Tuesday, May 27, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Garry Abbott, Author

Garry Abbott, Author
British author Garry Abbott brings us THE DIMENSION SCALES AND OTHER STORIES, 14 short “speculative” fictional stories. One reviewer said, “The overwhelming feel of the book… is the interconnectedness between the large and the small, the mundane and the fantastical, the personal and the political.” Abbott himself says that his stories are “concept driven” with a “what if” approach that require a setting in the future.

A professional musician, Abbott plays guitar with a band. He is a published poet and has written jokes for the BBC. He lives with his fiancée and two cats in Staffordshire in the UK, enjoys playing board games, and is currently working on a full-length novel and maybe another group of short stories.

Q: Your reviewers praise your short stories in THE DIMENSION SCALES for a different approach to dystopian science fiction. Do you agree? How are your stories different from the “typical” world-building stories? Where do you get your “creative” ideas?

Garry Abbott: It may be because I didn’t set out to write a ‘science-fiction’ collection as such and was more focused on concept driven short stories. As it happened, many (but not all) of those concepts required some kind of future setting, or just a ‘change of rules’ for a contemporary backdrop. So I never felt I needed to ‘build worlds’ in that way as the point of many of the stories is how the exaggerated and expanded concepts relate to present-day issues in our world. I also don’t deal with space exploration, planetary colonization or alien contact at all in this collection. I think that kind of science fiction tends to lend itself more to world-building than my more earth-bound ‘speculative’ fiction.

My creative ideas come from a ‘what if?’ outlook on concepts and stories that catch my attention in the media, in my life, or from conversations with friends and colleagues. I also study philosophy so I am concerned and interested in how we consider ourselves personally and as a species. I tend to over-think things!           

Q: One of your reviewers described your book as “forebodingly nuanced.” Would you characterize your stories as optimistic? Or pessimistic? Why?

Garry Abbott: I am pessimistic about many aspects of how things are currently in the world, especially the relationship between political and capitalist forces, inequality, and intolerance. Those themes motivate my writing a lot. However, I am optimistic that we have the power to remedy these problems and pick a better path as a species, and I believe that needs to start from individual introspection. Many of my stories show the extreme outcomes of our current trajectory in order to highlight them and hopefully provoke thought and discussion.

Q: How do you engage readers to care about your characters?

Garry Abbott: I try not to create characters that I cannot understand myself. Even if I disagree with a character’s ethos or actions, I try to empathize with how they came to be like that and find a spark of common ground to work with. I don’t think there is such a thing as being ‘normal’ but many of us do live similar lives, so I try to bring out the character by placing them in extraordinary circumstances.  

Q: Did you write these stories to entertain? To educate? To deliver a message? Do you think it’s important to both entertain and educate readers?

Garry Abbott: First and foremost it is about entertainment, and my stories are often described as ‘cinematic’ which I’m really happy about (as that’s what I intended). There are certain common themes that come up and relate to my outlook on the world, but I try to make sure these don’t get in the way of telling an engaging story. At best I hope my stories spark some new ideas and considerations for my readers, but I’m certainly not trying to educate them as such – they probably know more than me anyway!

Q: Is the concept of “villains” and “heroes” relevant to your stories?

Garry Abbott: I was happy to find that two of the longer stories ended up with strong female ‘heroes’ as the central character. This wasn’t intentional, it just turned out that these stories centered around female characters who take matters into their own hands. Mostly the true villains of the stories are unseen – some secret authority or other causing trouble! I did this to reflect the universally disturbing feeling that those in control haven’t always got our best interests at heart, and that we can never quite be sure who those people are.

Q: Reviewers were impressed with your writing saying that it created pictures, i.e., “vivid imagery.” Does this picture-building increase suspense and character development? How do you accomplish it?

Garry Abbott: It’s nice to get that feedback because I actually try and leave quite a lot of the imagery to the reader’s imagination, only prompting here and there with a few key details to set the scene. I really try hard not to over-describe, especially when writing short stories, so I hope that the vivid imagery they evoke is due to the active mind of a descriptively unconstrained reader! I also prefer a good novel analogy to minute detail. As a reader I prefer to be given the responsibility to see a world in my own way with just enough detail to get me started. Doing this well means you can focus on the characters’ journey, so hopefully it all adds up to increased suspense and development.

Q: How important is credibility or believability to your stories?

Garry Abbott: It really depends on the story! I try to make sure that the actions and reactions of the characters within all the stories are credible and believable. But as I am writing science/speculative fiction, sometimes the worlds and what happens in them are extraordinary, and in which case it is my job to bring the reader along and believe in that world for the short time they are there, even if it is a little crazy.

Q: Do your characters ever take over your writing and make you say something you never intended?

Garry Abbott: I’m not sure how much I go in for the idea that characters can transcend a writer’s intentions and control, but I do believe they can tap into unexpected aspects of an author’s psyche. It’s more of a feeling of “okay, let’s go with that, see what happens” rather than looking at the page and saying “where did that come from!?”. Maybe with writing short stories I haven’t yet spent enough time with one particular character to find out if this will happen. I’m open to the prospect!

Q: What’s next? Will you write more short stories? A novel?

Garry Abbott: I’m working on my first full-length unified novel. I’m writing it in first person perspective from several characters points of view, so it’s a challenge, but it’s coming together. It centers around two friends whose lives are being pulled in different directions by competing and powerful ideologies. There’s a touch of the surreal and more humor, but it still deals with dystopian fears, so I’m hoping my readers will take to it.

I’ve also built up a few more short stories, so there’s a chance that I might also put out another collection when I have enough that feel right side-by-side under one title. I quite like the idea of focusing on a paranormal and/or horror collection this time, but we’ll see!

Q: Tell us about Garry Abbott. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m a musician, both professionally and as a hobby. I play guitar and sing in an original band called ‘Gravity Dave’ (so called because our guitarist, Dave, fell through a roof once and we needed a name for the band). I also compose and produce music for arts and commercial projects and do some sound editing work for radio productions.

I’m just finishing a University degree with the Open University (a respected distance learning establishment here in the UK) in philosophy, creative writing, arts history and social science. That’s kept me quite busy for the last four years!

I live with my fiancée and my two pesky cats in Staffordshire in the UK. We like getting out to old country houses, castles and nature reserves when we have spare time (that’s me and my fiancée, not the cats).  

I’m also a bit of a board game geek and will happily while away an evening with friends playing Monopoly, Risk, Carcassonne – or just whatever I can convince them to sit down and play! I like games: games are good.

About Garry Abbott

Garry Abbott is a writer and musician who lives in Staffordshire in the UK with his fiancée and two cats.

Garry is a published poet, has written jokes for the BBC, scripts for major community arts projects, a children's story for an audio adaptation and now a collection of speculative fiction short stories: THE DIMENSION SCALES AND OTHER STORIES available from all major eBook retailers.

When Garry isn't busy writing words or music he enjoys beating his friends at a variety of popular board games and getting out into the countryside.

“A theory emerged, with testable predictions, and there, like a candy apple, hung the omega symbol that unlocked it all. He knew what he needed to do...”

Garry Abbott’s THE DIMENSION SCALES AND OTHER STORIES is a collection of fourteen short speculative fictions based around themes of malevolent and secret authorities, metamorphosis, survival and projections of contemporary fears into near-future realities.

From worlds inhabited by murderous animals, inept time travelers and clandestine, suburban social experiments—to the sentience, love and moral awakenings of artificial intelligences—THE DIMENSION SCALES invites you to explore the twists and perils of extraordinary moments in disturbingly familiar universes, linked together by one devastating epiphany:

“Something happened, and the world splintered…” 

Author and Purchase Links

Purchase Links:
B&N Nook (US)
Nook (UK)             

Author Links:
Twitter: @Garry_Abbott

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