Interview With Author Garnet Lawrence
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a playwright first, screenwriter, teacher, actor, facilitator and now author. Yes, it’s a mouthful but I have basically spent my life looking at the world re-presenting it through different mediums to children and young people. I started writing plays from the age of 18, and slowly moved into poetry, then film and now books.
I am from Tobago, the prettier of the two islands that make up the twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. I am big on telling our stories in our language and reflecting our culture in whatever medium my brain lets me visualize it in. This is officially my first book, though it is the second work I have published. I plan on writing two more Anansi stories, one on how vaccines work and one on the dangers of smoking.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
This book actually started out as a dramatic presentation that was meant to performed in schools. It was February of 2022, the Ministry of Education was about to reopen schools and we were still having high numbers of infections of Covid 19 among our population.
As a parent of two small children, I was extremely concerned about how we were going to teach our children to adhere to the health protocols, the 3 Ws, especially my son who hated having those masks over his mouth. So usually when we drive around, I would either play stories on YouTube or create stories to entertain us as we drive. So I made up a story using Anansi to explain to them how Covid was spread and made another one to tell them how vaccines work. I wanted the information to reach them at a level they could appreciate. They loved the story and I thought, “hey, I could make a dramatic presentation that we could use to help prepare other children for school.”
So I found a team of actors, I wrote the script, built the performance but I strangely enough didn’t get any buy in to move it from page to stage. I was honestly a bit disheartened, no, a lot disheartened but I didn’t want the story to just die on a computer.
So, I did some research (not enough though cause I almost got scammed) found me a publisher and got to converting the script back to a story and getting it done. Of course by the time it was ready for print, the pandemic was a long lost memory but I still wanted to get it out there, in the odd event that we may have to deal with another pandemic of this nature.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t think any writer is a sane person so I’m sure none of my unusual writing habits would sound unusual to another writer. I often times stay up all night, day night dreaming (I’m not asleep but it’s night so I don’t know what else to call it) and then when I do fall asleep and get up to write it, none of what I was dreaming about ever really makes it to the page! Arggghhh… and the thing is, what’s in my head is so cool but I am never able to get it on paper! I end up spending more time day dreaming to find it back, and then hope I don’t get writer’s block when I start typing.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I love John Grisham and Robert Ludlum books but who really shaped my literary journey was Arthur Conan Doyle, and it wasn’t just the Sherlock Holmes book, but “The White Company,” and “Sir Nigel.” I lived in the worlds they created and then sought to recreate those worlds.
But the book that influenced me the most hands dow is the Bible. I love the way Jesus takes complex ideas and uses simple analogies to present them as palatable to the audience willing to receive it. My work as a dramatist is shaped directly by this; to take a question or a social commentary and use every day language and characters and situations to re present it so the audience can see it as if seeing it for the first time.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I have a commissioned play that I’m working with a dance company to produce. I am also writing two scripts for entry into some screenwriting competitions. Last year I was the grand prize winner of the Faith in Film Screenwriting Competition, so I’m looking to enter that competition and others before the year is out.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
This is my first time publishing anything so I’m a newbie to all of this. I’m from the Caribbean, so word of mouth isn’t going to exactly generate much sales so I’m constantly exploring ways and means within and without my region to tell my story.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
The weight of your word is not measured by you make off of it but the impact it has on the souls that read it.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Don’t be afraid to tell your story. It is a gift given to you for you to share with the world. Paraphrasing what the President of the Tobago Writer Guild told us one evening in a session.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading “Film, Form and Culture” by Robert Kolker. I am in the process of retooling to operate better in the world of film.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I was saying before that my children and I used to make up stories to occupy us on long drives. I am going to take those stories and write them for real.
I am also pushing to create opportunities through film, as a screenwriter and as a producer and director. I also wrote some plays I believe will help us in the Caribbean develop a voice that reflects the issues of the generation or at least my generation because the way things are going, every five years we got a whole new sub culture developing that’s almost alien to the one before it. So I’m going to write for my generation, what impacts us and our journey and our struggles.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
The Bible for sure, a complete volume of Sherlock Holmes, a complete volume of O’Henry stories and complete volume of fairytales (not the Disney stuff, the originals from Grimm and others)