An Interview with Author Timothy J. Garrett

Timothy Garrett
Timothy J. Garrett

Timothy J. Garrett lives with his wife Cynthia near Athens, Georgia. He spent 16 years working as an E.R. physician and is now a healthcare executive. He also finds time to play bass guitar, both electric and upright, and is learning to play the banjo. History and historical fiction is his writing passion, with his favorite authors including Anthony Doerr and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

It is an honor to be featured on the International Book Promotion website. What a great opportunity for readers to check out books and authors you might like! I am excited that International Book Promotion is talking about my book and I hope that people who like historical fiction will give A Place Called Jubilee a try.  Maybe even if you don’t like or know much about historical fiction, you’ll decide to see if my book is one you might like.

In A Place Called Jubilee, ambitious young clergyman Coleman Hightower leaves his mountain home and arrives in Washington D.C. in 1961 as the Civil Rights movement is exploding across the nation.

In Washington, his plans for a prestigious life are torn apart by his love for fiery civil rights activist Rosalee. His pursuit of love and meaning take him to Jubilee, Alabama – a place where deception, witchcraft, and the secrets of a long-dead former slave combine to make Coleman wonder if he will win Rosalee’s love or even leave the tiny town alive.

It’s as if Anthony Doerr’s “All The Light We Cannot See” was dropped into the world of Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help”.

Why do you write? 

I have always been drawn to stories – reading them, telling them, seeing them played out in movies. However, I had rarely put them down on paper. When I eventually had the thought that I would like to write the stories in my head, life had gotten in the way. My career as an emergency physician was almost all-consuming – the little bit of time and energy left over went to my family.

After I left the emergency room and transitioned to a business career – and after my kids left for college and then started their own lives after college – I suddenly could see a path toward following my dream of writing. I began to cultivate the mind of a writer, words and phrases appearing to explain the things that I saw in my daily life. I became more aware of the arc of stories through my life and the lives of others. It was almost like I could hear the voice of the narrator of my own life.

What motivates you to write? 

The big noble theme is the one that calls to me. I sometimes wish that light funny stuff was something that I could produce but that is definitely not my strength.

Having ordinary people as characters who are put into extraordinary situations with far-reaching implications is my biggest motivation. Well, that and a deadline or a goal for so many words before such and such a date.

What writing are you most proud of? 

My editor for A Place Called Jubilee felt that chapter 9 of my book was the part that contained the best writing. However, I felt most satisfied with chapter 10.

In chapter 10, two of the main characters are on two different trains going in opposite directions. The inner thoughts of both of the characters are explored, with the depravity in one of them becoming clearer and the inner longing of the other one more obvious.

I also liked the imagery in the chapter, bringing back memories of my childhood:

A Farmall tractor sat idle in a field, glowing scarlet against the fallow brownness.

The engine belched a thick cloud of black diesel smoke that for a second, through a trick of the wind, floated motionless in the interior of the track’s curve before slamming directly into the windows of Coleman’s car causing him to flinch backwards.

What are you most proud of in your personal life? 

Without a doubt, I am most proud of my children.

My wife and I did our best to raise them to be responsible adults, imperfect as our efforts were. The way they have turned out has exceeded my wildest dreams.

My daughter and son are both loving and accomplished people who treat other people well and who strive to make the world around them better. My daughter is married to a wonderful man (ironically a clergyman in training) and teaches pre-school. My son will soon graduate from law school.

What books did you love growing up? 

The books I checked out from my elementary school library were invariably historical books. I remember checking out a book about Civil War prisons about twenty times.

I later fell in love with Tolkien’s works. I recall reading “The Hobbit” as a 13-year-old while I hiked on the Appalachian Trail in the north Georgia mountains, Tolkien’s Misty Mountains practically coming to life before my eyes, goblins ready to grab my leg and pull me under every rock along the trail.

What do you hope your obituary will say about you? 

Tim was a kind godly man who loved life and loved other people.

Location and life experiences can really influence writing. Tell us where you grew up and where you now live? 

I was born and raised in the South, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. My father’s family had moved to the area around 1820 and my mother’s family had lived in the mountains for many generations and thus I have deep roots in the region. I left Georgia for only a few years but have now lived back in my home region for almost 30 years.

I am the first one in my family to earn a college degree and am very grateful to my parents for allowing me to pursue my dream of becoming a physician.

Writing about the South and about people who came from humble origins seems to be only natural.

How did you develop your writing style?

My style is influenced by writers such as Anthony Doerr, Cormac McCarthy, and Flannery O’Connor though, if I am being honest, is probably more guided by my English teachers in high school and college.

I try to listen to dialogue in movies to learn how to better give voice to characters. The Coen Brothers movies are the best for this, especially when you combine Coen Brothers with Cormac McCarthy in No Country For Old Men.

How do you work through self-doubts and fear? 

I spent 16 years as an ER doctor and so I had all of my self-doubt and fear beaten out of me.

Do you find it hard to share your work? 

I used to be timid about letting other people read my work. I remember being very self-conscious when about to submit one of my early short stories to a magazine.

After pitching my novel to lots of agents, I got over being shy about my writing. Now, I just put it out there.

What else do you do, other than write? 

As I have mentioned, I was an emergency physician for 16 years. For the past decade, I have been an executive in the healthcare payment integrity field.

 What other jobs have you had in your life? 

I have been actively working since I was 14 years old in jobs that include a custodian, a salesman in a department store, a camp counsellor, and an orderly in an operating room.

 If you could study any subject at university what would you pick? 

I feel like I have already studied them all. I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry, a medical doctor degree, an emergency medicine residency done at Wake Forest University, and a master of business administration degree plus fellowships and certificates from a variety of other organizations.

I don’t feel the need to get a master of fine arts in writing degree but I would like to sit in on some of those courses. The great thing is that much of that content is available outside of a university setting.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

I love visiting London. I am amazed by how much history surrounds you – pre-Roman, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, all the way up to more modern history. I have always said that I would enjoy living in London for a while but I’m sure that I would eventually miss my native north Georgia and would want to come back home.

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk? 

I write on a laptop with attached monitors at my desk.

However, I keep a small notebook and jot down notes about story ideas, dialogue, other descriptions, etc.

I also keep a little leather notebook to write song ideas. I play bass, guitar, and some banjo and hope to someday record some of my songs.

If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask? 

General Omar Bradley – I would like to ask him about leading troops on D-Day and I could depend on him to give honest answers.

Joan Jett – I bet she’s a lot nicer than you might think.

Abraham Lincoln – I might have to eventually tell him enough with the homespun yarns.

Aretha Franklin – I’d love to just talk to her…and maybe she’d sing at the piano after dinner.

Ernest Hemingway – I probably wouldn’t be able to keep him away from the bar.

Elizabeth 1 – I wonder what she’d think about Joan.

When you are not writing, how do you like to relax? 

Like I’ve said, I play several musical instruments and am in a band at my church.

I like running and hiking and am currently preparing for a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa with my son.

What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel?

I aim to simply take people to a different place and to allow them to imagine a life different from their own. If doing this allows the reader to feel some sort of inspiration, that is even better.

How long does it take to write a book?

From the time I first got the idea for A Place Called Jubilee until I had the final draft was around four years. This includes the time it took to 1) write the first draft, 2) study about how to rewrite the book by reading several instructional books, 3) write the next two drafts, 4) send the manuscript to an editor, 5) do an extensive rewrite based on the editor’s recommendations, and 6) make the final clean-ups and write and format the final draft.

Do you have suggestions on how to become a better writer?

Read. Lots. Then write. Lots.

Seriously, read books in your chosen genre. Read books about how to write. Read books about the business of publishing – this will give you lots of pointers about how to be a better writer.

Then, hone your skills by writing. This will teach you how to think like a writer and will make your writing better and better.

What challenges do you come across when writing/creating your story?

Keeping up my momentum in writing. It is best to just plough through a scene or a section of a book and go back and tidy things up later. However, I sometimes get side-tracked by details, following some Google rabbit-hole or even reading about some completely unrelated topic.

What do you think makes a good story?

Characters that are in some way familiar to the reader put into situations that are not familiar to the reader.

Doing this allows the reader to imagine what they would do in similar situations and help them really feel what the characters are experiencing in the story.



3 thoughts on “An Interview with Author Timothy J. Garrett

  1. Thanks so much for hosting Timothy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Jas International Book Reviews Mar 24 Interview […]

    Liked by 1 person

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