Friday, 21 March 2014

Jeff Gardiner: Treading on Dreams

It's my pleasure to welcome Jeff Gardiner to Heart of Fiction.

Author of such books as Myopia and Igboland (Crooked Cat Publishing), to name just two of the more than a dozen he's published, Jeff celebrates the release of his newest title, Treading on Dreams (Tirgearr Publishing).

Born in Nigeria to British parents, Jeff now calls England home, where he works as a teacher, book editor, and author. His literary tastes are eclectic, no doubt from his travels, and translates into some very colorful and mixed stories -- Myopia is a young adult story about bullying and contrasts against the 1967 Nigerian  setting of Igboland which contrasts against the contemporary love triangle of Treading on Dreams. One would think an author my be challenged with such a wide range in writing tastes, but Jeff relishes the challenge and succeeds quite well in whatever he puts his mind to.

Treading on Dreams is Donny's story. He's in love with his roommate, Selena, but Selena is in love with, and marrying, Melvin, and affluent professional. To make matters more complicated, their landlord, Jaz, also has a thing for Selena. Well, not just Selena. He loves sleeping with women. Lots of them. Selena is just a conquest, which unfortunately backfires on him and threatens Selena's future. As a hedonist, Jaz pulls the impressionable Donny into his shenanigans, which include the ritualistic three vices -- sex, drugs and rock and roll! It's not long before Donny finds himself getting in over his head. With Selena always in his sights, he has to try finding a way to make her fall in love with him. Even if it means causing a scene at her wedding.

From page one, readers will be pulled into Donny's story, and follow him down a deep hole of emotional despair and longing for a woman he loves but who loves another. He's young and impressionable. He knows what he wants, but going for it creates trouble he never expects, or simply overlooks. You'll sit up in your seat as if to cry out to Donny, "There's more fish in the sea," but we all know when we're stupid-in-love, there will never be anyone else but this one person we're fixated on. Which makes our hearts break even more for Donny's plight. We've all been Donny, and some of us have even been Selena or Melvin, which means we'll all understand the raw emotions of unrequited love. This is a great read!

Jeff was kind enough to sit down with us for a quick chat --

Welcome, Jeff, and congrats on the release of Treading on Dreams. And thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to have a chat with us.

You have such a busy schedule with teaching, editing, and writing. How do you schedule it all? What's your writing routine like?
I have a part-time job as a high school teacher on a Monday to Wednesday. On Thursdays I volunteer at a local Special Educational Needs college, which leaves me Friday and some of the weekend to write – plus school holidays. With two wonderful daughters, I also factor in time with the family, so it’s not always easy to find time, but I’m very determined and have good time-management skills. Once I’m working on a project I like to concentrate on that, although marketing and blogging are also essential on a regular basis. It’s important to be focused and to believe in what you’re writing.
Yes! "Believe in what you're writing." I like that. I think if you believe in your subject, it's easier to focus on it.

Do you feel that having the right surroundings helps inspire your writing? What's your writing space like?
I have a conservatory with a PC on a desk. I can look out onto our back garden with an ancient oak tree; home to squirrels, crows and many other birds. I saw some jays screeching in its branches the other day. Sometimes I write on a laptop, but recently I’ve taken to using paper and pen again. It’s a revelation. I found that ideas flowed and that I could write very quickly. Of course, it still needs to be typed up, but then I can type up listening to music.
I've heard some writers are going back to first-drafting on paper. Intriguing! Your back garden sounds wonderful.

Interesting that you say you can type up your hand-written work while listening to music. What do you enjoy listening to while working? And to that, when you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I spend a lot of time with my family. My daughters are into dance and gymnastics and, like many parents, we’re a glorified taxi service for them. I love listening to rock music and attending gigs. I’m particularly partial to prog rock – classic bands like Yes and Pink Floyd, and contemporary bands like Porcupine Tree and Headspace. I also watch a lot of films. ‘Gravity’ and ‘Captain Phillips’ are two I’ve really enjoyed recently. I also love films from other cultures and even silent movies. Probably my favourite film ever is ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. Of course, I also read lots. My favourite authors presently are Graham Joyce, Haruki Murakami and the late great Iain Banks.
Wonderful! Another Floydian ;-) I love films too but haven't had the opportunity to see many in recent years. I'll take Gravity and Captain Phillips as a recommendation from you.

This takes us back full circle about your routine. I can see how full your schedule is, but can also see how you find a way to make time for everything you want to do. Awsome stuff!

Thanks for chatting with us.

But before we get to the blurb and excerpt for Treading on Dreams, be sure to leave a comment or question with your contact email address for your entry to be put in the hat for a free copy of this book.

• • •

Donny is obsessed with his housemate, Selena – but his love is unrequited. He enthusiastically accepts her willing friendship, which only fuels his deepening fantasies.

Jaz is their crazy landlord who likes sleeping with women – lots of them. He takes pleasure in educating the once innocent Donny in the hedonistic pleasures of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It blows Donny’s mind.

Selena is engaged to Melvin – the perfect man – but is also keen to befriend the ever-demanding Donny ... until she falls pregnant and her wedding looms.

Donny expresses his true feelings at the wedding, causing mayhem and anger. But there remains a chink of hope: perhaps Selena’s marriage to Melvin is not quite as perfect as it seems.

The marriage service seemed to go on forever.

Long, monotonous choruses accompanied the strumming of two guitar chords. The prayers began with ‘Lord I just wanna…’ followed by the obligatory praying for the bride and groom with laying-on-of-hands. When the bearded elder pressed his hand on Selena’s bosom, it occurred to Donny it was an excuse to touch the bride.

Then the photographs seemed to take days to complete, while the guests, ensconced at a nearby posh hotel, starved to death with only small glasses of Schlöer to stop them from dehydrating.

The dreaded speeches followed.

‘Thank you, so much, everyone, for sharing our special day,’ said Melvin, the groom.

Donny couldn’t help staring at Selena. She looked stunning in the simple ivory dress. It showed her magnificent figure in all its glory, unspoiled yet by the swell of pregnancy. Her hair curled in ringlets at the side of her face, falling from her veil and framing her lovely cheeks. Donny continued his gaze as her hand caressed her lips. The desperate urge to touch her became an overwhelming feeling of sorrow and loss.

The people at his table laughed at Selena’s father’s comments.

‘Does anyone remember that time my new son-in-law nearly burnt my house down last year when he lit the barbeque?’ Everyone laughed politely. ‘But anyway, we’re here to celebrate the love this couple clearly feel for each other. I can see how much they are in love from the joy in their eyes.’

Donny swallowed bile.

Then Melvin stood up to speak. ‘God has blessed me today by letting me marry the most wonderful woman in the world. With Jesus beside us, we aren’t so much a couple as a threesome.

A few guests sniggered.

Donny looked around with narrowed eyes. Scowling, he wrung the tablecloth as if it was wet.

The best man took his turn. ‘As a doctor, Melvin saves lives every day; as a Christian he works tirelessly for charity. He also finds time to help lead our church, preaching and ministering to the sick and infirm…’

Why did nobody mentioned Selena’s baby? As if it wasn’t why they were there today. Did they not know or were they ignoring it? He wanted them to know Melvin wasn’t the great shining example they assumed, but a total hypocrite—shagging his girlfriend whilst preaching morality. Could no one else see the hypocrisy?

Once the speeches were over, the servers poured more wine while the happy couple mingled. Donny sat back and listened to the clamour of myriad conversations. Voices buzzed around him until the hubbub became a grating irritant. Every sound intensified behind his eyes, which he momentarily closed.
‘Melvin truly is a holy man of God.’

‘Amen.’

y make such a perfect couple—so young and in love.’

As Donny sat listening to the inane conversations around him, they began to reverberate in his head and squeeze his temples like a pincer. Something uncomfortable stirred, churning his insides.

eeling quite depressed and then I remembered Melvin prophesied about Jesus healing the sick and that afternoon I made an amazing recovery.’

He didn’t know how much more he could take. The cacophony of voices became a crashing wave of atonal sound. Every sound was a spike hammering through his brain.

‘…Isn’t Melvin just the best…?’

‘…I’ve never seen a couple so in love…’

‘…and they’ll have such beautiful children…’

ith a roar, Donny stood, his chair crashing to the floor. He grabbed the table with all his strength and knocked it on its side. The dishes hit to the floor, shattering. He had their attention.

‘Fatuous bullshit! You’re talking absolute, fucking bullshit. Can’t you see what’s going on? Melvin ‘goody-two-shoes’ got her pregnant, and you still think he’s wonderful. Selena doesn’t love him, but she’s too scared to say.’

His sister, Hazel, tried to stop him. He pushed her away. ‘I can’t bloody stand it any longer. I’m in love with you, Selena.’

People sat, speechless.

Some other guests got up, moving quickly towards him.

‘You can’t marry him…what’ll happen to me?’ He stopped, breaking down completely and slowly melted into an indistinct blob on the floor. ‘Who the fuck am I kidding? Why would she ever love me?’

n, his father, and a few other men grabbed Donny. They carried him like a rolled up carpet. He kicked and struggled to no avail as they took him from the room.

‘Leave me alone, you bastards!’

Where the hell were they taking him?

His head ached. He was getting hotter and hotter while the world outside burst into flames. Finally, he tipped into a burning abyss.


• • •

Jeff Gardiner was born in Nigeria to British parents and has lived in many places in England, including Bedford, London and West Sussex. Now living in a house full of girls (including the cat), he is an author, editor and part-time teacher. With a number of books to his name - fiction and non-fiction - he has also had many stories and articles published, and even been translated into German. When he's not writing or enjoying family life, Jeff listens to rock music; goes to the cinema, and concerts; sometimes indulges in amateur dramatics, and enjoys reading the writings of Graham Joyce, Haruki Murakami, and Ian McEwan.

Find Jeff online --

Jeff Gardiner
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Tirgearr Publishing

• • •

Don't forget -- Tirgearr Publishing is giving away a copy of Treading on Dreams today to one lucky commenter. Leave Jeff a message or ask him a question and be automatically entered into the random drawing.



11 comments:

  1. Welcome to heart of fiction, Jeff, and congrats on the release of Treading on Dreams.

    This is quite the tale. After writing about teenage bullying and list in late 60s Nigeria, what gave you the idea for a story of a love triangle?

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  2. As a previous victim of the dreaded 'unrequited love', I wanted to express the intense feelings that brings. It is easy to allow yourself to become obsessed and lose the ability to think rationally. I also wanted to write a romantic novel from a male point of view. 'Igboland' is a female POV, but 'Treading On Dreams' is a male perspective, albeit a sensitive male (we do exist!). On a good day I like to imagine I'm Jaz, but the reality is probably that I'm just another Donny. Try not to tread carelessly on people's dreams!

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  3. I guess that answers the questions, "Do you ever use personal experiences in your work?" and "How much of yourself to you put into your stories?"

    I think deep down, we're all a bit of Donny and Jaz. They're total opposites on the pendulum. We all are. For as one way as we can all be, we can be exactly the opposite too. It's like the shy, reserved, and unassuming character who's taken quite enough and grabs up a gun and heads to the nearest shopping centre. Or the reserved geek who thinks he'll never get a date but ends up marrying a beauty queen.

    I'd like to think there are few people like Jaz in the world and more like Donny. Some women may like a bad boy, but it's Donny we'll take home to the folks :-)

    What's up next for you? Any tidbits you can share from what you're working on now?

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  4. I'm working on something racy and raunchy! I also have a non-fiction book being released later this year, which will require some very focussed publicising. I always have a few projects on the go, including some ideas for some YA fiction too.

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  5. Racy and raunchy is 180 degrees from anything we've seen from you to date. How does one research for a story like that? Or do we want to know? ;-)

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  6. This looks like a stunning read, Jeff. I'm most impressed!

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  7. Makes me want to find out what happens next........

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  8. Thanks for the comments. I'll leave the racy, raunchy research to your imaginations ... and leave you gasping for more ...

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  9. Congratulations to Tiffany Logan for winning a copy of Jeff's book!

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  10. Thank you - I really enjoyed the book - some delicious characters and a few twists in the tale! Loved it!

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  11. Thanks Tiffany, glad you enjoyed it.

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