The Thirteen Traveling Journals Project

Monday, July 18, 2005

Featured Diarist: Colin Galbraith

Colin is the Starter for Journal #2, Fronds of Thought, and he gave us this mini-interview.

1. How do you feel that writing and music inspire each other, if at all?

To me, writing and music compliment each other throughout the entire creative process. It can all start if you need to hear a particular piece or genre of music in order to enable your mind to get into the mood to write. Or perhaps I want to write a certain scene and a particular song will provoke the desired emotions to be able to get the best first draft from that scene. This leads into the story itself, and quite often I find myself associating scenes to music and thereby unwittingly providing the soundtrack to the story.

If I go back and read something I have written in the past, very often the music associated during its writing will spring back into my mind and I'll have to go and dig out the track to put my mind at ease.

It goes deeper as well. One of the reasons I read John King novels is because it is very obvious from his work that he has a deep love for music. His knowledge and passion comes through into the work itself and much of it is centred round the kind of music that I grew up with; punk, ska, rock etc.

And so a piece of fiction without any kind of 'internal jukebox' is lacking until I can find music to go with it, however obscure or centred it may be.

2. What impacts, both positive and negative, do you think the Internet has had on both music and literature?

I may find myself contradicting myself in answering this so I'll have to tread carefully with my answer. I'm an old-fashioned guy when it comes to music. I like to go into a record shop and browse through records. I like to look at the covers and feel what I am about to buy in an attempt to connect with it. This stems from a time when music was music. I would go into a record shop and not just browse and feel it, I would remove a vinyl record from its sleeve and hold it up to the light, scan its surface, smell it, read the groove notes. In those days record shop owners would talk to anyone who came in and you could be in there for hours talking about music with people who just loved to own a record shop.

Nowadays the record shops are gone; replaced by conglomerates who tell you what to buy, in what format, and sold by part-time students who run a check on a computer for you to see if they stock a record by some band they've never heard of. It's not the same, and this is the reason I think the Internet has had a detrimental effect on music. It has provided the conglomerates with another avenue with which to exploit the record-buying public by providing music via retail downloads. This, I believe, will finally see the death of record shops and we will all end up living in cyber-land.

However, the Internet has also allowed me to network with other fans of music I like to listen to, some of whom have become very good friends over the years. It has also allowed me to get my hands on very rare vinyl and unlisted CD albums that would otherwise have missed my grasp thanks to the likes of Ebay. The advent of digital technology has also meant I can now listen to bootleg gigs that are of such good quality, you would think them studio recordings.

Overall though, I don't like it and I feel it is another step in the wrong direction for the music industry.

The literature industry is another kettle of fish though. Again, I love nothing more than browsing for books, looking for gems or flicking through reference sections. Part of the joy is being able to hold a book in your hand and smell the pages, feel the paper and connect with it, much in the same way one might with a vinyl record.

However the audience is declining, and unlike the record industry, demand is harder to create than with music. More money is spent on a unit basis promoting a book for smaller returns and very often the casual reader is cast aside by the industry for the quick sale of high-turnover novels.

In this day and age, it is a sad way for the industry to go, but I think the advent of e-books and the ease at which books can now be bought or downloaded over the Internet, could be the saving grace for the industry. It has sparked new interest and new channels for people to buy and what with the technological edge, it looks to be increasingly popular with the technical-minded kids. Reading is becoming more trendy and accessible thanks to the Internet, although perhaps a certain Mr. Potter can take much of the plaudits for that also.

3. Where did you get the inspiration for your book of poetry and photos, Brick by Brick?

Brick by Brick comes from a lot of places. The idea initially came about when Rick Lupert of the Poetry Superhighway 2005 Giveaway was looking for people to make up their own e-books of poetry and then distribute then through his website. This could be as simple or professional as the poet wanted, but the aim was simply to make as much of people's poetry available to everyone else.

I was sitting on a pile of poetry at the time (some published, others not) and I thought I'd give it a bash. But I wanted it to be more than just poems on white pages; I wanted substance, thought, imagery and a real-life connection. So I included photographs, which allowed me to delve deeper into the words of my poems in photographic form; giving them visual support and a new expression.

The selection of the poems themselves are not linked and so the inspiration behind them comes from different moments in my life; a period of uncertainty at my day job, an argument with my wife, objects lying around the house, the sources are endless and varied.

The creation of the e-book was a very liberating process to work through and it has opened up the possibility of doing more of these in the future. Indeed, the Brick by Brick project has spawned more ideas as a result, which when you get to question 5, I will elaborate further.

4. Have you thought about revisiting Jackie, your protagonist in Hunting Jack, let’s say in five or six years and seeing what he’s up to?

Oh definitely. Jackie McCann is the one character I have developed who came to have a major impact on my own life and as a result of his presence, really means something special to me.

His journey through the serial, Hunting Jack, was as unknown to me as it was to him, and very often when I tried to influence it he told me to go back off away and allow him to do his own thing. Right up to the end I was in the dark about a lot of things and how they might turn out and I found I just had to let Jackie make his own mistakes or get himself out of trouble. As a result, I feel strongly about him.

Certainly, his life is not simple and it is not without its complications, and so in five years he will be 21 and the new Millennium will have just past. Without giving too much away to those who haven't reached the end, his life will have totally changed, but to what extent, I can't say. And so yes, the thought of going back one day in the future and seeing what he is up to is something I would find very hard to resist.

I doubt I will wait five years to write about it. He's only just found himself and often I am reminded of something that happened to him when I walk along a certain street in Edinburgh for example. So can I wait 5 years before looking in? Perhaps not. I'm too curious.

5. Are there creative projects on your horizon that you can talk about? Or are they all still in that delicate stage?

I have several in mind at the moment, all of which are at the embryonic stage but talking about them (on paper) sometimes helps me to clarify what I'm trying to do and help my decision process, so here goes.

On my immediate to-do list is of course the project to which this is connected; the 13 Travelling Journals Project. This has excited me greatly and the possibilities seem endless and I am very much looking forward to getting stuck into it!

I also have my monthly GDR goals, which I approach more as a kind of Business As Usual project. Managing the time is the most important thing for me. But as well as these things I like to keep ideas on the horizon; things to ponder about in quieter moments or scribble quietly into my notebook.

I want to do something that involves a new character. I have to (want to) be able to really connect with this person so that I can get right inside their head. I want it to be in the form of individual short-stories, poems or works of photography that are separate to their own but are each connected through the one character. Different places, interactions, adventures or misadventures are all things I can incorporate, but the only thing holding me up is it has to be with the right person.

I am constantly looking around me thinking about it, watching people in the street or looking at portraits or pictures in magazines to find this person but as yet, they have alluded me. I want him or her to be strong but also with weaknesses. This person may have a life but perhaps not entirely happy with it; normal, insignificant, but with a special quality.

This project doesn't have a name yet, but I have referred to it as Project X in my blog.

Another project currently swirling through the grey folds of my brain is the contemplation of self-publication of more e-books. This is as a direct result of Brick by Brick.

One of the things I noticed when taking part in the Poetry Superhighway Giveaway was that many of the authors have written, designed and produced their own chapbooks, which are then made available on their own websites. I like this idea though it is not something I would consider for a full novel.

One of the authors who does a lot of travel poetry included a CD-ROM with the chapbook. It included random thoughts and observations recorded while on their travels as well as readings - sometimes recorded live at poetry slams - of their poetry. It included music and other funny titbits and this is something I want to do soon because it interests me and I reckon I could do it well. I can see photography embedding itself more and more into the work I do in the future.


Colin Galbraith is 31 and lives in Edinburgh with his wife and daughter. He has had a string of short stories and poems published, and he writes a popular e-serial for American publisher His story, Hunting Jack, won the Editor’s Choice Award in February 2005.


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