Former editor of the Bremen Gateway and Haralson County Tribune, Gary Watson, 72, just published his third mystery novel. But in truth he has been writing his whole life.
When he was in school he was “that kid” — the one who would turn in the 10-page reports while everyone else was struggling to write two pages, Watson said.
“I truly think that writing is a God-given talent,” Watson said. “God didn’t bless me to be able to throw a 100 m.p.h. fastball and pitch for the Braves. The talent he gave me was writing and I’ve never had any difficulty coming up ideas and with stories and being able to tell them.”
While he was still attending Bremen High School and West Georgia College he worked as a stringer for the Gateway. Immediately after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in English, he became editor of the local newspapers. He ended up working in journalism for 20 years. His journalism career gave him the practice to hone his writing as well as seeds for the fertile ground of his imagination.
“You have so many different situations that you get to cover, that you’re involved with. You meet so many interesting people,” Watson said. “I used that experience in the newspaper business to really shape some of my characters and plots.”
But it wasn’t until after he embarked on a second career as the transportation director in Douglas County, that he began writing his books. His first he self-published in 2004; his second in 2013.
He chose to self-publish for a number of reasons, Watson said. He did have a literary agent, but after the time it took to finish the book, he was impatient. He didn’t want to wait for the agent to market it to publishers until one decided to pick it up, a process that could take years.
“At 72, I don’t want to have to wait,” Watson said with a laugh.
He also said that it gave him total creative control over the books — no publisher telling him to change characters or how the book should end.
Self-publishing has become a popular way for authors to get their work to the public. Through venues like Kindle, readers can purchase diverse reading material from emerging authors inexpensively and authors can bypass the gates of the huge publishing companies.
According to an article on the Alliance of Independent Authors website, in 2016 almost 300 million self-published books generated $1.25 billion in sales. And on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited about 85% of the available e-books are from self-published authors.
Watson’s first two books sold about 1,500 copies and have a few five-star reviews on Amazon’s website.
All three books revolve around mysteries stumbled upon by journalists. His book published this year, “A Quick Trip Home,” is about reporter Kris Keller who returns to his small Georgia hometown to make the final arrangements for his father, who took his own life. Once there he is told secretly that his father’s death may not have been self-inflicted. So he begins to investigate, unraveling the town’s secrets and putting himself in danger.
Watson said local readers may find some things in the book familiar.
“I really enjoyed writing this book because it did bring back a lot of fond memories of life in Bremen,” he said.
But the main events in the book were completely fabricated, Watson added.
He has treasured memories of Bremen in the 1960s when it prospered under the clothing manufacturers in town and their employees who had plenty of money to spend at the family-owned, local stores. He’s helplessly watched its fall, along with many small towns in America, as manufacturers shuttered their factories, big box stores crushed their small, local competition, and good-paying jobs became harder to find.
This book contains that story as well as the characters that help make the small Southern town charming and a little ominous.
The Warren P. Sewell Memorial Library in Bremen will host a book signing with Watson on Sept. 16 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Pat Johnson, program coordinator at the library, said that that the library also hosted a book signing for Watson with his first book. At the time, there were few books published by locals, she said. But it has become more common, in fact Watson isn’t the only author that will have a book signing at the library in the next couple of months, she said.
“If it’s not someone we know we like to have a preliminary copy,” Johnson said.
But they know Watson and his wife, Suzanne, who was the library manager at the Villa Rica library for a number of years, she said.
The library currently doesn’t have any of his books to borrow, she said. But there will be copies available at the book signing.
Watson’s new book, “A Quick Trip Home,” is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million.