Jon’s previous novels include Happy Endings and This Thirtysomething Life. His new book, This Family Life, was released today. We chat to Jon about his new book, his writing rituals and the character he’d like to meet.
Happy publication day, Jon. Tell us about your new book, This Family Life and what inspired it?
Hello. It’s great to be back on Novel Kicks! This Family Life is the sequel to my debut novel This Thirtysomething Life. I always knew I wanted to write a sequel because I fell in love with the characters from the first book and I knew I had continue their story. Both books are in some ways autobiographical and I use lots of experiences from my own life as a parent. There’s just so much comedy in being a father.
The difference to the first book is that this is a much bigger story. The first book really focused on Harry going through pregnancy with his wife Emily, and the book covered the nine months until they had their baby. This Family Life takes us through their whole first year of parenthood, and includes more characters, some old ones return and a few new ones are introduced. This reason it’s called This Family life is because it focuses on Harry and Emily’s family a lot more. With the introduction of baby William, his grandparents are much more involved than the first book, and so we really see the whole family in all its complicated, hilarious, uncomfortable, and brilliant best.
If you loved the first book then I think you’re going to love this even more. I’ve tried so hard to make this sequel even better than the first book, and hopefully I’ve succeeded. It’s definitely a very real, honest, hilarious and heartwarming story about family life and being a new parent, and one that I hope my readers will be able to relate to and laugh along with.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Just lots of tea, coffee, and me staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration. I think every book is a little different. I think the beginning process for me is the nearest I have to a ritual. When I start writing a book, it’s very much me just brainstorming ideas and I spend a long time writing down completely unrelated bits of lines, character info, jokes, ideas for scenes, and then eventually, after lots more coffee and tea, I start writing the actual book. I also wear my lucky underwear through the whole year-long process – which my wife isn’t very excited about.
Which fictional character would you like to have a conversation with?
Blimey, what a great question. I’m going to assume you mean any fictional character from any medium and so I’m going to go with Sherlock Holmes. I love Sherlock Holmes, and he’s such an interesting, brilliant, and quirky character. When I think of Sherlock, I’m thinking of the new Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch, which is probably one of my favourite TV shows of all time. I just love the way his mind works. I’d also love to have tea with Edmund Blackadder!
Finishing a book. A nice sunset. Playing with my kids. Spending time with my wife. Going on holiday. A really good cup of tea. A nice mature cheddar. The perfect bacon sandwich with brown sauce. A beautiful landscape. Getting completely lost in a book. Sit-coms. A great cappuccino. Biscuits. A pint in a nice pub with my friends. There’s so many things that I guess the best answer is just being alive, even though it sounds a bit cheesy.
What song best describes you?
Wow, another tricky question. I guess I have to go with Paperback Writer by The Beatles because 1: It’s a brilliant song by the best band of all time. 2: I’m a paperback writer!
What part of the writing process do you like the most?
I think it’s probably the very beginning. I love starting with a blank page and getting those first few words down on the page. I love that I’m starting something that I know will take a year of my life and completely consume me while I’m doing it. Writing a book is definitely a journey and I think the beginning of any journey is always the most exciting bit. Obviously when you finish there’s a certain degree of satisfaction, relief, and happiness, but the beginning is where the creativity starts, when you step over that line and get stuck in, and that’s where the excitement is.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished the rather brilliant Here’s Looking At You by Mhairi McFarlane. I loved her first book and so I had to read this one and it didn’t disappoint. I have lots of books to read when I get the time. I’m excited to read Tony Parson’s The Murder bag, as I love his work and I’m looking forward to his first book in this new series. Obviously the new David Nicholls book Us is out this year, Mike Gayle’s got a new one, Matt Dunn too, and I really want to read the latest Danny Wallace book, Who Is Tom Ditto, as I really liked Charlotte Street. My main problem with reading at the moment is finding the time as I don’t generally read when I’m writing.
Do you have any TV or music pleasures?
I do. I love sit-coms and I’ve just finished the second series of Derek, which I think is genius. I’m a bit behind but I just watched Twenty Twelve, which was brilliant, and I adore Outnumbered. I probably watch The Office at least once a year – I must have watched it about twenty times in all – it’s an addition. I often listen to music while I’m writing. My favourite writing music is Travis, Snow Patrol, Paulo Nutini, Stereophonics, and I’ve just discovered a guy from Australia called Vance Joy who is really cool. I like my music nice and mellow, especially when writing because I think music definitely effects mood – I couldn’t write family comedy to thrash metal.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Work hard, be original, and write about what you know” – Ricky Gervais. Obviously he didn’t give me this advice, but he’s one of my comedy heroes and I totally believe in this. You have to work hard to be a writer, there’s no other way, but the important thing is to be original. You have to be you. Successful fiction is successful because it’s original. And of course, write about what you know. Check. Check and check.
This Family Life is now available to buy. Click here to buy from Amazon.
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