‘I had the time, momentum and motivation to write something funny and I had the subject’

Author and editor Gary Raymond discusses how the Welsh firebreak lockdown presented the perfect timing for his new satirical book

Gary standing in front of a book shelf
Gary posing in front of his treasured book shelf which features classic literature introduced to him by his grandfather Credit: Gary Raymond

Gary Raymond published his fifth book How Love Actually Ruined Christmas in November during the Welsh firebreak lockdown. The book is a scene-by-scene description of his abject hatred of Love Actually. Alongside being a writer, Gary is also editor for Wales Arts Review and presents The Review Show on BBC Radio Wales.  

In a pandemic-dictated Zoom call, Gary appears in a loose maroon shirt and large square glasses. His new book is intended to make people laugh in a break away from the usual sober tone of his work. 

It was June when he suggested to his publisher that this would be the perfect time to write the book. His publisher said yes without really thinking he’d write it, and five months later it was published. He explains, “Being a writer is about having one eye on the reader.”

Gary was initially struggling with a noir novel but changed course, deciding that writing something funny would be a better use of his and his readers’ time. The critique of the British classic seems to have hit the mark and currently has a four star rating on goodreads.

Books to date

  • How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (2020)
  • The Golden Orphans (2018)
  • Wales Arts Review: Valley, City, Village (2017)
  • For Those Who Come After (2015)
The road to success

Gary didn’t always have the success he does now. He worked temp jobs like data entry and bartending throughout his 20s because all he wanted to do was write. He strokes his beard and says, “I’m 41 now, up until I was 37 I probably only earnt a couple of hundred quid my whole life from writing.”  

Then in 2012 he started Wales Arts Review along with a few friends, which is now a premier national online hub for arts and culture. “I remember very well, me and a couple of the guys were watching the football in a pub round the corner from here, funnily enough,” he says, pointing behind him. “It was a Wednesday night and we were kind of like, you know, we should just set up a website.”

However, one issue the site has found to be exaggerated by the pandemic is sourcing new writers. According to Gary, “A number of writers have been like, ‘hey, what do you want me to do, I’ve got much more time on my hands’ and some writers have been like, ‘I’m so overwhelmed by the intellectual, emotional weight of what’s going on, I can’t be creative at all.’”  

This writer’s block wasn’t an issue for Gary, who wrote the first draft of How Love Actually Ruined Christmas  within a couple of weeks. He says, “I had the time, momentum and motivation to write something funny and I had the subject.”

The influence of his Welsh roots

Although Gary was born and brought up in Newport, he doesn’t feel the pull of a Welsh identity. When he was younger, he felt a stronger connection with England, being so close to the border, and even supported the English football team. 

He quickly adds: “I’d never support the English rugby side of course, that would be disgusting. Oh god that would be horrible!” 

He is now settled and starting a family of his own, but says the traditional left-wing views of the Newport working class still influence his writing.  

“My novels come from twisted bastardised versions of things that have happened to me,” he says.