Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Can you tell us something about your new novel, ‘The Two of Us’?
If I had to give you an elevator pitch, I’d tell you it was about what happens after happily ever after. Lots of romantic books (very good ones) deal with the getting together, but this one is more concerned with staying together. William Fisher and Ivy Lee are smitten. They have zero doubt that they have found their perfect partner; all they need to do now is spend the rest of their lives in a
state of perpetual romantic joy, waking up every day with a pair of big old self-satisfied smiles plastered across their faces. Or so they think.
Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it in any way based on your own experiences?
Well the novel was inspired by another novel. I wrote a book called Girl 99 a few years ago and self-published it on Kindle. It was the ‘getting together’ story of William and Ivy. So I got to know the characters pretty well – they were very vivid to me. The book ends with the couple making love for the first time, and I always wondered: What if? And that’s where I started – I thought about all the
possible ways the next few days and months might play out for them and ended up with The Two of Us. It’s not based on my experiences, no. But me and Mr Jones do make a cameo:
I don’t know why I keep calling him William in this Q&A; he prefers to go by his surname, Fisher. So let’s get back on track – Fisher. I could tell you lots of ‘stuff’ about Fisher: he directs commercials for a living; he likes to cook; he’s sincere but also a bit of a berk at times … but I think the important points are the aspects of his character revealed under duress. He has some growing up to do, and he’s been dropped into a tough spot so that process has to be accelerated. Also, Ivy is older than Fisher, she’s seen more life than him, she’s quieter and less demonstrative by nature, and it’s her carrying the baby – so they’re in very different places mentally and emotionally, and that creates a
great deal of tension. Fisher doesn’t always get it right, but he’s doing the best he can.
There’s a great cast of supporting characters in the novel as well. Which character did you most enjoy writing?
Thank you. I loved writing Esther, Fisher’s old-aged neighbour and third-best friend. She’s wise but a little coarse around the edges, and she was great fun to write. I’d love her to live next door to me. But as much as I adore Esther, I love El – Fisher’s best friend since they were something like 11 years old. He’s dying. He has an awful degenerative disease called Huntington’s that is slowly and inescapably undoing him: he’s losing his coherence, acuity, motor control, and tact. It’s tragic, but at the same time, El is an incorrigible bugger. He has a wicked sense of humour, nothing is sacred and he loves to tease Fisher. He’s frightened about his future, he knows there is only one way his illness is going, and yet he clings to his sense of humour. He’s brave, tragic, comic and he pretty much steals every scene I’ve put him in.
Did you do any particular research for parts of the book?
I did. I talked to a film director, a midwife, an expert in Huntington’s disease and (Ivy’s job) a make-up artist. I’ve always dreaded research – I just like to sit down and make stuff up – but people love talking about the things that are important and interesting to them. And all of the people I spoke to were incredibly generous and helpful. And it always yields something unexpected. For example, I never knew that make-up artists were known as ‘the glamour squad’ in the film business. So I took that, made it the name of Ivy’s business and stencilled it across the side of her van. It’s a small thing, but it adds authenticity and flavour.
Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans? Are you perhaps already working on a next novel?
You bet I am. I’m working on a new novel right now. I’m somewhere between (depending on how big the book ends up) a third and a half of the way through the first draft. This one is a two-header – meaning it’s told through the eyes of two different characters. So I’m enjoying pretending to be a twenty-nine-old woman for a few hours a week. It’s a free country, after all.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
I feel like a bit of a charlatan doling out advice, but, as you asked. Here are a couple of things that have helped me: Write often. I’m not going to say write everyday, because that’s not practical for everybody. But write at least twice a week; any less and it’s hard to stay immersed in the story and I think it shows in the final product. Find a routine that works for you, make time, and then protect it fiercely.
Don’t write for anyone except yourself. You can’t second-guess trends, publishers, the market. The biggest asset you have is you – there is no one like you, no one who has the particular cocktail of experiences, opinions anxieties and passions that you have. If you can channel that uniqueness into your writing, then your work will be distinctive. And no matter the trends, readers and editor are always looking for something fresh. Besides, if you write what you love, you’ll have more fun while you’re doing it.
Oh, and get a copy of 'On Writing' by Stephen King. Read it and read it again.
'Oryx and Crake' by Margaret Atwood. It’s original, inventive, wonderful writing, amusing and shocking. I was only a few chapters in when gave in to the urge to tweet the author, telling her how much fun I imagined the book had been to write. She replied along the lines that, yes, it was fun but in a grim kind of way. Approximately another 100 pages in, I realised what she meant and felt a bit of
a buffoon for describing her book as ‘fun’. But that’s kind of the book’s and Margaret Atwood’s power – you’re drawn in by the novelty and levity of the world she has created and then the backstory begins to bleed through and … well, there’s nothing ‘fun’ about it. Great book.
Which book could you not live without?
I tend not to re-read books. So anything I’ve read once, I can live without. But I’d go crazy of I didn’t have a novel to lose myself in. So no one book, just the one I’m currently reading. If you’re asking my favourite book, then, depending on the day and my mood, it could be The Princess Bride, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Lullaby, The Book of Illusions, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Book Thief, Cloud Atlas, A Clockwork Orange, Of Mice and Men … Ha! The list goes on.
And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘The Two of Us’ in just three words, which words would you pick?
My debut novel.