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.

Is being a full-time author all it’s cracked up to be?

I love writing.

When I’m writing a new book, which is pretty much all of the time, I get obsessed with my characters. I take them to bed with me. I wake up with them too. It’s like having a wife but without the sex. On second thoughts, it’s like having a wife.

I’m so in love with writing but I hate the fact that I have to fit it in around other inconveniences like my day job, life admin and my children. OK, maybe the children aren’t that much of an inconvenience. Give them a bottle of cider and the Xbox and they’re happy.

My day job is such an inconvenience. Would you believe it, I have to be there all day. Whose idea was that?

Work pays the bills, but it doesn’t satisfy my writing addiction. It isn’t where I want to be.

I am seriously considering becoming a full-time author. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be a rational decision. My first book is doing well but it has only been on sale for a month. Never mind paying the mortgage, my income from my writing is barely enough to pay the milkman yet.

But my heart keeps beating faster than my head can shake. Why should I let practicalities like shelter and food stop me from pursuing my dream? They say you’ve got to be single-minded to be an author, right?

I would love to be able to write when I want to write, rather than when the kids are in bed or when the boss isn’t looking. (If my boss is reading this, then obviously the last aside was an example of my ‘creative writing’ skills).

But could I write all day? What would being a full-time author feel like? Would steam surge from my laptop keyboard as I knock out novel after novel? Or would I get bored with my own company, want to murder the daytime radio presenters for endlessly repeating themselves and be off down the pub by lunchtime?

There was only one way to find out.

Last week, I booked the week off work, cleared my diary and packed my boys off on a ski trip to Italy with their school mates. The dog and I had the house to ourselves. My aim was to significantly progress my second book, ‘Six Lies’.

This is how I got on.

Friday

Saw the boys off on their ski-ing trip, went to the pub after work to celebrate my week off and came home via the chip shop. Incapable of writing. Number of words written: 0.

Saturday

I can’t be creative with a hangover. Watched the rugby, checked latest sales figures for Six Months to Get a Life on Amazon and shunned Valentine’s Day in favour of Match of the Day. The FA Cup provided me with all the romance I needed. Number of words written: 0.

Sunday

Went for breakfast in Raynes Park with a friend. We arrived too late for breakfast so had lunch instead. Took the dog for a walk. Cooked a chilli. Checked book sales. Number of words written: 0.

Monday

Wrote during the morning, with short stops for putting the washing on, taking the dog out, eating everything I could find in the fridge and checking for new reviews of my book on Amazon. Got a couple of good lines in, including ‘your forehand is better than your foreplay’. Met another author via twitter. Ended up buying and reading her book. Thoroughly entertaining and highly distracting. A good day, finished off with a few pints in the Earl Beatty with the best man at my wedding. At least I’m still talking to him. Number of words written: 700.

Tuesday

Took the dog to have his balls cut off. His creative juices will never flow again. If it’s any consolation Albus, mine didn’t flow today either. Instead, I read the rest of ‘Being Sarah Chilton’. Very funny. Number of words written: 400, approximately 50 of which were spelt wrongly on account of my errant laptop’s habit of not registering random key impressions. Ggggrrrrrr.

Wednesday

Had to stop the dog licking his wounds all day. Eventually, gave him to my ex and went to meet friends in North London. Number of words written: 27.

Thursday

It is impossible to write with a hangover. Recovered, and went to meet another friend to give him a signed copy of Six Months to Get a Life for him to give away as a raffle prize in his work raffle. Number of words written: 0.

Friday

Started training for this summer’s British Heart Foundation charity London to Brighton walk. Trudged 15 miles through the Surrey countryside, followed by a few pints in the pub. Staggered home (dodgy hamstring / dodgy pint). Number of words written: 400, but they were all drunken emails that I should probably not have sent.

Saturday

The boys came home.

What have I learnt from my experiment? Being a full-time author is going to be good fun, but don’t expect my productivity to go up very much.

Update on Six Months to Get a Life

My debut contemporary fiction / romance novel is keeping me smiling. The reviews have continued to flood in. And as an added bonus, most of them are positive too.