One year on…
My debut novel, Beyond Kidding was published a year ago today, so it seems like a good time to reflect on everything that’s happened since Beyond Kidding first graced the shelves.
The first thing that happened (and started happening before BK was even released) was the reviews. I wasn’t expecting all the lovely things people said, like how it was like “Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag if she’d decided to co-write […] with the ghost of Douglas Adams“, or “one of the most remarkable and quirky works of new fiction you’re likely to read this year“, or that it was “the weirdest, craziest book” of the “year maybe ever” (this was a compliment, honest). I had steeled myself for the bad reviews, but fortunately there weren’t many, and the ones there were were funny. My favourite of these stressed that BK was (and I’m paraphrasing here, but only slightly) “bad. Badly written, bad story, bad characters, there’s nothing I can say to recommend the book or the writer and I’d advise people to avoid both … Still, it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read, 2 stars.” Presumably their one star reviews are reserved for manifestos daubed in shit on toilet walls. What I was unprepared for was the glowing mediocre reviews. The kind that went “Brilliant, loved everything about it, 3 stars.” Out of 5. Loved… EVERYTHING… 3 stars. I just write solid 5/7s I guess.
Shortly after the reviews rolled in, I was able to realise a life-long dream and hold a book launch. I also began what I intend to develop as a tradition, even in these times of COVID – I wore fancy dress depicting a character with a tenuous connection to the novel. Attendees had to guess who it was, and the correct guesser won a free copy of Beyond Kidding. (Feel free to play along in the comments below with not only who I was, which is pretty obvious, but what this person has in common with Rob, BK‘s protagonist).
My next release is a short story collection, so I’m still deliberating over which story to use as my inspiration, never mind which costume would relate to that…
Things that went well:
- Having a power point – made me less nervous, gave people something to look at other than my face
- Getting the uber-talented Becky Cullen to do my reading – again, limited nerves and vocal-disorder related fatigue
- Having a microphone – helped with vocal disorder vocal projection difficulties, meant Fairlight’s Mo was able to sing Happy Birthday to my brother-in-law and thoroughly embarrass him
- Seeing all my lovely former Waterstone’s colleagues again in a different context – they gave me a present and everything!
Things to remember for next time:
- When you make lovely postcards of your book cover, remember to actually give them away, rather than having so much fun you forget about them so they’re still mouldering in the bottom of your bag even now
- Try to think of some things to write in people’s books in advance so you don’t sit with the worst writer’s block of all time at the most inopportune moment
- Don’t bother spending hours putting cool transitions and animations into your powerpoint because they won’t work on Waterstone’s ancient laptop anyway
Just when I thought everything that could happened had happened, my brilliant publishers at Fairlight got in touch to say that a young director called Will Stefan Smith was interested in adapting Beyond Kidding for Film4. Like any good online stalker, I snooped on his IMDB page and watched some of his previous work, the brilliant BBW. It was funny and real, and beautifully shot, so naturally I jumped at the chance of having Will work his magic on Rob and co. Obviously with options in general and the world as it currently is in particular, nothing is guaranteed, but I’m really hopeful that one day Will’s vision for Beyond Kidding will make it to the big screen.
A lot of readers (including some from my own family) commented on how blokey Beyond Kidding is and how surprised they were that I could write a male character like Rob so convincingly. Aside from the fact that gender is a nonsense construct, I’m a big fan of sitcoms and there are lots with characters like Rob. Men Behaving Badly, Game On, The High Life, Peep Show all have their own versions of men disastrously blundering through life in one way or another. A slightly more recent entry to this list is How Not To Live Your Life in which protagonist Don Danbury (played by Dan Clark – no relation) often fantasises about how his life could be, while never seeming willing to accept what it actually is. There’s definitely some of Don in Rob and so it’s perhaps fitting that it’s Don’s nemesis, Karl ‘Kockface’ Menford who is the one to read the audiobook version of Beyond Kidding, released recently by WF Howes. Of course, Karl isn’t real, and the book is actually read by the actor who portrayed him, Finlay Robertson, who is a lovely person with nothing in common with Karl or Rob beyond the former’s face and now, the latter’s voice. But still, I think it’s a nice little link between some of the story’s inspiration and how it ended up.