The act of writing can be tackled in at least two ways. First, there’s the option of sitting and letting the mind spin tales of wonder and far-off lands, yet only venturing as far as the kitchen to make a new pot of coffee. Or the writer can hurl themselves into a story regardless of where in the world it may take them, or how little logic the plan contains.
The latter is precisely what Winnipeg-based Kelly Gray did in pursuit of his newest work, The Less You Know - Tales of the Wolseley Voyager.
Released in late 2014, The Less You Know was born from a restless desire to experience life and a gonzo journalist’s curiosity, wit and desperate need to tell it like it is.
“I wanted to do something that I knew nothing about,” Gray explains. “One of the greatest joys in life is taking on challenges and learning things and expanding boundaries. I wanted to undertake a project that would let my stupidity flow.”
After 30 years of working as a commercial writer for various publications, Gray announced to his wife and two grown children that he would be buying a boat and travelling to Europe. His quest would begin in London, at the North Sea. The route would take the charismatic writer through the water-veined heart of Europe to the edges of the Black Sea.
Gray initially allotted three months for the trip, but no great adventure ever seems to fit in a neat and tidy time frame. After eight months of beached boats, broken motors and dumbfounded locals, Gray had not reached the Black Sea. What he did have though was a well-followed blog filled with photos and anecdotes of the journey into central Europe and a memoir.
A stubborn and self-deprecating sea-captain, Gray is an inspiring protagonist in a tale about taking risks and making positive changes in one’s life.
“In a sense, I created an experience machine and then stood in front of it and let it run me over,” Gray says, adding a chuckle. “I didn’t know what was going to happen and by not having experience and not having a lot of boxes ticked that opened up the opportunity for conflict and for all the other literary necessities of a story.”
Gray fancied himself a monk while spending weeks isolated and lonely on his boat. When his only communication involved stumbling over language barriers with gruff marine men, Gray found solace in writing for three hours a night.
“The solitude was really starting to impact me but the writing was something where I was able to have a conversation,” Gray explains. “That saved me time and time again.”
For this self-published work, Gray didn’t want any interference between his storytelling and the listener.
“I didn’t want anyone impacting the story in any way,” Gray says. “I wanted to have creative control and intimacy.”
Gray plans on continuing his expedition to the Black Sea and it’s already off to his idea of a perfect start.
“I’ve already been told I can’t do it. As soon as I heard that, I knew I was absolutely going for it.”