Witches and shaman suffer from a great deal of prejudice, victimisation and worse, mainly through ignorance and fear, so today I’m delighted to welcome Jeff Gardiner, author of MYOPIA
Hi Jeff, thanks for coming to visit –help yourself to tea or coffee.
Thanks for being such a welcome host. I love the smell of coffee in the morning (real, of course, not instant).
You’ll never find anything but fresh ground coffee in this house, Jeff. Now, I haven’t read your book yet but as a fellow Crooked Cat Books writer I know it will be brilliant. Can you tell us a brief outline of the plot?
MYOPIA is a crossover / young adult thriller which explores the issue of bullying. Jerry is bullied for wearing glasses, but when he realises that his short-sightedness is not so much a disability than a new way of looking at the world, he begins to work out how to confront the boy who is making his life such a misery. MYOPIA offers some creative, non-violent ways of dealing with bullying.
Great – how did you come up with the idea?
I was born with a squint and wear glasses. I’ve always been intrigued by peoples’ reactions to glasses and whether they can see ‘beyond the glasses’. The stereotype is that of a geek, swat, unattractive (as in the film‘Ugly Betty’) or elderly person. I was the boy in your class at school with a patch over one eye.
And how long did it take you to finish your book (from first idea to submitting the ms)?
The actual writing took about eight months on a part-time basis. I am a part-time teacher too. I did some major redrafting before submitting it.
Did you submit to many publishers or was it snapped up straight away? I ask because I know a lot of would-be authors get very discouraged by rejections and it’s always good to remind them that a rejection isn’t the end of the world.
It got quite a few rejections, but rather than let that get me down I decided to do another major rewrite which involved taking out a whole plot element, which frankly wasn’t working. I also cut out at least 20,000 words. It was much better for all that and then I tried again.
Fantastic! And that worked out really well for you. So, with whom do you identify most in the book? How would you spend a day with this character?
Jerry is the main and most sympathetic character, but I actually identify just as much with Mr Finn, the Deputy-Head. Initially he seems smug, academic and old-fashioned, but he turns out to be compassionate, open-minded and strong-principled; all characteristics I admire. I’d be happy spending a day with him watching cricket, drinking beer and putting the world to rights.
Can you give us a little extract or something to tantalise the reading public?
Here’s an extract from the opening chapter when Jerry is being threatened in a school corridor:
‘Say after me, four-eyes, “I’m a little saddo”. It’s not hard.’
‘Yeah, but you are, eh, Wayno,’ chipped in one of Wayno’s toadies. ‘Rock hard.’
What a snivelling little brown-nose, thought Jerry.
Jerry stuck to his silence and hung on for dear life. It would all be over soon: surely the bell should go any minute now.
Jerry guessed Wayno would hate ‘losing face’ in front of his cronies. Wayno –snorting and still wearing Jerry’s glasses – leaned right in to Jerry until their noses touched.
‘You’re bloody dead, mate. D’you hear?’ Wayno head-butted Jerry with some force, ripped off the glasses and then punched his victim hard in the stomach. Jerry wanted to fall over, but Wayno’s mates held him up.
‘Debag him,’Wayno ordered with a gesture, before striding away like some mafia Don, content for others do his dirty work.
Jerry felt his trousers and underpants being whipped down to his feet – probably by Rhino – whilst his hands were held. Screams of laughter erupted in the corridors, echoing up the stairwell. By the sound of it quite a crowd gathered to witness his humiliation. Eventually, his arms were freed, allowing him to double over and collapse. Jerry managed to pull his trousers back up swiftly then do up his button and zip before attending to his aching head and burning midriff. With his head throbbing he got on all fours and scrabbled about for his glasses. He patted the filthy floor in all directions. The corner had been quickly vacated by the crowd and Jerry patiently swept both hands to and fro with no luck. Still not having found them when the bell rang, Jerry cursed his short-sightedness.
Lots of pupils rushed past him and he wanted to scream for them to stop, fearing his glasses would be crushed underfoot. Couldn’t they see he needed help? Jerry wanted to cry when he remembered the pain in his head and belly, but he refused to do so. Crying really was not the done thing in school – especially not for a boy.
Can so identify with that! Finally Jeff, can you tell us how readers can get hold of MYOPIA?
Thanks so much for popping around –now, come and give me a hand with washing up these cups.
Thanks for letting me visit. Shall I wash and you dry?
It’s been a real pleasure, Jeff – shall we have just one more cup of coffee first?