Robert Gately, Author of South of Main Street

When and why did you begin writing?

Was in fifth grade. Had a contest to write a book report on the recent book we read. That’s when I discovered the inside flap synopsis, those beautiful words that perfectly explained what I had just read. I used it and won the contest. I was so mortified of winning using someone else’s work, I promised myself from that day on I would learn how to write to the degree I wouldn’t need to do anything like that again.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Last year, actually, even though I’m 70 now. I’ve been writing all my life and have quite a few contest wins under my belt, not that is a measurement of how good I am.

However, recently I realized that I don’t have to be the ‘best’ writer to call myself a writer.

I mean, you can fool some of the people some of the time, right? Nevertheless, I’m constantly amazed by the talent out there, and whenever I read something good, I feel less worthy of the title, ‘writer’.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I’m not sure I can point to a particular genre and say “I’m a novelist,” at least while I’m involved in that project. But I write family, comedy, and drama for feature and short screenplays, novels, and stage plays. I also write non-fiction books (memoirs, mostly). Taken as a body of work, these endeavors have finished finalist or better in over 140 writing competitions, mostly for my screenplays and stage plays (e.g., Telluride Indiefest,  Breckenridge, Garden State Film Festival, American Movie Awards, London Film Awards, Dana Awards, Frontiers in Writing, etc.).

Are you a full-time or part-time writer and how does that affect your writing?

Both – it depends on if I have deadlines that are either self-imposed or with co-writers. If I am on a writing project, then I’m a full-time writer. I’ve been known to put in 16 hours a day when I’m ‘in the zone’. My wife has rushed into my room a few times because she hears me crying or hysterically laughing and she thinks something is wrong. She sees me typing on the keyboard and says, “Oh. You’re writing,” and then leaves realizing all is well and I’m just being pushed by my élan vital (that’s the first time I’ve ever used that phrase, by the way). Otherwise, I work home-improvement projects with my brother-in-law or for my wife (which I call my honey-do list).

What are some day jobs you have held?

I had a career with AT&T for 27 years. Even though I was a technician, programmer, and manager of programmers, I wrote Bell System Practices and was the editor of the company’s network newsletter titled, “The Focal Point.” Before that, I worked at a radio station after serving in the US Navy for close to 4 years. That’s where I took “The Famous Writers” correspondence course and became determined to write a book or two.

Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured to accommodate your writing?

My creative self takes over in the morning, and I find myself blindly putting my passion on paper (metaphor for a WORD document). In the afternoon, after I’m burned out, I put on my editor hat on, and I edit what I did that morning or another project. Sometimes I’m an editor all day long, but I usually do my best creative work in the AM.

What have you written so far?

Since July of 1998, when I retired from AT&T, I have written nine feature screenplays, two short screenplays and two two-part mini-series (180-page screenplays), four stage plays, three novels (one novel I wrote prior to 1998), and two non-fiction works (memoirs).

Tell us more about your main character. What makes him or her unique?

In South of Main Street, Henry is like that gardener character in Being There. You know, the Jerzy Kosinski’s book, where the gardener’s utterances are mistaken for profundity. That character was portrayed by Peter Sellers in the movie by the same name. Henry, however, appears to be emotionally unstable but is wise beyond his years in a real sense. He’s just plagued with a wayward child who’s in her thirties, and some think he hasn’t gotten over his PST condition from a war many years ago, and the crib-death of his son. In a real sense he is plagued with guilt for committing an act a long, long time ago, a secret he and his daughters want to keep from becoming public.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?

Charles Dickens, of course. Then there’s Joseph Heller, Philip Roth, Joseph Conrad … and a host of others. The Bible has a profound effect on me. So does Catch-22 and a host of the classics.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

My website definitely exposes my work to the public. On there I also posted my writing contest exploits.

Learn more about Robert…

WebsiteSouth of Main Street

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