Saturday 16 June 2018

Guest Author Jeremy Thomas Gilmer of New Brunswick.

I’m always surprised at the fount of talent from our small province and Jeremy is a vibrant part of our writing community. We met through a writing group in Fredericton and I’m pleased to have him as a guest this week. He is nice enough to answer some questions for a 4Q Interview and as a bonus is sharing one of his stories.


Jeremy Thomas Gilmer was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada and spent his childhood in Canada, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. He has worked in a number of different occupations, from climbing instructor to construction, soil mechanics and engineering. He has spent the last twenty years working on international mining projects in South America, Africa and the Arctic. He did not attend University. He has recently relocated to Fredericton, New Brunswick. His short story ‘Congo River, County Antrim’ was long listed for the CBC Canada Writes short story prize in 2015. 


4Q: You are presently the Kira Writer in Residence in ST. Andrews. Please tell us about this experience and how it came about.


JG:  Being selected for KirA came very much out of the blue and I applied without much hope of winning it, but with the idea that the process of applying and getting my name and work in front of people would be a good move. Roger Moore, the poet and academic was the WiR there last year and he was very keen for me to apply. As I write this I am preparing for July and I am so looking forward to fully focusing on writing without the push and pull of other work(s) affecting that. I am hoping to complete a collection of short stories which I have been working on for some time, and of which the included story will be a part. So far the people at KirA have been fabulous to interact with and I am excited to spend time with the other artists who will be there is July, it is quite a group. It’s a truly international endeavor and I encourage anyone with an interest to apply for next year.  
(Photo credit: Dillon Anthony)


4Q: We’re always interested in where an author’s ideas and/or inspiration comes from. What’s your take on this Jeremy?


JG: This is a question that has often baffled me. Most writers I know have a deficit of time and perhaps energy, but almost never ideas. I am struck by story ideas walking down the street, brushing my teeth or driving. To be fair, I have spent much of my life being exposed to new and different places, people and cultures, and this very much shows in my work. For me, it is often an image, a smell, a place or a sound that triggers an idea. It isn’t always fully formed, but seems to shape itself around what mental furniture happens to be filling my head and heart at the time.  As for inspiration, much of my work revolves around war, conflict, migration and their effects on the human landscape. There is no shortage of these things in the world today, and I am trying to tell the stories in between, the strange and sometimes very subtle ways people’s lives intersect and change in reaction to the changing world around them.

To people who want to generate ideas for their own writing, I have a few suggestions. Creative writing classes and courses are where you can learn your craft, the technical skills with which you build the architecture of your stories, but the ideas, the music, must come from you. You need to live to have stories to tell. Go spend time with strangers learning to do things you don’t know how to do. Get away from what you know and get into places that are completely alien to you. If you don’t know yourself, you can’t write about others. I don’t know a single, great writer who has not gone out into the world and lived. Here is a hint, if it doesn’t scare you a bit, you aren’t doing it right.


4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote with us.


JG: My childhood and young adulthood was full of wonder.
Jungles and deserts and oceans, it was not your average childhood. We were living in Jebba, Nigeria and I would have been maybe two or three. It was a very isolated place at the time, where we were. I was playing in the back yard and I fell and deeply cut my forehead. Now, parents know that a cut like that will bleed terribly. We had no doctors close by and my parents were in a panic, so on a neighbor’s advice they took me to a local tailor who was able to sew up the cut with a needle and thread. At the time there were issues with security and children, so my father had hired a Tuareg tribesman named Chin Chin, to basically be my bodyguard. Following the treatment I was extremely sick for three days, and for those three days Chin Chin sat outside my bedroom window and kept watch. My father told me that except for the occasional bathroom break he did not leave that spot for three days. My mother told me they had to force him to eat and drink, so upset was he that I was injured while in his care. The first faces I remember are of my parents and of him. I recall being carried high in the air on his shoulders, walked around the village and I remember being spoken to in Arabic and Tamasheq. These are images and sounds that remain very powerful to me and likely always will. I have a picture with little me, naked as a jaybird sitting on Chin Chin’s shoulders, in what must have been 45 degree heat. I still have this jagged scar on my forehead, I often run my finger over it while I am writing. I guess it is kind of a touchstone.
(Photo of Chin Chin: Bill Gilmer's African Archives.)

4Q: What’s on your agenda for the future Jeremy? What are you working on?


JG: First is this collection. Following that, I have a couple of novels in development, quietly sitting in files waiting to have attention paid to them. Both require some further travel to flesh out a bit. I also have another short story collection in the wings, some written and some gestating. I expect the next two to three years to be rather full, but it very good ways. I am someone who deeply enjoys the process, the work, and the roads that lead to the finished thing, whatever that thing is.


For a real treat, Jeremy is sharing one of his short stories.
(Copyright belongs to the author. Used with permission)




              They climbed, higher and higher into the evening. The mass of the mountain was visible even in the dark, the stars obscured by the shape of it against the night sky. Efe lead Thomas by the hand, as they came around the bend and the sky came into view, he felt for a moment as if he could touch it, the blue black rolling with the dots of light and blinking satellites. Thomas’ hand gripped his tightly. It was just below freezing, which for the time of year was a kindness.


They walked up and up the trail following lit signs that told them in French where they were going. They passed a few people descending the trail, heading back to chalets and huts, warm fires and schnapps. They came through a narrow passage in the rock and the flat of the lookout opened before them. Efe sat Thomas down on a rock and he thought of the first time he had come here, with the boy’s mother. Before work and before pregnancy, before perfect mornings and nights of fighting.

              “It won’t be long.”

              “I know, Papa.”

              He remembered their first trip here, it was the first time she had left Nigeria, she had actually only been out of Lagos twice, to see family in Jebba, and he saw her pursed lips and narrow eyes as she looked across Geneva. Nothing was good, or right for her. Not the apartment in Versoix, not the buses or trains, especially not the food.

He thought of those first days, returning to a crying baby in the crib, wet diapers, her hidden under the covers, weeping muffled by the TV and the duvet. It would always take so long before he could touch her, hold her. She would not go near the baby for hours, he wondered what happened during the day, while he worked. He thought of the two of them, mother and baby, her staring at him from across the room.

He could remember her magic, her visions. In Lagos she could see a car accident before it happened. She knew the sex of a cousin’s baby before it was born, she could tell you the color of a Sunrise, dark purple or brilliant yellow, before the sun crept out of its home and burst onto the day’s canvas. He had always loved these things in her, it was honestly what had drawn him to her once they were courting. But there was always a sadness, a knowledge that she would not share. Something that followed her, and later them. He often wondered what she saw, what she feared in their union.

Thomas sat next to him, close to him, and wrapped the wool blanket around them both, leaning into his father in that way he did. He thought of the hours and days he spent away from his boy, in tunnels and labs, blinking lights and screens, graphs and displays. He did his own magic here, playing with the very bits of the universe that made everything. Machines the size of cities were at his fingertips, yet, he could not know who was calling before the phone rang. Her voice calmly telling him, it will ring in a moment, your sister from Accra.

And then, he thought of losing her before he knew she was gone. Nights spent smashing atoms deep underground while the mother of his child struggled with the dark of her night. He remembered her last words, dragging a weary bag to some train she would not name. I cannot even see him, that is what she said.

              Thomas gasped, and sat upright.

“It is coming, Papa! I can hear it!”

Efe looked up into the night, just in time to catch three, perfect flashes. The meteors lit the sky. One for each of them. He felt the sting of a fishhook in his throat as his eyes filled. Thomas touched his wet cheeks.

“Why tears, Papa.”

Efe removed the boy’s dark glasses, his cream colored eyes opening to the bright sky.

“Your Mother also knew when they were coming. You have her gift, my Love.”


The boy smiled at the thought, as the stars spun.


Thank you Jeremy for being our guest this week.

For those of you who are interested in discovering more about Jeremy and his writing, please visit the following links.

Facebook- Jeremy Thomas Gilmer Writer

1 comment:

  1. Jeremy, is good to know from you and read a little of your storie. I smd you a hugh my friend


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