With each new book in his Detective Lane series of mysteries, Garry Ryan's readership and reputation has grown. The quality of his writing combined with the realistic portayal of a homosexual protagonist earned him the prestigious LAMBDA Literary Award in 2007. While many readers comment on how a novel allows us to travel to far-off locales, the books of Gary Ryan offer an even more rare opportunity to Calgarians; the chance to see our own city through the eyes of another.
Visit Garry at his website: http://www.garryryan.ca/author.htm
This past September saw the release of the fifth book in your Detective Lane series of mysteries. I am curious to know what you have learned about writing since you began writing the first one. Is there something you know now that you had wished you knew then?
Two things. One is that I really need an editor. I miss mistakes when proof reading/rewriting and need another pair of eyes. The second would be marketing. It’s an entirely different field. With Malabarista I hired a great publicist who works in Calgary. She really helped to get the word out.
Calgary, despite being home to over a million people, is not the setting for a great many works of fiction. Do you think there is something special about Calgary that readers outside our city will find interesting?
Definitely. I’ve lived in Singapore, visited cities like Toronto, Red Deer, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, New York, San Diego and Guadalajara. Calgary has a unique culture and some quirky habits. It’s those quirky habits and characteristics that make it interesting. And there are some really good coffee shops in this city!
You were born and raised in Calgary. What changes have you noticed in the writing community here through the years?
It’s getting bigger. WordFest is becoming a remarkable event. There are incredible independent bookstores in the city. Pages is the one I like to frequent.
What was it like to win a LAMBDA Literary award?
Going to New York was something I never really expected to do. Finding out how friendly New Yorkers are was a very pleasant surprise. Winning the award was a huge surprise and then an even bigger responsibility when I learned what the people of LAMBDA had overcome and accomplished.
How much of writing is inspiration and how much is perspiration?
That’s a tough question. In some ways it’s like a job. A writer learns by writing and it’s work. It’s also fun to be able to enjoy that fictional imaginary world. That and the fact that some of my inspiration comes from walking the dog. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that gets the imagination going. The walk brings perspiration and inspiration.
Has anyone given you advice that has been particularly helpful in your writing?
Stephen King’s On Writing, Simone Lee, W.O. Mitchell, Meron Chorny, Samantha Warwick, Clem Martini and Cheryl Fogo. Each of them has said something that turned out to be an essential truth about writing. Meron Chorny taught me that bullshit baffles brains. It’s really important in writing to be able to separate the chaff from the kernels of wheat – to get to the essential truths.
Is writing something that has always been part of your life?
It’s kind of like breathing. Something I always had to do. You know how the air tastes different in different places but tastes especially fresh the closer you get to the Rockies? That’s probably not the answer you were expecting. It wasn’t the one I was expecting either. And that’s why I like to write. It’s full of little and large surprises.
Is it important for you to follow a certain schedule while you are writing? Do you always write at a certain time or in a certain place?
I think so. Mornings work well for me. I write in a cluttered office in the basement away from whatever else is going on in the house. It’s necessary to be away from as many distractions as possible.
Then there are the contradictions. I bought and iPAd and use it for writing when I’m on an airplane, at an airport or just away from home.
What do you do if the words don’t come?
Walk the dog. Read. Think. Go to a movie. Try and be patient. Trust in the fact that the ideas are percolating and wait. That is very easy to say and very difficult to do when the words are slow.