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Write On! Interviews: Author Gareth Southwell

Write On! interviews Author Gareth Southwell

Gareth says: “I’m a writer, illustrator and philosopher who lives in Wales. I’ve been involved with philosophy for over 30 years (teaching writing, examining and researching). I’m the author of a number of books on the subject and I’ve a PhD on the subject of ‘death’ (which has been read by exactly four people, including myself). I also write sci-fi, and my novels are just a thinly fictionalised version of my PhD, with most of the boring bits taken out and replaced with robots and people swearing in Welsh. Aside from that, I’m a professional illustrator and book designer.

WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?

GS: My non-fiction writing is ‘popular philosophy,’ primarily aimed at people new to the subject. My fiction writing is broadly sci-fi/speculative. I love the freedom sci-fi gives you to explore ideas and to have fun – and I try my best to do that!

WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book, Mr Wolf?

GS: Mr Wolf is a follow-up to my novel MUNKi, and is a novella set in the same ‘universe.’ It’s a near-future, murder mystery-type thing set in Rome, involving a boy with locked-in syndrome who is accused of murdering his father.

WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?

GS: I’m fundamentally a creative person, and am happiest when I’ve got a project on the go, whether writing – or illustration-based. I first started writing by producing little mini-guides to philosophy when I was a teacher, as a means of helping my students. These teaching notes eventually turned into my first published books. After that, fiction was always something I’d wanted to have a go at and I’ve always loved sci-fi. What inspires me now is having the freedom to explore ideas in whatever form I like: through art, fiction or non-fiction.

WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘Beginnings And Endings.’ With that in mind, what do you find easier to write: the beginning or the end? And do you always write the beginning first and the ending last?

GS: I most enjoy writing the beginning of the story, when my enthusiasm for it is fresh. I struggle a bit with endings as I’m a ‘pantser’ by nature – I don’t plot, and just like to see where the story takes me. Sometimes this is into a dead end! This means that writing endings can sometimes be a fraught affair, where I try to make all the loose strands knit together.

WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?

GS: Don’t do it for the money! But seriously, don’t. Write because you enjoy it, even when it’s difficult. There’s reward in the struggle, too.

WO: Question from Twitter user: @grasshopper2407 Can you recommend any good writing books?

GS: From the motivational point of view, my favourite is The War Of Art, by Steven Pressfield, which addresses the biggest obstacle facing beginner and seasoned writers alike: resistance – the reluctance just to sit down every day and write. Overcome that and anything is possible.

WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?

GS: Lots! I have three non-fiction projects in the works: a book on the concept of luck, an introduction to ethics, and a guide to Hell from the point of view of the philosophers Christian theology would have condemned to go there. As an experiment, I’m serialising some of these via Substack (if interested see Regarding fiction, I have two novels underway: one set in the near future (another in the MUNKi series) and one set much further in the future, which is a crazy thing about climate change, genetic engineering, mind reading, weird creatures and alternate universes. I’m enjoying writing it hugely.

WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?

GS: I think it would be Dogmatix from the Asterix comics. I was a huge fan of Asterix as a kid (still am…), and my daughter now has a little teacup chihuahua that very much resembles Dogmatix: small, feisty, loyal and affectionate. We love her to bits. But my daughter is about to move out and take the dog with her, so I guess Dogmatix would be her ideal fictional replacement.

You can find out more about Gareth Southwell at his website: Mr Wolf is available from Amazon.


Issue 19 of Write On! is out now and you can read it online here. Find it in libraries and other outlets. You can find previous editions of our magazines here

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I love the freedom sci-fi gives you to explore ideas and to have fun – and I try my best to do that!