What goes on inside the writerly mind?
Let’s sit down with Word Weaver Writing Contest Winner Geoff Le Pard and find out.
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006, and he hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels, he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.
Here’s our Word Weaver Profile of Geoff Le Pard, done BEFORE he knew he won the contest – as were all the profiles. (I added a short update at the end from a comment he made after he found out he won.)
Dan: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece or something you had written before?
Geoff: It was a standalone story, that had been bubbling around for a while
Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece /completed story?
I’m what you might call an organized pantser when it comes to novels. Most times I have an idea – sometimes just a phrase or a scene – which I might mix with an idea for a character or setting. If I think that has legs I will write a few pages and see if it grabs me. If so then I can go one of two ways. Mostly I just carry on writing, anything between 10,000 and 30,000 words, without giving much thought to plot holes, arc, character development etc – at this point it’s all about the story and the scenes that seem to follow one from the other. I have, however occasionally plotted a few steps forward and then written. What I don’t do it plot very far ahead. After I have a chunk of work, I will review it in detail, looking for themes and strands, twists and deceptions and begin to note them down. I will now be able to write on. Often I will not have a clear ending yet but sometimes the ending is clear, it’s just the journey to it that I have to find. If I don’t have the ending I have learnt I will find it, I just have to ‘write towards the light’ as I think of it. And then the editing begins and that takes me ages….
Where do you do your writing?
When my father died I inherited his old desk – he wrote poetry. It was a crappy reproduction dark wooden thing with a leather insert on the top. I painted it a reddish pink and covered it on family photos – my ‘memory desk’ – with my mother and father front and centre. If I need inspiration, I sweep away the papers and pick an obscure great aunt in some 1930s wedding and imagine her as a character… and if all fails, I open the drawer and smell dad… that scent won’t ever go!
Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?
Quite a simple one, really; continue to write novels and short stories and publish them; if someone reads them and likes them, even better – but it is the writing and publishing that counts for me. On the way I want to improve what I write too, and I don’t see that learning process slowing any time soon
What helps you the most when it comes to writing?
Time and suppressing the guilt I feel about everything else I could/should be doing! More specifically writing short fiction gives me both a constant reminder of new ideas and exposes me to being creative on a regular basis
What’s the strangest place you’ve gotten a great story idea? Describe in detail. Inquiring minds want to know
Behind a builder’s hoarding near the office where I used to work; I was walking home past this plastic sheeting and saw a movement (it was after 9 at night and I was intrigued); it was a homeless woman with a small fire trying to cook a can of food – this in central London, near the financial district. I think we were both surprised by the encounter and it lead to my novel, Salisbury Square, about the interface between the inhabitants of large cities, above and below the affluence line that divides its inhabitants
What does writing success look like?
More published books, whether novels or short fiction anthologies
What are you working on now?
A memoir of my mother – a change of tack this, based around some blog articles I wrote last year; It is ready to be published and my aim is to launch it in the next month.
After that I am in the final throes of a sequel to my first published book, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, which is a comedy thriller and coming of age story. The sequel, The Last Will of Sven Andersen follows the hero of Dead Flies, Harry Spittle, to his first job in London. It is set in 1981.
What is the best part about being an indie (or traditional) author for you?
I’m a card-carrying indie! Whatever I publish is what I want to publish; no one is telling me to include or exclude a character or theme or scene. I chose my covers (my designer is, without doubt the best) and my launch date. In short, freedom.
There are a lot of writing contests out there. What drew you to this one?
I follow Lucy Brazier; love her stuff. She mentioned this comp, I had an idea that I’d wanted to explore without having had the right opportunity, it fit the theme of this comp so… serendipity!
11. Have you ever entered a writing contest before?
Not many; I do regular flash, some of which are judged weekly but nothing of this kind before.
12. Will we see you again in the next Word Weaver Writing Contest, if there is one?
If the theme works for me, yes.
13. Did you know the piece you submitted was special?
Goodness, what an invitation to polish my ego! I have an ongoing battle with my writing. It pendulums between brilliant and utter dodo’s do-dos throughout the period from idea to completion. Usually by the end I’m no more than reasonably satisfied, mainly because I’ve probably edited the enthusiasm out of it. My deepest affection for a piece comes after the first edit when the basic draft feels in an ok shape. Of course, in this case, I knew it was writerly gold!!
14. What’s next for you?
After the memoir and The Last Will, I have a choice: I want to really knock into shape a book I wrote about 8 years ago and which has remained in my WIP folder since; I also have a fantastic idea for a modern fable, based on a short piece (750 words) that I wrote at Christmas. I think I’ll probably write the first draft of the new book and then re-stitch the older idea… unless I leave the new idea for Nano and start my summer with a re-stiching!
15. What was Dan’s critique process like?
Harsh but fair! Sorry, that is rather glib. Excellent, in fact. A mix of nice encouragement and good pointers. Took me a fair while to make the changes but it is a far better story now. Thank you, kind sir!
UPDATE: after Geoff found out he won, he started replying to all the comments and made this note:
Dan, what can I say? I’m humbled, delighted – no, scratch that, I’m rock ‘n’ rolled with delight; it’s like being told I have to bath in chocolate or something – and grateful. As you’ll have realised, your suggestions led to a significant redirection and refining of my story, giving me the chance to get so much more out of the word count. It’s such a pleasure to get thoughtful guidance on ones writing – someone giving of their time like this makes it so much easier to pen the next story and so on.
And to the judges, an enormous thank you for the efforts involved in judging. Obviously you are people of taste and discernment and if you’d let me know where to send the cheques, I’ll dispatch them forthwith.
I think it’s time I told my wife… she’ll be anxious about the screams and hoots…
Gang, join me in congratulating Geoff for a terrific story!
Here’s where you can read more of his work:
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.
This is available here
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