This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing the brilliant James Edgar Gault, who has also contributed a wonderful blog for this issue.
What genres have you chosen for your writing, and what has drawn you to those genres?
I never really considered myself a genre writer, I just had stories I wanted to tell. But, in fact, I have been drawn towards the detective story/ political thriller. I think there are two reasons for that. One is that I was writing the stories because I wanted to say something. And these two genres seem to fit what I wanted to say. The second reason is that these genres give you at least the framework for a plot, which I think gave my imagination something to hold onto as I developed the stories.
We read that you are currently working on a detective thriller set in Scotland, France, and Spain. Can you tell us more about that?
I joined a creative writing group here in France and I had to take along an example of my writing, so I wrote a chapter about a cynical Glasgow police detective, Charlie Best. The group all liked the character and I carried on and wrote the rest of the story. Charlie leaves the police force and moves to France, but gets drawn back into the fight against the drug world he was investigating. It’s a story of moral dilemmas and how far society should go in the pursuit of justice, but there’s also a nice love interest and a lot of humour, so it’s not a heavy read. I’m now working on the sequel, so we haven’t yet heard the last of Charlie.
Tell us about your literary magazine, Vox Lit. What made you decide to create an online magazine, and how has that experience been for you?
This was one of those notions that start as something simple and grow. The original idea was a little blog where writers could post satirical pieces where their own or other literary characters commented on the issues of today. I still put a satirical piece in every monthly issue, but I realised the e-zone could be a mechanism to create a bridge between readers and authors, especially independent authors, so I included a lot of other things as well.
For those interested in contributing to the magazine, what type of articles would interest you?
Anything of interest to readers or writers, or, even better, both. I’ll post book reviews, extracts from books literary news, features, poems, tips on writing or marketing books.
You’ve written short stories, English language textbooks, and novels. What do you enjoy doing most out of those and why?
I have a kind of obsession about being unique and different from anyone else, and this drives my writing. Novels are the best way of expressing this, but they are the hardest work. The language textbooks were an expression of my particular views on language teaching, but I only teach nowadays occasionally as a volunteer. Short stories are good because they allow you to make a single viewpoint on life very succinctly, and you get the buzz of finishing them quickly. But nothing compares to the glow of satisfaction when you get a complete novel out.
Is anything in your novels or stories based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
I often reflect on the nature of imagination. What gets it started? How does it develop into a plot, characters, settings and eventually a novel or short story? For me anyway, it needs a trigger. And this is usually something that is annoying me about life. For example, my novel The Redemption of Anna Petrovna was prompted by an incident relating to her family business that a Russian friend told me about. This led me into a lot of research into corruption in all countries and the story grew from there. But the characters came by combining what I knew about real people, or from exaggerating some traits I had observed in people. I believe imagination is just reality with the limits removed.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I don’t think I’ll go back to old themes or ideas. The world is full of problems and is in dire need of change, and my ambition is to focus attention on as many of these problems as I can. I don’t kid myself that writers can change anything, but they can at least put ideas into the heads of people who can.
Characters are different; you get to like them as friends. You are drawn towards meeting them again in your imagination and waning to go with them on another adventure. I’m following up on what happened to Charlie Best from Best Intelligence, and a few of the people he came across in the first novel are turning up in the sequel.
Is there ever a message in your novel or stories that you want readers to grasp?
Always. That’s the reason I write. I suppose it’s the teacher in me.
Who has impacted you most in your career and how?
If you mean my career as a writer, many people have advised and helped me over the years and I am very grateful to them all. I wouldn’t like to pick out just one.
Which writers inspire you and what is it that strikes you about their work?
Every writer and every piece of writing has something to teach you and everything you learn is an inspiration. I will, however, mention the English novelist David Lodge, whose book The Art of Fiction not only gave me a lot of good practical tips, but taught me to be constructively self-critical and I think has made a great improvement to my writing.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Resilience, especially when stressed. When things don’t work out, or you find you‘re not keeping up with your ambitions, don’t worry. As long as you keep learning, your best is always in front of you.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
It seems to me that writers don’t live mostly in the real world, but in their imaginations. So where you are is probably less important to a writer than anyone else. As long as I’m in a place comfortable enough not to distract me from thinking, I’m perfectly happy.
What is your favorite film and why?
I like lots of things, but I don’t grade them, so I can’t claim to have a favourite anything. That said, the old B and W comedy ‘It Happened One Night’ with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert is one I liked a lot. It’s very funny and the humour comes from the interplay between the characters, which I love.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
People are important to writers, as raw-material for their characters, so I am always pleased to meet anyone. But I think it might be particularly nice to have a conversation with the enlightenment Scottish philosopher, David Hume. What does that say about me?
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
This is an impossible dream and not one I’m sure I would really want. Every book is the author’s own unique personal creation and no one else could reproduce it. If I wrote someone else’s book it would be a different book. But I have read a lot of things that I admire and I no doubt subconsciously make use of some myself. If you want names: John Le Carre and Alastair McLean for plots, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen for characters, and Emma Donoghue (novel ROOM) for innovative writing style.
What makes you laugh?
‘It Happened One Night’.
What’s the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
Currently, seeing my four young grandchildren playing together happily – at least until the next little quarrel starts.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read a lot and read critically. Every piece of writing has something to teach you. Bad writing shows you what to avoid, and good writing gives you ideas and techniques you can try to copy. Store what you learn from reading other writer’s work in your head, or even in a little notebook. Use it to improve your own writing. This won’t guarantee fame and fortune, but I believe it will eventually make you into the best writer you can ever be,
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Work harder. I have always been incredibly lazy and I have suffered for it.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
No, these are great, thought provoking questions and I am completely tired out.
Thank you very much for taking part in this interview!
Books by James Gault:
Connect with James on social media:
Facebook: james edgar gault
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/James-Gault/e/B004JJOXW4/