This week we're sitting down to chat with Patrick Barrett, author of the comedic British historical fantasy series, Cuthbert.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Patrick. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy your work, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.
Hi Bob, I am a sixty-four year old ex-coal miner with no writing training at all. As a charge-man fitter, the majority of my writing consisted of explaining why it took us so long to repair the things other people broke in two minutes flat. My first book, Shakespeare’s Cuthbert (part of the comedy Cuthbert series) first appeared on Authonomy and it was on there that I was given assistance, support and encouragement to continue writing. Those friends are still with me today and I am forever grateful to them.
Shakespeare’s Cuthbert was published by Night Publishing which then became Taylor Street Books. After Taylor Street Books ceased to be, I gravitated to that well-known refuge for lost and hungry authors, Thorstruck Press who very kindly took me in, but haven’t actually fed me yet! I write comedy because I find it impossible to take anything seriously especially after seeing the mess serious people have made of the world.
Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?
I began writing six years ago, but after several books were completed, I suffered a stroke which I think was the Creative Writing Community telling me to clear off. Recovery has been slow, but I am definitely getting there.
Q: Well, they do say laughter is the best medicine - hopefully it's helping. In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?
Once I think of a new plot, my characters are so well established in my head that situations assume a chaos of their own simply by sitting them around a table together and making them all react in their own ways to an outlandish event.
Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when developing a series that touches on multiple genres. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?
My writing style is so fluid and the characters so eccentric that situations develop before my eyes and leave me wondering ‘Where on earth did that come from?’
Q: I love it when that happens! When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?
I make no attempt to please everyone, if they don’t have a sense of humour or a liking for the ridiculous, then my books are not for them. However, their contributions to my coffers will be sorely missed.
Q: Fair enough - humour can certainly be subjective. In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to-date?
I have been compared to Terry Pratchett, Tom Sharpe and even P.G. Wodehouse, so those are accolades I can treasure. On the other hand, someone referred to them as drivel and suggested a quick gin before reading!
Q: Good company to keep! To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?
I have always relished adventure and authors like Wilbur Smith or Alexander Kent can absorb me into another world, but I read more and more factual accounts now as the world has become such a dangerous and complicated place.
Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were the Cuthbert series to be optioned for the big screen?
Hah! The Cuthbert series would probably have to become a cartoon, so only the voices would gain the credit list.
Q: Nothing wrong with that - Monty Python had some very funny cartoons! Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in your latest world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?
How Mean is my Valley is the second book in the Cuthbert series featuring Cuthbert’s Aunt Liza who is a redhead on a mobility scooter (oddly recognisable as my own wife) and then Tee for Two where the men of the valley rashly challenge the women to a golf match. Different would be nice but my series is eight books long, I think my characters are too comfortable to let me go.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this Bob, thank you for your time and trouble.
No trouble at all, Patrick - thanks for stopping by!
About the Author
Patrick is married to Paula, who is also known as the redhead and does all the tasks that Patrick doesn’t do.
About the Book
Shakespeare’s Cuthbert by Patrick Barrett
Kindle Edition, 2nd, 220 pages
Published June 9th 2014 by Thorstruck Press
At the heart of this riotous laugh-a-paragraph farce that will delight members of amateur dramatic societies everywhere, lies a forgotten village in a remote valley where the 'real valley folk' live, including Cuthbert, the village undertaker, impressario of the shambolic annual theatre production, and holy fool; Margery, the local beauty and mother of the Mafia twins whose constant creative disruption provides a reliable source of hazard and misadventure; the anonymous milkman whose flashing teeth can fell a woman at fifty paces; Percy the gardener whose still waters run curiously if not necessarily deep; and the regulars at the Mandrake Arms who drink to remember, drink to forget as plots and plans flourish in their midst.
Suddenly into this by-water of rural oblivion bursts a band of newcomers who have taken up residence of the seigneurial Mandrake Hall – Henry, a prominent media reporter and his daughter who is more horse than her horse; Henry's brother, Ronald, an adventurer, a mercenary and a sometime crook; and the unreconstituted Captain and his much put-upon wife Elspeth.
What are these rank and unlikely outsiders doing in these obscure parts and what are they looking for as they vigorously comb the village and the extensive network of tunnels built beneath it? One clue is the persistent legend that the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, was once employed as a tutor up at the Hall (thus the annual village play) and that there might still be fragments of his early work – a fumbling politically-incorrect piece – waiting to be discovered. Fame and fortune may follow, but corpses will be dug up first.