Welcome to the fourth in our series of Thorstruck Press Author interviews! Today we chat with funny man Patrick Barret :)
Patrick Andrew Barrett was born in 1950 in Hucknall, Nottingham. He was educated at Beardall Street Secondary School and after-school choices were either the Army or coal mines. He chose a coal mine because there was no-one shooting at him down there. As a chargeman fitter, his main experience of writing was 26 years of explaining why he had to fix things other people had broken! When the mines began to close he followed a lifelong passion of antiques, becoming an antique dealer who couldn't bear to sell anything. This resulted in his houses getting bigger but the rooms becoming smaller. His first book, Shakespeare’s Cuthbert, began the Cuthbert comedy series based in a fictional valley with larger than life characters. Each book has its own theme; the second one is titled How Mean is My Valley and the third is Tee for Two in the Valley.
Patrick is married to Paula, who is also known as the redhead and does all the tasks that Patrick doesn't do.
1. What sparked your interest in writing? Your proverbial light-bulb moment?It was strange, I have never written before and I have no formal training, but one morning I woke up and began to write ‘Shakespeare’s Cuthbert.’ I entered this on authonomy and eventually it won a gold star. After the encouragement of people on there (many of whom are still friends), the Cuthbert series followed on quite naturally.
2. Which genre are you most comfortable writing in?Comedy is my genre. I have seen the mess the serious people have made of the world and I think we all need an escape route.
3. We absolutely agree! Would you say you draw most often from your own knowledge base when writing or do you research for fresh material?Everything I write is an amalgam of all the people I have met or worked with during my life as a coal miner, engineer, antiques dealer and amateur cottage restoration executive. Throw more than fifty years of reading into the mix and there is a lot of material already there.
4. Tell us a bit about your work. How, for instance, do you choose your titles?To me, a title should always suggest the content of the book so that a potential reader can see the cover, read the title and pretty much know what’s coming. I don’t like obscure titles which neither match the cover illustration or the plot.
5. We love to read excerpts. Share with us your favourite bit of writing from you latest book.Cuthbert has a best friend named Percy who is a red haired self- proclaimed gardener, anyone who isn't a gardener is declared ‘Non compost mentis’ by him. According to Percy, his ancestors have influenced many of the major events in history. For instance, he has revealed that Noah was a racist bigot who would only take two of his family because they had red hair. Whilst the family squabbled over who should go, the Ark sailed. Promptly, grabbing a passing albatross, the family reached the high ground in Norway and began the Viking race. This is why the albatross is considered unlucky by the rest of civilisation. He goes on to explain that the Vikings were thoroughly misunderstood. Their boats were only made that shape so that they could transport cucumbers from Norway and the hoards of cash and treasure were the result of selling vegetables to the monks in the North of England.
6. Now you have us smiling! Who do you identify with most in your work? And why?If I identified with any of this bunch, I would be wearing a trendy coat with lots of buckles at the back.
7. Ha, we'd like to see that! If you could choose who would play Cuthbert in the movie or series made from your work, who would it be?My work would have to be a cartoon series.
8. Which four words would you use to describe yourself?
9. Which four words would you use to describe your work?Use only for laughs.
10. I have to throw this in! That list of favourites we’re all interested in!
Favourite book: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Favourite movie: Collateral…Tom Cruise.
Favourite TV series: No TV for fifteen years.
Favourite colour: Yellow for walls, but red for hair.
Favourite food: The edible type.
Favourite drink: Water.
Favourite pet: The redhead.
Favourite season: The one I’m still alive in.
Favourite place: Venice.
11. Often personal fame and prominence for your work go together, but frequently authors prefer remaining in the background while hoping their work will assume the limelight. Is this true for you, or don’t you mind a bit of fame?
No fame, I prefer to hear “How did that dimwit get his own private plane?”
12. Now that would mean you have arrived! Tell us about your next book (we love to know what to look forward to!).
More of the Cuthbert series I’m afraid, there will soon be nine of them available.
13. That's awesome! What comes next, besides a new book project? A holiday, an event?A holiday would be nice, but after a stroke I lost my driving license and my wife uses an electric wheelchair, so the complications of special taxis, airport lifts breaking down and selfish sods paying extra for the seats with more leg room when Paula cannot walk, tends to spoil everything before it begins.
14. And finally, if you could choose one person, living or dead, you would like to meet, who would it be and what would you ask of that person?I would like to meet Shakespeare and ask him to proof-read Cuthbert.
That would be something indeed! Thank you so much for chatting to us, Patrick. Always a pleasure to hear from you!
Here's the blurb for Shakespeare's Cuthbert:
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.