For Graeme Connell, inspiration for writing has always come from the environment around him. From the New Zealand countryside he explored in his youth, to the barren lands of Antarctica, and across the diversity of Canada, the people and places Mr. Connell has visited power his writing. Each experience has become more meaningful in its creative expression.
At age 17 he found his passion in writing. Having not succeeded in school, Graeme wandered down a new path into the unknown and accepted a job at a local newspaper. He quickly discovered his love of newspapers and “began [his] life with words.” At age 32 he was the youngest editor of a daily newspaper.
I asked Graeme about how he began his personal writing career, and what inspired him to keep writing throughout his life. In this discussion he told me about the shift from a professional style of writing to finding his feet as a novelist. Speaking about his first book, a travelogue titled Tide Cracks and Sastrugi, he said:
The difficulty I had in writing a novel was knowing if I had a voice. My careers had been spent writing the voices of others, as a journalist and as a pr/communications writer. The challenge then was whether I had my own words… With that book done I was inspired to create [Finding] Dermot. That was a rush. I found I could create my own settings and characters. I could create a story. The elements of my travels, physically and emotionally, gave me the plot and the characters
Speaking more about how his many escapades have seeped into his work Graeme told me:
I really think that the characters of my novels are the result of my travels and observations and contact with diverse people and cultures. My careers, either in newspapers or in public relations, have both brought me into close contact and conversation with people I would not ordinarily meet. I listen to the music in the voices of people and I hope this translates into the dialogue of my stories.
Graeme says that the most influential voice in his writing is his wife’s:
My wife is an artist. I learn each day and every day from her on the visuals and stimulus this province [Alberta] offers: the wildflowers, the trees, the birds, the hills, the livestock, the crops in the field through all their stages. My writing is a reflection of her friendship and good nature.
For Graeme, it is each of the interactions he has with people that come together and help put words on the page. His family, friends, and everyone he has met in his worldwide adventures have provided him with his words. He has used this skill in his journalistic writing, becoming able to distill many voices into “objective reporting, tight writing”. He continues to harness the voices of others in his novels:
People provide the reservoir that supports my imagination for my writing and help me create the tension needed to move the story along.
He is passionate about sharing with the world the stories he thinks need to be written. His unique voice is created from years of adventures and interactions with limitless diversity. Graeme’s closing words to me really summarize his identity as a writer:
Words are magic. Books are knowledge. Creative and imaginative stories have to be written. Reading must be encouraged. My wish is that newspapers would tell us the stories of the people, the places and the happenings in our communities.
I agree with Mr. Connell. We should strive to use writing as a way to explore other people’s perspectives. Telling authentic stories, whether through journalism or fiction writing, will create a more unified world.