being a commercial lawyer has given me as a writer and that is in connection with the plotter/pantser debate. I don’t plot, at least in the sense of storyboards and posits and chapter summaries. But I’ve had to be able to hold a myriad of ideas in my head in order to be able to negotiate complicated 200 plus page contract. Same with a novel; I hold the strands in my head and only when I’m 75% through might I write stuff down so as to reinforce it. It’s not all good news though. Legal writing is the epitome of boring; I had to break that habit quickly.
I know from reading your work that at one point you were working with the Olympic Committee.
That was a brilliant end to my legal career (give or take). I loved it and there’s a book in there that is three-quarters written… but I have at least five novels written either part or complete that I still have to work on. Here’s something about me and the Olympics.
Does or did your work outside of your writing inform your writing in any way?
Oh yes. A lot. All my novels stem from personal experience. They say write about what you know, but the best fiction I think amalgamates some seeds, maybe grains, from one’s real life and mixes them with a lot of imagination.
That’s true for me as well, but when you had your high-powered law job, how did you find time to write?
Nowadays it should be easier but back in the day I wrote (1) after work at home between 9 and midnight (2) weekends when not with family or at work (3) on planes and trains and automobiles – my work, latterly took me aboard a fair bit – it is fair to say I didn’t always prepare for the meeting as maybe I should have!! (4) I’ve been known to write under the desk in meetings, on the toilet, in shop queues, sketching out ideas, noting down plot twists, characters, dialogue.
Lucky for you no one ever caught on! From where do you pull inspiration and how do you keep that creative spark going?
Everywhere, and no idea but I’m over full with ideas. Give me a setting, or a character or something and I’ll sketch out a novel. I love subverting prompts. A picture of a lake and I might imagine someone rolling it up and taking it away because it’s needed else where. Or a gun and I’ll imagine the life of the bullet and it’s tragic existence. I love dialogue so to allow my mind to roam far and wide, imagining some off the wall conversation between a decorator and his paste brush say, pleases me to no end.
Sounds like a fabulous view one the world. So what’s your perfect writing day look like?
Early start. Porridge. Write for an hour. Walk dog; coffee; rattle off a piece of flash – 800 words – in the café for a prompt. Home and two hours writing. Chat to wife; One hour doing something really useful. Another hour. Cook, maybe listen to a podcast. Write until 7. Dinner. Write. Watch TV show on record with wife and chat. 10.30 write. Bed at 12.30.
Probably above but include seeing children and doing exercise.
Ah, a true writer. If you could be a character in any novel, what character would you be and why?
My first novel was based on me, as a 19-year old. Mind you his adventures were made up. I’m nearly ready to publish the sequel and that, too, follows my career as a trainee lawyer. The third part has also been written but now needs the ferocious editing to knock it into shape. It’s a book of humour with a cleverly plotted twisting tone set in 1981 (book one was in 1976 and book three will be 1987). I’m already there.
What was your most exotic travel destination, and do you have a place you go back to again and again?
Gosh. I’ve been lucky to travel a lot. Australia and, separately, New Zealand were brilliant. Various parts of the US – San Francisco. I’ve been to a lot and it’s amazing every time. Canada too. But actually I adore Scotland so probably the west coast. Peru, 1987 is the most exotic and Oban – or actually an island just off it where we go with the family and stay and decompress is the favorite. It is delightful. The Isle of Eriska.
How about a writing space; do you have a favorite?
My desk in my cubbyhole. This post has a picture of it.
What was the worst job you ever had?
Sounds like there should be a story around that one. I know you are a memoirist, so this may not be applicable — how much research do you do before you begin a writing project?
Little if I can avoid it. But when I’m underway however much I think I need. I’m not that concerned with factual accuracy, in truth – rebelling against the lawyer in me – but if I was ever famous that might have to change!!
And the final question, assuming you could have one, what’s your superpower?
Always make sure my cakes rise just the right amount.
Thanks so much, Geoff. Any last parting words of wisdom?
I’m a great believer in the Kipling couplet from his poem If. ‘If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run,’ I intend to sprint and cram it to the brim while I’m able. I will consciously, and will steadfastly remain an optimist, a meliorist and smile at whatever and whoever I can for as long as I can.
Amen to that, and Godspeed. May your writing and your life flourish under your optimistic and energetic gaze and good humor.
Geoff’s books are all available on Amazon. Here is a listing with a short synopsis of each:
Want a few other ways to catch up with Geoff? Well, have at it:
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Le-Pard/e/B00OSI7XA0/
The following is a listing of our prodigious and prolific hero’s work. Go ahead and treat yourself.
My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.
Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.
Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015.
Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.
Buster & Moo is about about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?
Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages.
Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.