On a individual note, as a child I have listened to stories by my parents about family and life growing up in Jordan or in the Middle East in general especially during wartime.
Discovering another individual who is inspired by his surroundings and family stories is a rare find and to use a cliché, a kindred spirit. Rupert Grech is the sole owner of a box of treasures, but in this case, treasured memories.
Rupert Grech is a gracious author who generously shares his amazing narratives that are both comical and witty. He earnestly takes his readers into his personal life and everyday circumstances, and to use another cliché, life is funnier than fiction.
Rupert is a Maltese-Australian writer who earned both a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Diploma in Education from the University of Sydney. Rupert’s careers have spanned several vocations from acclaimed school principal to landowner & farmer, café owner, Radio announcer and performed as lead vocalist & played the guitar or bass in various bands.
Rupert desired to learn more about his Maltese heritage so after years of employment in Australia as a teacher, he visited Malta for the first time. Later, settling both in Valletta, Malta and Blue Mountains, NSW (New South Whales) while trading equities on the Australian Stock Exchange, and developing property. In the meantime, he continues to write.
Rupert is a modest writer who relishes the chance to share poignant everyday occurrences in both worlds of Australia and Malta that are a side-splitting roller coaster ride for his readers who willingly participate along with Rupert in his antics and jests; a life “to do about nothing” can be a funny life after all.
I am delighted and grateful to have acclaimed author, Rupert Grech, to be part of my Arts & Entertainment Features and to personally thank him for his valuable time.
Tell us about yourself?
Well, if I died tomorrow I would be happy to have an epithet on my tombstone that read,
“Did OK for a Little Immigrant Kid from the Inner City.”
I have been fortunate enough, but I don’t say “lucky” (well, maybe a bit lucky) to be what I would call successful financially and in my career, as well as having successful stints at a variety of other things. My education comprised of a Bachelor of Economics (Hons.) and my substantive career was in public education where I finished as a school principal, ironically, in a community that had a similar socioeconomic status as did the place where I started my schooling.
At various times I have also played semi-professional football, played and sung in pub bands, farmed beef cattle, written a weekly newspaper column, been a radio announcer on commercial radio and developed property on a small scale (I subdivided my 114-acre farm into semi-rural building blocks).
These days I live for half of each year in Valletta, Malta and the other half in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Sydney, Australia, while I trade equities and ETFs on the stock market, do the odd musical performance in bars and where I have more recently embarked on this writing adventure.
Your recent published book, “Musings and Mutterings of A Maltese Misanthrope” is full of whimsical anecdotes with humorous sketches; Can you share with us more about the book?
The new book is a collection of thirteen short stories that I wrote over one summer while staying at my home in the Blue Mountains. This is the ‘blurb:’
“A grumpy, middle-aged man moves house and during the process gets his old record player working again, after it had been inoperable for many years. While listening to cherished LP’s of his youth and polishing off an entire bottle of good red wine, certain songs and record albums retrieve dear recollections of formative events in past times and memorable people known. Meanwhile, funny and frustrating days keep occurring in his contemporary life that often expose a very Maltese set of sensibilities. These memoirs and peculiar days are related in thirteen short stories that are sometimes poignant, often funny and always engaging.”
Who or what inspires you to write?
When I’m in the mood and I make a start on something, I find writing very easy. I’m a bit of a commitment-phobic though and that’s the rub. Usually, I get an idea for a story from something that has happened and think about it for a while (read, procrastinate) before actually committing to writing. Once I’m committed, it’s easy.
I believe there is a short story in just about anything. While writing Musings and Mutterings of a Maltese Misanthrope I was challenged twice and accepted twice to write short stories about single events. One was buying a pair of socks and the other was a particularly bad meal back in my student days.
As mentioned above in the blurb, this last book was inspired by a red wine infused late night listening to old LP records – that and recognising the funny and ridiculous nature of things in everyday life. My sense of the ridiculous has necessarily become more and more developed over the years. I like to joke that, “I used to be high on life…but I’ve built up a tolerance.”
I am always inspired when I read good writers. And daunted as well.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always gained great satisfaction in writing when it turned out well, in the past, before I even thought about attempting creative writing. But that was all about reports, submissions, polices, programs and my column in the local newspaper which was about reviewing live bands. It was not until I enjoyed writing my first book so much and the subsequent publishing adventure that I thought that I may like to become a “proper” writer.
When did you write your first book and what’s it about?
My first book Stories My Parents Told Me: Tales of Growing up in Wartime Malta is about my parents as children during World War II on the small Mediterranean island nation of Malta. The reason I started writing that was to record a story my mother had told me about when she was a young girl in Malta during the war.
I always thought it was a truly amazing story but when I told it to people, I rarely got the reaction from them that I thought the story deserved. They would look at me in a peculiar way when I would start to tear up. I suspected that I must not be doing the story justice by telling it orally, so I decided to flesh it out and write it down as a short story.
I encouraged my parents to tell me other stories about their childhood during the war in Malta and wrote them down as well. It is very satisfying these days to hear people say how they were moved to tears by my mother’s story as this was the original motivation for writing it down. Mind you, editing was murder as I got teary every time I had to review the story!
What do you think makes a good story to write about?
I think a good writer can write an engaging story about anything. There are stories full of interesting characters and events all around us every day. Even a seemingly mundane event and the seemingly uninteresting person all have an interesting story in them somewhere. I am reminded in this of the Seinfeld sitcom motto “A show about nothing.” It is more a case of detailed and sensitive observation, along with how you tell the story, I believe.
What valuable advice, for potential authors, in how to become an established author or a better writer?
Gee, I’m not so sure I am in any position to offer suggestions or advice to other writers, but I can say what works for me. I think you have to be what Australians call “Fair Dinkum.” Broadly speaking, that translates to the genre of creative writing as writing from the heart, maintaining integrity and being honest to yourself. I do not try and write like anyone else and probably could not even if I wanted to.
I don’t think I could write for a specific target market, either. I know that I hate any kind of affectation in writing when I see it – or in anything else for that matter. The other thing I must do is read and reread my stories many, many times over and try to improve them as I go along. Sometimes it gets silly though and when you start changing things back to the original, then you know you’ve had enough.
If all possible, to have an excerpt from your newly published book, “Musings and Mutterings of A Maltese Misanthrope” for your readers to enjoy?
Here is an extract from one of my stories, “Music and Nostalgia” of the thirteen short stories:
“That night in the old house was an extraordinary night of music and memories. At some stage during that night’s journey into past sensibilities, I just had to play the LP record City to City by Gerry Rafferty. Most people recognize the second track on that album: the hit song and FM radio favourite Baker Street. It has that killer sax intro by Raphael Ravenscroft that is also the lead break after the first and second verses, combined with a screaming guitar solo by Hugh Burns after the middle eight; brilliant arrangement and mix. I have always felt a strong connection with that song.
I was working as a barman at the Café Royal at Piccadilly Circus, London, with an older Spanish guy called Pepe. He told me a story about when he used to work as a waiter in a famous Chinese restaurant on Baker Street (the name of the restaurant escapes me right now). He remembered Gerry Rafferty going in for a meal every now and then. He also told me about the rather large and muscular doorman who was a habitual womanizer and heavy drinker. This doorman liked to tell everyone how he was looking forward to the day when he would stop fooling around with women, make some real money and move on. He used to tell anyone who would listen how sometime soon, he was going to buy some land, give up the booze and the one-night stands, then settle down in a quiet little town and forget about everything. I have always wondered if that doorman ever achieved his dream and if he knew that the song Baker Street was written about him. I wonder what happened to that boozy, womanising doorman. I wonder if he sits in a little cottage somewhere in the English countryside, late at night, after his loving wife and young children have gone to bed, and listens to that record while wearing a big, fat, satisfied grin on his face. Or is he a lonely, broken man who could never give up binging on alcohol or chasing after women, and who habitually travels the pubs of Britain, drunkenly bragging about how a famous song was written about him to people who do not believe his story or know the song?
I think it would be interesting for anyone to write a series of personal short stories that were linked with famous songs. For instance, I feel sure that everyone who has ever even remotely enjoyed music and has also been in love, would have a good story to tell that is associated with a specific piece of music. I bet that everyone has a song that reminds them of a special time, person or event in their lives.
Pepe also told me a funny story about when the Rolling Stones went into that same restaurant on Baker Street to celebrate a birthday. The newly arrived Yugoslav waiter, who was serving them all night, did not know who they were. The waiter became so concerned over the expensive champagne tab that those dishevelled-looking young louts were building up that he refused to bring them any more bottles of the exclusive wine. The waiter could not comprehend that people who looked so unkempt could have that much money to spend. Pepe took the waiter to the Stones’ table and explained to him who the group of young ruffians were – right in front of them and much to the amusement of Mick Jagger and the boys.”
Learn more about Rupert Grech on his personal blog Stories My Parents Told Me
Book Trailer of Musings and Mutterings of a Maltese Misanthrope
Written & Edited by Hadel S. Ma’ayeh, ©Copyright 2016, All rights reserved.
Images by Rupert Grech, ©Copyright 2016, All rights reserved.