Gary … the wordsmith!
Our latest blog features local author Gary Smith and we were delighted to catch up with him to learn about the latest book release and his inspiration for writing …
Gary has lived in Cupar since he was four years old. He says: “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s a great town to live and a lovely place to bring up a family.” When he was growing up, he attended Castlehill before moving on to Bell Baxter. “I had a Saturday job in Courtyard Books in the late 1990s, and now my books are for sale there! It’s funny how things come full circle.”
After Bell Baxter, Gary studied History and English at Dundee University. He worked in the University Archives and progressed to achieve a PhD in History. A member of Cupar Old Parish Church, he’s also been a member of Cupar Amateur Musical Society for more than a decade, saying. “I can normally be found shuffling about the stage, trying not to step on anyone’s toes!”
Today, Gary writes children’s books and describes it as “one of the best jobs in the world!” Primarily, his books are aimed at readers aged 7+ although, Gary says: “I hope that they are enjoyable for all ages. In particular, I know that The Crazy Christmas Job Swap has been very popular as a bedtime story for younger readers.”
We asked Gary how he first got into writing. He explains: “I have always loved to read, but my writing is something that’s developed over time. I completed a PhD, so much of my early writing was academic in nature.” He adds: “I then spent several years writing columns, interviews and articles for internet comic and entertainment sites, putting my knowledge of Marvel Comics trivia to good use! For a three year, period I taught a Dundee University evening class on Marvel Comics, which was tremendous fun.”
His children’s writing really began when his boys were younger: “The bedtime story has always been a special routine for us, and I began to write stories that I could share with them at bedtime. I was particularly proud of ‘A Balamory Christmas’ – the greatest episode of Balamory never made!“And then things started to take off. “Once I started writing children’s stories, I found it difficult to stop. There’s something about writing – about developing your ideas and bringing characters and worlds to life – that’s very special and so rewarding.”
We asked whether there has been any particular inspiration behind his work. Gary says: “I don’t think I’m consciously inspired by anyone, but there are certainly many authors who I enjoy and admire – probably too many to mention. One of the nice things about my boys being big readers is that I can discover new authors through them and also try to sneak in some of my old favourites. They’ve introduced me to Tom Fletcher, David Walliams, Mr Gum, Tom McLaughlin and many others, and we’re currently working our way through the Harry Potter series, which is a real joy.”
And the recommendations work both ways. Gary adds: “For my part, I’ve introduced my boys to Narnia, The Three Investigators and Marvel Comics, and will steer them towards Robin Jarvis when they’re older!”
One of Gary’s real pleasures gained from writing children’s books has been undertaking school visits: “It’s wonderful to talk to enthusiastic young readers and find out what interests them about stories and writing.” And that is taking Gary on a new path: “I’m currently retraining as a primary school teacher and I’m hoping that the children will introduce me to lots of wonderful authors.”
Gary’s books …
Gary has published three books:
- The Supervillain Next Door (2019)
- The Crazy Christmas Job Swap (2019)
- A Time for Heroes – just released in October 2020
Gary says: “My three books to date all differ slightly in their tone and target audience, but I hope that one thing that unites them all is that they all have an emotional heart to them. Whether it’s a job swap between Santa and the Tooth Fairy, or a time-displaced boy teaming up with his older selves, I want to have readers feel something for the characters, and perhaps give them something to think about. And if I can entertain them or make them laugh at the same time, all the better!”
Gary asked us to highlight the creative work of Julie Campbell, saying: “I’m responsible for what’s between the covers, but the wonderful cover artwork on my books is produced by Julie, a talented local artist from Markinch.”
His greatest achievement? “Knowing that children are reading and enjoying my books is a tremendous feeling, and one that I’m very grateful for.”
As with all those who feature on our Blog profiles, we asked Gary what he’d recommend to someone visiting Cupar for the first time or for the first time in a long time. Gary says: “There are options in Cupar for all ages, with the BMX track at the Duffus Park currently a big favourite for my family. As a history buff I would have to recommend the Cupar Heritage Trail. Following the blue plaques will introduce you to some lovely buildings and some fascinating local history, while also being a nice walk. Then, as a reward for all the walking, I would recommend that visitors treat themselves to a well-deserved fish supper from Libo’s!”
Gary’s books can be bought from Courtyard Books on Ladywynd in Cupar.
Thanks for reading!