Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Traveller by Garrett Addison: Interview and Excerpt


The obvious question: who is ‘The Traveller’?

Everyone asks if it’s based on me, but it’s not, that’s for sure.  He’s a bastard, but I can’t deny that some of his stresses are familiar.  In much the same way, the terrible boss isn’t really anyone in particular, but she’s got unlikeable traits from probably every person I’ve ever met.  

So where did the idea for ‘The Traveller’ come from?

I’d actually finished my first book and did what I thought I was supposed to do; put it in a drawer so that I could re-read and start editing with a fresh perspective.  I wasn’t expecting to feel the ‘need’ to write, so there I was, overseas, travelling with work and a podcast preaching the need to ‘write what you know’ strong in my head, so I started writing what I knew.  Fuelled with a few beers late one night after work, I started with a few travelling anecdotes and what I thought of business travel.  It passed the time, but on my return flight I wondered what a few ‘what ifs’ in the story would do.  What if your boss was pure evil?  What if you got a chance to get even?  What if it didn’t work out just as it you’d wanted?  The makings of what I thought was a good fun story really flowed and I wrote most of the first draft over a weekend. 

So what is the difference between the first draft and how it is now?

A hell of a lot.  I’m a ‘pantser’ and wrote the story without plotting it out, so the first draft was all over the place.  The analogy of the great sculptor with a rock who foresaw something he could get to with a chisel does NOT apply.  To turn it into something coherent and worthwhile required many drafts. 

What’s something that readers of ‘The Traveller’ don’t know?

It might interest readers to know that the story has a lot less sex and violence than it did have!  I had to cut a number of what I thought were great scenes because they were simply too gratuitous and didn’t help the story. 

How do you describe your writing style?

Different.  I don’t want to write formulaic fiction, so that is in the back of my head as I write and it affects the way I see my characters and how I want them to be received.  I don’t think I’m consciously trying to break every rule, but I do think that some of those rules need to be challenged.  The side effect is that I need to contend with the reality that my stories probably won’t neatly fit a single genre.   

Has your wife read ‘The Traveller’?

Would you believe, no.  She’s picked up on many aspects of the story from me talking with others about it and at times she’s been cast me a glare or two wondering if there’s any truth in it.  It took some of her friends to console her that she probably doesn’t have too much to worry about.  Earlier versions probably would have seen me divorced, sacked, blacklisted by airlines and banned from a long list of countries. 

Who are your favourite authors?

Lee Child, John Birmingham, Matthew Reilly and Tim Winton.  I discovered reading as an adult and it took the books from authors like these to see that books could be fun, interesting or exciting, and not a chore, and each of these authors showed me something.  While I don’t really want to write like each of them, I’d like to think that I can write enjoyable reads that might appeal to a wide audience, especially to people who might not have discovered reading yet. 

How do you cope with bad reviews? 

I consider them to be inevitable with me putting my stories out there widely, particularly if I’m writing books deliberately different.  That said, I try to look for the good in the reviews and have been lucky enough to have received positive “bad” reviews. 

What do you find most rewarding about writing?

There’s something addictive about writing that people who don’t write can’t comprehend.  The story element is part of it, but then there’s what you can do with language.  I love how you can conjure a person out of nothing and by what they say and do you can render them good, bad or indifferent.  I didn’t realise how amazing the writing process really was until I needed a really nasty character (in my first novel ‘Minions’).  It’s not enough to make him wear a black hat, because everyone knows that bad guys wear the black hat.  So how do convey in words that he’s the baddie?   You can’t say “he’s a bad guy”, you need to show it… without being clichéd, boring, predictable, formulaic, or familiar. 

What’s next?

I want to write more revenge, but the next one is a lot darker than ‘The Traveller’.  I want to write nasty bad-guys and dubious good-guys.

Sometimes to get the measure of your life you just need a break from being yourself.

A family man struggling in his pursuit of a work/life balance embarks on yet another trip at the whims of his tyrannical bitch of a boss. But on this trip he is a world apart from his usual self. Suddenly confident, capable and unafraid of his manager, reclaiming his life becomes less about corporate advancement and satisfying his ego than outright revenge on his boss. With nothing but success in his wake and seemingly limitless potential at his disposal, being coerced to work with his nemesis in a remote corner of the world provides the opportunity for not just a confrontation, but a final solution to what he sees as the bane of his life. Succeed or fail, either way this trip will be the making of him or the end of him.

Sometimes to get the measure of your life you just need a break from being yourself... because nothing lasts forever.

Chapter - 1     

“How long’s this one for?” my wife asked with an ambiguous level of interest while I threw my ‘A’ set of clothes into my usual red suitcase.  I cringed and fought to compose myself at that question, familiar and inevitable.  Whether it’s going to be a long one or just an overnighter any reply I give is equally likely to be received with ambivalence or resentment, so I naturally tried to change the direction of the pending argument, “Not long.  I’ll be back in time for …”.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I was to miss on this particular occasion.  This wasn’t good grounds for me to field the query.
Surprisingly though, my wife was very accommodating and didn’t seize the gift of an opportunity to win another round of our perpetual row.  “This trip won’t be like the others,” she said.
“I can’t not go,” I groaned, choosing to cautiously deal with her comment as if a pre-cursor to the familiar ‘don’t go’ themed discussion.  “You know what the Anti-Christ will think.” 
“I know you have to go,” she said with heartfelt understanding.  “I’m just saying this one will be different.”  My comment didn’t even incite a reference to my boss.
“I sincerely doubt it,” I mumbled and was even tempted to ask her to qualify what she meant, but I didn’t.  “It’s going to be the same crap."  In this case, she would have been right, but to challenge her was to provoke the typical discord or invite an explanation of her fey perception, both of which never end well.  It’s just like hearing what I missed each time I come home, good and bad, and how the family coped, even though whether they managed well or poorly is very much like debating my favourite between gonorrhoea and syphilis.  Then the arguments always start.  ‘So when are you going away again?’.  It’s either too soon or not soon enough.  On this occasion she let it go and didn’t say anything.
“It’s not like I want to go,” I continued, softening my approach when I didn’t get any reaction.  She’s many frequent flyer miles short of the epiphany beyond the great myth of work travel when the novelty value passes, despite my perpetual efforts to convince her otherwise.  After crossing that line initially so many years ago and so routinely since, to me the travel is just the mundane punctuation between visits home and the myriad of different companies I consult to.  There’s no fun or excitement in it; it’s just something I need to contend with and tolerate unless I want to look elsewhere for employment.  Today she only shrugged and smiled, stroking one of the many business shirts in my case which she’d purchased for me over the years.
That she was so calm on the cusp of another of my departures un-nerved me and again tempted me to segue our discussion as a distraction to my packing.  The ‘Anti-Christ’, otherwise known as my boss and the reason why I don’t leave my job is a familiar theme and often ends in us ranting over the one who presides over the perpetual blur between my personal and professional lives.  Then I anticipated the way that exchange would go and I went cold on the idea.  My wife would inevitably tell me to look for another job like she normally did and while she has a point, I always resented her suggesting it as if I hadn’t considered it myself.  I consider it every single day. 
“See how you feel after this one,” she said.  No provocation, no anger, no resentment, no resignation, no frustration.  My wife never baulked at any excuse to say what she thinks of my boss or my travel, but on this occasion she did.  My wife knows how my boss’s absolute power renders me fearful, docile, not really ever at home and travelling so widely that I’m rarely in the same city or country more than a few times.  In particular, my wife sees my struggle to find balance and the incessant failure in my eyes each day I come home defeated.  It was wholly unlike her to not at least comment on what she thought of my fielding the abusive calls from my boss day and night, or that there are voids in our time together at the dubious whims of a manager with all the human qualities of a virus.  I gathered our last hours together were not going to degrade into well-meaning discussion of my options; something I was particularly thankful for.
Then my wife caught me from left field with what epitomised her ‘cup half full’ biased interpretation of my travelling life.  “This trip will be different.  Just embrace it,” she said, throwing her idea of a lucky tie into my case for good measure just before I closed it.  The remark did not go un-noticed though. 
I took my case to the door and thought about her frustrating optimism, often a precursor to banter illustrating how little she really understands my travelling life.  Somehow she’s remained oblivious to the jetlagged sleep deprivation, long days working like a seal weary from the matinee but still performing for the afternoon and evening shows, and often obligatory socialisation in accordance with cultural or professional expectations.  When I’m not being coerced into long hours of pseudo-social drinking, I’m alone in my hotel room, alone at a bar or alone at a restaurant for dinner.  The next day it all starts again.  The destinations change, but the routine is always the same.  All this and still subject to derision by phone, email or my boss’s favourite: professional malignment by third party. 
Then this particular trip assumed a familiar feel despite my wife’s initial foreboding and aloof behaviour.  “Off you go then, again,” she said.  The turn in her mood had come a little later than usual, but there it was, cold and angry.  “We’ll be ok.  Again.”  It was the usual seed for an argument narrowly averted by the arrival of my taxi.  My wife’s parting words as I left were a shot, a suggestion my trip was little more than a sexual rendezvous with ‘Stalin’, another less than flattering pet-name for my boss. 
I settled into my routine for my ‘red-eye’, the mid-night flight designed for the desperate or those naively trying to maximise their at-home time.  Falling into the latter category, I’d chosen the flight deliberately and to me it epitomised my best efforts in trying for a work-life balance.  It also saved me from having to contend with sad farewells from disappointed children in favour of just not being there in the morning when they woke.  After a few beers at the airport lounge, I switched to cheap scotch as soon as I was airborne and the free alcohol of the international flight started to flow, occasionally adding a ‘Virgin Mary’ to demonstrate my commitment to hydration.  The air hostess and I both knew the tomato juice was just a ruse to keep the liquor flowing, but she conceded nothing. 
As my blood alcohol level rose, my mood mellowed and I settled to watch an impressive electrical storm through the aircraft window.  The fingers of light enveloped the entire fuselage and while no-one spoke to me, clearly most passengers were concerned as to whether the plane really was as safe as the captain insisted amid the perpetual vibrations of thunder.  Despite being more than a little un-nerved, I didn’t share the abject fear of others.  After having lived so long in fear at work I wasn’t worried for whether I lived or died.  For this I held my boss responsible, the one who had systematically destroyed my confidence and will over the years and to such an extent that I was now just a drone at her bidding.  Castration by wayward lightning strike would not have taken anything from me she hadn’t taken already.  Between the near perpetual travel and her abusive inspiration she’d all but killed me inside, so in contrast the lightning really wasn’t that big a deal.
Eventually the liquor began to sedate me a little, though not quickly enough to prevent me spilling some juice over myself before I nodded off.  The hostess made some attempt to sponge me clean while I probably made drunken small-talk and wondered if there was something even remotely sexual in her attentiveness to my lap.  God knows what I said to her.  By this time I was barely coherent to myself so I don’t think I would have presented myself well to anyone, her in particular.

Garrett is forty something, Australian, and also a geek, husband, father and novelist. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and has been lucky enough to live in or visit most of Australia and much of the world. He now lives in Melbourne with his family.
Not averse to change, thus far, he has been an Army officer, software consultant and author. But this is just the beginning.

He is inspired by wise words:

·         Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. - Confucius

·         Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. - Goethe

He's already a novelist. Now he's working on getting his stories out there to be enjoyed.


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