The book club is the new pub

book club

As an author, what’s not to love about book clubs? They involve copious amounts of wine, lots of intelligent conversation (some of it even about books), and women.

If the photo above is anything to go by, book clubs also do strange things to your hand too, but we’ll gloss over that for now.

Despite its members being Cambridge graduates, gene therapists, vets and librarians,  those of them that had actually seen a copy of  Six Months to Get a Life seemed to enjoy reading it. Mind you, they did name their book club after a penis, so maybe we shared a similar sense of humour.

I promised the members of Ralph (read Judy Blume’s Forever) that I would blog about my interaction with their book club. Unfortunately I drank so much wine over the course of the evening that I haven’t got a clue what went on. Hopefully the below excerpt from the book club scene in my second novel, Six Lies, will keep them happy. I’m very excited to shout from the rooftops that Six Lies is now available to pre-order on Amazon.

six lies cover for pc w endorse

Excerpt from Six Lies

After talking to Dad about my birth mother, I decided to push my luck and see if I could make progress in my other life goal, reigniting the spark between Lou and me.

Bearing in mind the way we broke up, it was a miracle we were even talking again now, let alone thinking about getting back together. Well, at least one of us was thinking about it.

Before Lou ran off with the book dork, if anyone had asked me what I thought of my marriage, I would have told them how happy the two of us were. Sure, the novelty of each other’s company had generally worn off, but we were happy. We went out together when the mood took us, we didn’t row about who did the washing up and we still laughed at each other’s jokes. Well, she laughed at mine at least.

The first time I can remember even getting an inkling that Lou might not share my view of the state of our marriage was one night when I was watching the football on the telly. ‘Not football again, do you have to watch that crap tonight?’

‘There aren’t any period dramas on tonight, it’s a Tuesday,’ I told her. I wasn’t necessarily sure my statement held true, but the football was tense so I did my best to sound convincing.

‘I don’t want to watch the telly. It would be nice if we could have a conversation from time to time.’

‘We are having a conversation, aren’t we?’

‘No, I’m talking to you and you’re watching the football. That’s hardly having a conversation. We don’t stimulate each other anymore.’

That got my attention. ‘You stimulate me, darling.’

‘Not physical stimulation, Dave, mental stimulation.’

To my shame, I sighed with relief and turned back to watch the Liverpool game.

The next thing I knew, Lou had committed us to attending a book club. She went to the library after work one night and picked up two copies of the Cobham linguists’ book of the month, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Now I can read a book as much as the next man. There is nothing better than a gripping whodunit or a meaty courtroom drama. But, since studying Shakespeare at school, dissecting the author’s motives for taking the plot in one direction or another has never been my cup of tea. I couldn’t even understand the bloody man let alone critique the development of his characters.

Not wanting to upset Lou, one sunny evening in May, I traipsed along to some double-fronted mansion in deepest Surrey to talk about The Book Thief. Lou and I, along with six or seven middle-aged white women called Emily and Olivia, and one bloke with an unruly beard that seemed to morph at about neck level into a brown cardigan, were shown into a conservatory looking onto a garden as big as a golf course. Feeling irritated that my free time was being taken up by this crap, I grabbed a chair overlooking the manicured lawn. If nothing else, at least I could enjoy the view.

My mood improved no end when Bernadette, our host for the evening, started opening the wine. I fancied a lager. She didn’t have any so I opted for the red. Even the crisps were a cut above those I was used to.

‘So, what did you think of the book?’ my new friend Bernie asked to kick proceedings off. Having given up my evening for this, I was as anxious to express my opinion as everyone else. We all spoke at once.

‘It was remarkable.’

‘Stunningly vivid.’

‘Story-telling at its best.’

‘Fabulous portrayal of attitudes.’

‘A bit long.’

Luckily for me, Bernie didn’t turn to me first. Instead she asked Mr Beard, later to become known as the book dork, why he had found it so ‘stunningly vivid’.

Listening to pretentious drivel isn’t one of my strengths. Mr Beard’s use of phrases like ‘evocative symbolism’ and ‘enlightening soliloquies’ soon had me clamouring for more wine.

By the time Bernie did come to me, I had drunk most of the contents of her two hundred year-old wine cellar and could only just remember what we were supposed to be talking about. ‘It wasn’t the best book I have ever read, Bernie,’ I began.

‘Bunny.’

‘I beg your pardon.’

‘If you must shorten my name, it’s Bunny, not Bernie.’

‘Sorry, Bunny.’

‘Thank you. Now feel free to tell us why it wasn’t the best book you have ever read.’

‘Listen, this book starts off with a load of complete drivel and goes downhill from there. It’s just pretentious bollocks, the author’s up his own arse. I’m sure there’s a great story in there somewhere, but couldn’t the writer just tell it from start to finish in a normal way rather than trying to be clever?’

‘Ah, so you didn’t you like idea of Death as the omniscient narrator of the novel then? And please refrain from using bad language. It offends my sensitivities.’

‘Shit, sorry Bunny.’

‘Bernadette.’

‘Bernadette.’

‘Did you even finish the book?’ the book dork chipped in.

‘Of course I finished the f***ing book.’

‘What happened then?’

‘He died.’

‘Who died?’ Lou jumped on the bandwagon.

‘I don’t know, the bad guy?’ I hadn’t finished the book. I hadn’t got beyond the pretentious introduction. Lou didn’t utter a word to me as she drove us home that night.

And that was the start of the ignominy that was to escalate when I witnessed the book dork kissing my wife at New Malden station a few weeks later and then conclude with him turning up in his Ford Ka to help her move her stuff out. ‘What, are you taking one pair of knickers at a time?’ I asked when I saw what make of car he drove.

‘I’m not taking my knickers,’ my soon-to-be ex replied, ‘I won’t be wearing them much.’

Six Lies is released on 23rd November.

I quit my job today!

champagne bottle

This week is a momentous week. I have officially handed in my notice. I have quit my job.

I leave on 30th April.

I will be saying goodbye to lots of fantastic work colleagues, all of whom care passionately about their work and the good that it brings to others.

I will also be saying cheerio to a regular salary, good banter at the water cooler, regular supplies of cake and paid annual leave too. Gulp.

And all because I want to be a full-time author.

I want to spend my days inventing and crafting stories. Having written my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, I now know that being an author is my passion of choice. It’s what I want to do. It’s what I want to be known for.

I have learnt something about myself over the past few years. When I respect myself, all is well in my world. I feel confident to face life’s challenges. I feel ten feet tall. I am proud that I have taken the decision to give writing a real chance.

But quitting my job is a huge financial gamble. I am a predominantly single dad and have a mortgage to pay. This will be the first time in my adult life that I haven’t brought home a regular salary. Some people may call me selfish for putting my family’s financial future at risk for the sake of a dream. They may be right.

Before writing my resignation letter, I took a long, hard look at my two boys. What would the impact of my decision be on them? They may have less fancy holidays in the future, but they will have a newly energised dad. And one who will be there to see them off to school and to welcome them home in the evenings. On balance, I am confident that I am making the right decision.

If it doesn’t work out, I can always get another job. Even in that case, when I look at myself in the mirror as I am shaving on the morning that I start my new job, I will nod to myself and be satisfied that at least I gave my dream every chance of succeeding.

Talking of resignation letters, I thought it would be fun to reproduce the resignation letter that Graham Hope, the protagonist in Six Months to Get a Life, writes to his employers. My own letter may differ slightly from the below, but one thing’s for certain, it won’t be dull!

“Hello soon-to-be-ex-colleagues,

After ten years of paper-shuffling, I am putting the world of logistics behind me and moving on to bigger and better things.  I can honestly say that I can’t wait to go, and if any of you lot had any balls, you would jump too before you are pushed. 

I will not miss being required to spend half my life thinking about blue skies or what is outside a box.  I am sick of cheap tea bags and can’t face another stale egg mayo sandwich.  Away-days are tedious beyond belief and appraisals aren’t worth the paper they are written on.  I won’t miss pretending not to notice Daniel’s tongue hanging out whenever Sarah walks in to the office.  I didn’t miss Sarah snogging Dean the post-room apprentice at last year’s Christmas party.

I will, however, miss Sheena from accounts.  I will miss being paid whilst spending the whole of the first half of 2012 searching online for Olympic tickets – I got loads in the end.  I will miss inserting rude words into lengthy performance reports just to see if anyone actually reads them.  After ten years of doing this, I can categorically say that they don’t.  Basically, I will miss the money. I am not sure I have earned it but it has come in useful.

Don’t bother writing a card or having a collection. I never put a penny into your birthday, wedding or new baby cards so I wouldn’t want you to have to feel you should contribute to a leaving card for me.  Actually, Danny boy, I hope you don’t mind but when your birthday collection came round a couple of months ago I was a bit skint at the time so I took a couple of quid out and paid for my lunch with it. 

Love and kisses.

Graham”

(Extract from ‘Six Months to Get a Life