Travis Grant is a new writer on the Alberta landscape who piques one’s curiosity. The St. Albert resident has just released Winners & Losers, a 38-page novelette meant to be read in one sitting.
Gene McCullugh, the main character, is an anti-hero. He is a self-absorbed redneck full of self-doubt who compensates by swearing, drinking heavily, popping LSD and constantly lying to the woman he loves. He always lands in trouble, either through circumstance or his own stupidity. Yet, despite all his flaws, he is a completely sympathetic character.
And that is a testament to Grant’s sensitivity in understanding human nature and his skill at developing a credible character. There is also a strong western stamp to Gene, a man who knows right from wrong and has good intentions, but does not always act on them.
Grant is a manager for website and digital marketing at Trans Canada Trail. He works remotely and splits his time between St. Albert and a 100-acre farm near Athabasca housing an off-grid cabin. When not hunting, fishing, or hiking, he writes most of his material at the cabin.
“I hadn’t read any fiction in 15 years. Suddenly with COVID we had all this time on our hands, and I started writing,” Grant said. In writing about the familiar, he set many recognizable locations in St. Albert and Spruce Grove.
A St. Albert Catholic High graduate, Grant always drew inspiration from nature and met a variety of different people while hunting and fishing.
“Gene is an amalgamation of people baked into one character,” said Grant. “Growing up in St. Albert, you see a manicured city. But there is an underbelly. People like Gene certainly exist, and they can be sympathetic. Mostly, I wanted to show how the system we live in can crush you. To be successful, someone else has to fail.”
The novelette is two chapters in length, less than 10,000 words. The first chapter focuses on Gene, who outwardly looks like a loser, yet dreams of settling down with a wife and raising a couple of kids.
“Gene is not an idiot. He’s self-aware. He might be despicable, but in each section, he is growing and that’s admirable. He is a man who isn’t perfect.”
In the second chapter the slick, outwardly respectable Harry, who plays hardball while negotiating deals, comes into Gene’s orbit.
“There are certain things that are expected of us, tropes we follow – graduating school, going to college, marrying and buying a house. I care about what’s in the heart. Love is the engine of survival and even the most imperfect people are capable of it.”
For Grant one of the primary pillars of becoming a good writer is observing the world around us.
“The best tool a writer can have is empathy. If you can put yourself in another person’s shoes, you’re there.”
Winners & Losers is printed by ELJ Editions, a New York State publishing house dedicated to emerging writers. The novelette is available for purchase on Amazon.