Author: Pete

The Absolute Spit

Beth Miller reveals the inspiration behind her life-swap novel, Starstruck



From the back you’d really think he was Bowie. My friends and I nudged each other excitedly, though we knew it wasn’t really him. Tiny venue, cheap tickets, session musicians on bass and drums, no way was it him. But on the other hand, it really looked like him: his frame, the stance, the way the jacket hung down.

The band tore into the opening bars of Jean Genie, and the main man finally turned round to face us. From the front the resemblance was less uncanny. He was rather fuller in the waist than the Thin White Duke, and his cheekbones wouldn’t cut you like a knife. Plus, his outfit was anachronistic, my pedantic mate Johnno pointed out: he was styled as Bowie from the Young Americans era, not as Aladdin Sane. Oh, do shut up Johnno, and listen! Because by god, the voice! He’d got the exact same voice! The absolute spit! Just thirty seconds and everyone was joining in with the chorus, knowing this wasn’t Bowie, and yet it also sort of was… all you had to do was close your eyes, or squint.

This wasn’t my first tribute act. As a student I saw Voulez Vous – very good – and the Bootleg Beatles, the granddaddy of tributes. The Bootlegs have toured for decades longer than the real Beatles and played thousands more gigs. I enjoyed their relaxed approach to time and space, with ‘John’ saying he couldn’t see the audience ‘because I didn’t wear glasses on stage till 1965’. Even with such fourth wall breaking, you could still think, on and off, and sometimes in a sustained way in the middle of an inspired riff, that this was The Beatles, even as you also knew it wasn’t. But the Bowie tribute was the first time I realised how much I loved the very notion of being a tribute. The doublethink, the whole sort of is/sort of isn’t vibe; the joy of hearing classic songs done live and accurate; the respectful homage of the entire thing.

Not to mention the puns. I love a good pun, and tribute act names are a goldmine. By Jovi might be my favourite, though I have a soft spot for rival tributes Noasis, No Way Sis, and Oasish. Ah, there’s so many: Proxy Music, Nearvana, Fake That, Stereophonies, Pink Fraud…

When I saw the BBC Arena documentary, Into the Limelight, my love for tributes crystallised into something rarer: the germ of an idea. The documentary (still on iPlayer) featured the Limelight Club in Crewe, now sadly defunct, but then home to all the tribute acts. There were several stand-out stars, including John Campbell, interviewed sitting on the sofa and chatting with his mum about how he channelled the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. But my favourite was Wayne Ellis of Limehouse Lizzy, whose thoughtful and melancholy reflections on a career pretending to be someone else stayed with me for years.

Where were the women tributes? I wondered. And lo, The Graham Norton Show answered. It presented an Adele tribute competition with a twist – the real Adele, unrecognizable in prosthetics, took part without the other competitors knowing. It’s an absolute masterpiece of television, which I watch once a month, I love it so. I well up every single time the real Adele steps on stage to sing, because it’s at that moment that it becomes completely obvious to all the other tributes that she is the real deal.

The plot of Starstruck was forming in my head. Adele pretended to be her own tribute act – but what if she swapped places with one of her impersonators? Would people be able to tell that the person playing the massive arenas wasn’t her? And what would it be like if she took the tribute act’s place, performing in little unglamorous venues…

Thus, Sally Marshall was born. Hardworking and gutsy, she’s been a tribute act for twelve years, performing as Epiphanie, the world’s biggest megastar. One ordinary day, she comes home to find Epiphanie – the real, actual Epiphanie – sitting in her kitchen. When Sally picks her jaw up off the floor, she discovers that Epiphanie wants to make her a life swap offer she can’t refuse…

Beth Miller


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FREE BOOK: The Darkwood Series, Book 1

Venture into the Darkwood in this modern fairy tale that will bewitch adults and younger readers alike.

Introducing your free book, Darkwood, Book 1 in The Darkwood Series.


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Darkwood
by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch


‘Gabby is one of the funniest writers I know.’ Sarah Millican

Magic is forbidden in Myrsina, along with various other abominations, such as girls doing maths.

This is bad news for Gretel Mudd, who doesn’t perform magic, but does know a lot of maths. When the sinister masked Huntsmen accuse Gretel of witchcraft, she is forced to flee into the neighbouring Darkwood, where witches and monsters dwell.

There, she happens upon Buttercup, a witch who can’t help turning things into gingerbread, Jack Trott, who can make plants grow at will, the White Knight with her band of dwarves and a talking spider called Trevor. These aren’t the terrifying villains she’s been warned about all her life. They’re actually quite nice. Well… most of them.

With the Huntsmen on the warpath, Gretel must act fast to save both the Darkwood and her home village, while unravelling the rhetoric and lies that have demonised magical beings for far too long.

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Death and Croissants – l’inspiration

inspiration for death and croissants

Death and Croissants – l’inspiration

inspiration for death and croissants

Death and Croissants has inspired many readers, including us. So, we turned it around and asked comedian and bestselling author Ian Moore… “What inspired you?”

The germ of the idea for Death and Croissants lies in an uncomfortable truth. The main character, Richard, owns a chambre d’hôtes, a posh B&B and likes, though that may be too strong a word, what that life offers him. That for the most part he can be left to his own devices, without his job getting in the way. Well, I too own a posh B&B and I find the life of a small-time hotelier, and I say this with apologies to my guests, phenomenally dull.

In order to brighten my days of breakfasting, bed making and stopping small uncontrolled Parisien children from throwing stones at the goats, I started to invent stories around the guests. Why were those single businessmen in the area? Why did the family from Lyon behave like they didn’t know each other? And that attractive, exotic lady from Nice, why did she think she had a right to tell me that I had my kitchen-salon ordered ‘entirely the wrong way’?

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Well, the lady from Nice became Valérie for the most part, but with elements of other French women we have known since my wife and I moved here. Above all, she had to be one hundred percent sure of herself at all times; Richard had to doubt himself to exactly the same degree. A modern-day Holmes and Watson was the plan, with Valérie as Holmes. And I wanted the dialogue snappy too, playful, even if my two main characters were rarely on the same wavelength. Think Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammet’s The Thin Man or ‘screwball’ comedies of 1930s Hollywood where it’s usually the woman outsmarting the man but not always being aware of it, like Katherine Hepburn is ignorant of Cary Grant’s insecurity in Bringing Up Baby.

I also wanted the plot, and here again I apologise, to be slightly convoluted. I’ve always been intrigued that Raymond Chandler wrote The Big Sleep and even he couldn’t properly explain the plot to it. Also, the wonderful TV series in the 1980s written by Alan Plater called The Beiderbecke Affair comes to mind. It has smart, back-and-forth dialogue performed brilliantly by James Bolam and Barbara Flynn and a plot I still don’t understand today.

Death and Croissants had to be all of these things but mostly, it had to be funny. I wanted those classic ingredients of crackling dialogue but with a physical, farcical element as well; funny enough to be a humorous book on its own while the plot had to have enough depth to be a crime book in its own right. In cricketing terms, it needed to be a top-class all-rounder.

But the main inspiration, the driving force and starting point was France itself. The characters, the countryside, the foibles, the pace of life… if you can’t get inspired by that in some way well, then it really would be time to stick to bed and breakfasting. So, I though of Richard, poured a nice glass of rosé, sat on the terrasse and let the story unfold.

Ian Moore is a leading stand-up comedian, known for his sharp, entertaining punditry, who regularly headlines at London’s world-famous Comedy Store. A TV/radio regular, he stars in Dave’s satirical TV show Unspun and Channel 5’s topical comedy Big Mouths. Ian lives in rural France and commutes back to the UK every week. In his spare time, he makes mean chutneys and jams.

Follow Ian on Twitter or visit his website

Ian Moore

More posts

The Truth About Writing and Comedy

If you find reading comedy difficult, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t easy. You just haven’t found the right funny book for you. But what about writing comedy? We asked the author of the witty Mathematical Mystery series, Jonathan Pinnock.

Top 20 Funny Books You Must Read

Top 20 Funny Books You Must Read

We’ve selected twenty of the funniest books out there. Books that make you smile, snort, splutter, cackle, howl, guffaw, chuckle, chortle, roar, bust a gut, snigger, giggle, and have your sides splitting like never before.

More Ian Moore

Death and Fromage
(A Follet Valley Mystery, Book 2)

Death and Papa Noël
(Prequel short story)

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FREE BOOK: An Inspector Pel Mystery, Book 1


Moody, sharp-tongued and worrying constantly about his health, Inspector Evariste Clovis Désiré Pel ensures that no case goes unsolved, in this mordantly witty French mystery.

Introducing your free book, Death Set to Music, Book 1 in the Inspector Pel Mystery series.


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Death Set to Music
by Mark Hebden


‘Written with downbeat humour and some delightful dialogue.’ Financial Times


Deep in the Burgundy countryside, a murder case is perplexing Inspector Pel. The body was found in the salon, an elegant room with a grand piano and a Louis XIV escritoire. The shutters were still closed and the dead end of a record of Rigoletto was still turning.

There are some obvious suspects, yet the clothes of none of them show any signs of blood. And what were the tensions that must have torn at this family? It’s only when a second murder takes place that the method of the first becomes startlingly clear.



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Archie and Pye Day

14 March is Pi Day (3.14 – American dating but hey ho we’re rolling with it..!): an annual opportunity for math enthusiasts to recite the infinite digits of Pi, talk to their friends about math, to eat pie, and to read Jonathan Pinnock’s The Truth About Archie and Pye

 

Jonathan Pinnock

Author of the exhilarating A Mathematical Mystery series




Buy now for £0.99 / $0.99


Archie and Pye Day

Oh hi! Good to see you! Been a while, hasn’t it? Happy Pi Day! You know, Pi Day. We do this every year on March 14.

I’m sorry? You don’t do Pi Day?

No, it’s not about pies. Well, yes, I suppose it does involve eating pies. Especially round ones. But it’s mainly about Pi. Or should I say π. You know, the mathematical constant. That π.

Well, I’m sorry if you feel like that. I rather think we should spend more time celebrating mathematical constants. But each to their own, I guess.

No, no need to apologise. It’s probably me.

Are you sure? Well, OK, π is basically the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. So let’s imagine that you marked out a circle on the ground ten metres across. If you walked around its perimeter, you’d actually walk ten times π metres. Or just over thirty. And if the circle was a hundred metres across, the circumference would be a hundred times π metres.

No, it’s always the same.

It really is. I can prove it if you’d like.

Fair enough. Anyway, π is this number that starts 3.14159265 and then goes on for ever and ever without repeating.

It just does. Trust me. It’s what they call a transcendental number, which is rather cool. It basically means you can’t construct it from any other bunch of numbers. It just sort of is. Which is actually quite deep.

Ah yes, I knew you were a Kate Bush fan. I was waiting for this. Second track on the first disc of Aerial, right? You know it’s a bit controversial, don’t you?

OK, the thing is, someone checked out the lyrics and discovered she’d missed out a block of 22 digits in the middle.

That’s unfair. Everyone should have a hobby. I’m sure he’s completely harmless. Anyway, it turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that, because if you listen really closely, there’s something a bit odd about the recording at that point and some people reckon someone just snipped a bit out because it didn’t fit and kept it to themselves on until it was too late.

Well, I prefer that explanation to the idea that she got it wrong. That would be unthinkable. I mean, Kate Bush. Come on.

Absolutely.

Why today? Because the first three digits in π are 3.14, and that translates into March 14.

Well, it does if you use the American date formulation.

No, don’t be like that. If you use the one everyone else uses – or ‘normal people’ as you call them – you’d have to have it on the 31st of April or something, which would be stupid. Although some people have suggested holding it on 22nd of July, because the nearest simple fraction to π is 22/7.

Yep, that’s a fair question. It’s one of those things that every mathematician knows but never actually uses, because everyone’s got a bloody calculator on their phone and they might as well go with 3.14159 whatever. So the whole July 22 thing is a non-starter in my book.

Because it’s really important. It’s not just about circles and stuff, you see. If you study mathematics, you find that π keeps popping up everywhere. It’s as if it’s part of the fabric of reality.

Very deep, yes.

Funny you should say that, because there are – although not all of them have a day set aside for them. For example, there’s e.

Yes, e. 2.71828 and so on. It’s another transcendental number and it pops up in even more places than π. And the really weird thing is that it’s actually connected to π by this absolutely amazingly weird thing called Euler’s Identity.

What’s weird about it is that the square root of minus one is in there as well, but we probably don’t have time to go into that now.

Yes there is one. It’s called i.

Yes, I can and I have.

No, it’s not cheating. It’s how all numbers are made. Basically you start off counting things: one, two, three and so on, and you end up with all the positive whole numbers. But after that you need to find a way of representing things that have been taken away and you end up inventing negative numbers. And then you break something in two and you need a way of representing that, so you invent a new number called ‘half’. And very quickly you find that you need to generalise that, so you suddenly find yourself inventing the whole concept of fractions. Same with the square root of minus one. There’s nothing in the standard list of available numbers that works, so you create a new one. Hence i.

No, there isn’t an i Day. That would be silly. I mean, when would it be? Come on.

Well, no there isn’t an e Day either. Apart from this one [link: http://www.jonathanpinnock.com/wiki_archiepye/index.php/E_Day] that some idiot went and invented. And I’m not sure what you could do on e Day that would be like eating pies on Pi Day.

Oh, for heavens’ sake. Behave.

Since you asked, my favourite constant right now is probably the Feigenbaum constant, which turns up in chaos theory.

Exactly. That’s the best bit. The idea that there is some rigid, immutable constant at the heart of something as wild as chaos theory is completely bonkers. It’s what I love about mathematics – the way strange, unexpected patterns keep cropping up at the heart of reality for no apparent reason. Incidentally, if you’re interested in chaos theory, you might like my new book, ‘Bad Day in Minsk’, which is coming out on April 8.

I know, I’m shameless. I think you’d enjoy it, though.

No, April 8 isn’t Feigenbaum Day. There isn’t one, because Feigenbaum’s constant starts with 4.6692 and there’s no sensible way to make a date out of that. Shame, really.

Yep. So there’s basically Pi Day and nothing much else. Maybe the fairest thing to do is use Pi Day to celebrate all of mathematics.

Yes, and maybe buy a book about a mathematical mystery as a special treat. What an excellent idea! We could re-brand it as ‘Archie and Pye Day’.

Sorry. I did warn you I was shameless.


Jonathan Pinnock

Origins of The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency

No-2-Feline-Detective-Agency

This March 2021, A Pocket Full of Pie will be published: the fourth book in my No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series. With the new year underway, I took time to reflect on the series’ origins.

 

Mandy Morton

Author of the wonderful No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series

No.2-Feline-Detective-Agency-series
 
The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series was never meant to be a series at all.
It was born out of boredom and an idea to raise money for my local cat rescue centre, but as soon as the first book was written, I found myself wanting to carry on the lives of the characters I had created; now, with The Ice Maid’s Tail as the latest book in the series and another one to be published in March, I’m amazed to be planning book ten for 2022.
 
“I found myself wanting to carry on the lives of the characters I had created”.
I had previously spent twenty six years as a BBC arts journalist, and the first winter of my retirement delivered me the inspiration to create a micro world inhabited only by cats. Crime was an obvious choice, as cats are naturally inquisitive, but they can also be cruel, unpredictable and calculating, the perfect mix for a detective series. My two feline sleuths, Hettie Bagshot and Tilly Jenkins, are personal to me, as they were much loved rescue cats in real life; bringing them back in these books is a joyous thing for me to be able to do, and – in a strange way – their adventures channel bits of my own life. Lovers of cats will, I hope, find much to enjoy in these books, but once the adventures begin, it’s easy to accept the characters as people, and I leave that decision entirely up to my readers.  
“…their adventures channel bits of my own life.”
My characters wear cardigans, play guitars, drive motorbikes, smoke pipes of catnip and commit vicious murders on occasions. They have voracious appetites for anything wrapped in pastry, and go about their business in a high street somewhere in the 1970s that includes a post office, a bakery, hardware store, dry cleaners, a four floor department store, an undertakers and a fish and chip shop. Just outside the town is a stately home, an aristocratic pile where The Ice Maid’s Tail is set amid a dark, atmospheric fairy tale. At this point you may question my sanity, but the world I’ve created makes much more sense to me than the one I actually live in.  
“…cats are naturally inquisitive, but they can also be cruel, unpredictable and calculating, the perfect mix for a detective series.”
As a journalist, I was taught to become a magpie, a collector of many facts but master of none; researching for my radio shows has taken me into many areas that have become vital in telling these stories, projects on psychics, executioners, cooks and gardeners have proved invaluable, and the fact that my own life has included being a professional musician and a radio presenter offers even more scope for my characters. My new book, A Pocket Full of Pie, soon to be published, lays bear the competitive world of broadcasting with tongue firmly in cheek, but the essence of all the books has to be to make my readers laugh and cry in equal measure, and there’s a puzzle to solve along the way. They’re playful, and – I hope – thought-provoking.
 
A-Pocket-Full-of-Pie

A Pocket Full of Pie

 
“…the world I’ve created makes much more sense to me than the one I actually live in”.
I love dolls houses, and have always enjoyed collecting tiny miniatures – and that’s exactly what I do when I write my books: I play with my characters, placing them in different rooms, surrounding them with the chattels of everyday life, and I wait to see how they will react. I have been delighted that so many readers have chosen my series during lockdown, at a time when we would all like to live in a different world.
 
Mandy Morton

The Stockwell Park Orchestra Interviews: One

The-Stockwell-Park-Orchestra-series

In January 2022, The Prize Racket is published: the fourth novel in my Stockwell Park Orchestra series. Over the summer I had a chance to interview some characters from the series.

 

Isabel Rogers

Author of the fabulous Stockwell Park Orchestra series

Stockwell-Park-series-banner-2
 

Interview One – Eliot Yarrow

  Eliot opened the door of his Victorian terrace and led me to his first floor flat, then went to make coffee. Never leave an interviewer alone in a room if you don’t want prying. Is what I might have said to him. It was a conductor’s room: upright piano, piles of music; gateleg table covered in scores, lots of pencils and empty mugs. I was pleased he didn’t put hot drinks on the piano, no matter how haphazard his tidying. Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony lay open, with one particular bar circled heavily in pencil. Eliot returned, his hair boyishly tousled, just like his publicity pictures. Don’t flirt, I told myself. He grinned. He makes very good coffee, by the way. And has excellent chocolate biscuits. I pressed record.   IR:    Tour preparations going OK?   EY:   Think so. David does the worrying. I stick to the music. Biscuit?   IR: Will Mrs Ford-Hughes be singing? She always livens things up.   EY:    [sound of coughing] Not singing, no. But I think she might fly out for a concert. As our sponsor, you know.   IR:    Ah, yes. Tell me about your programme. I saw the Bruckner score. What’s with that bar you circled?   EY:    Bruckner 7, yes. We’ll be joining Cologne’s Bruckner Festival, so we have to include some. Which is excellent. Some say he’s just. Mahler who goes on a bit, but they’re wrong.   IR:    And that particular bar?   EY:   Let’s just say there’s a percussion moment we are finessing our way round, logistically. I’m sure everything will be fine.   IR:    What’s the one thing you’re afraid might go wrong?   EY:    Just one? [laughs] This is Stockwell Park. As long as we play brilliantly I’ll be happy. Orchestral tours are a bit of a party. One day maybe Ann will spill the beans about the Trevi Fountain and that thong, but she’ll have to get more drunk than I’ve ever seen her. And I’ve seen her pretty drunk.   IR:   Do you prefer orchestras or choirs?   EY:  I can’t possibly … anyone could be reading this.   IR:   Such a diplomat. But you sing, yourself?   EY:  Did you come to my recent –? We did some lovely Baroque stuff. And Spem.   IR:   No, but I heard it went down well.   EY:  [inaudible snorting]   IR:    Sorry. Questions. Pianoforte or fortepiano?   EY:  Crikey. I do have a soft spot for a fortepiano. Is that pretentious? But then no modern stuff! This is hard.   IR:    Chips or salad?   EY:  Cold Friday after rehearsal? Chips. Sunny day by the sea? Well, maybe chips too. But I do eat salad, honest.   IR:   Mrs Ford-Hughes or Florence Foster Jenkins?   EY:   Mrs Ford-Hughes every time. She’s a trouper.   IR:   Which player do you wish would leave?   EY:  Let the tape note I’m drinking coffee very deliberately. Not avoiding the question.   IR:   Damn, you are good at this. Heard anything of Joshua since you nabbed his job?   EY:  Nabbed ..? No. He’s not conducted anything since. Maybe he’s emigrated. We can hope.   IR:    Ambitions?   EY:  Obviously to take Stockwell Park to the Albert Hall, land a recording deal with Gareth Malone and fund kids’ school music lessons. Dunno. I just love making music. Corny, but true.   IR:   Don’t apologise. I’m sure the orchestra would follow you anywhere.   EY:  Fools. Another biscuit?   So I drank coffee and ate more biscuits but, since I’d forgotten to charge my phone, the rest of our conversation has evaporated into myth and rumour. _________________   If you have a question for any other Stockwell Park Orchestra musician, please send it to me and I’ll ask on your behalf. Find me on Twitter @Isabelwriter, or drop me a line using the contact page on my site isabelrogers.org.

NEW: Your online Farrago shop!

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2020. What a year. Unprecedented challenges, difficult moments, and lots of Zoom calls: everyone has had to adapt in one way or another, including us at Farrago…
  It is therefore with a beaming smile (and a giggle of excited trepidation) that we introduce you to a new chapter in the Farrago story:  

Your online Farrago shop!

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  Here you will be able to purchase our reads at exclusive offers found nowhere else. By buying with us directly, not only will you be saving but you will be supporting our mission to make the world a more smiley place. Features:
  • Ebooks for both Kindle and Non-Kindle readers
  • Exclusive offers and savings for Farrago titles and series, found nowhere else online
  • Farrago’s famous series are now available to buy as brand-new bundles, at greatly discounted prices
  • Weekly promotions, featuring unique, themed bundles and more
  • Easy checkout process, with short and clear instructions of how to upload your purchase to your specific reading device
The online shop is a new adventure for us too, and so there may be some snags here and there. If you come across any issues, please do let us know. We want to hear your honest feedback so we can make the shop as user-friendly as possible for you. You will certainly notice changes and enhancements throughout the next six months as we continue to optimise, improve and adapt. Thank you for all your support this year. We hope we have brought you many smiles, and we aspire to bring you many more.

“If it isn’t a coincidence, what is it?”

Author Lee Farnsworth about the strange coincidences that occurred while he was writing his debut novel Odd Bird. Because it was all just coincidence… right?!

  Over recent months, I’ve had several circular conversations with my Mum about coincidence. We always end up mutually baffled. For example, she recently told me she had tried to call my godmother, but she was engaged. Later she discovered my godmother was trying to call her. ‘You’re going to say that’s a coincidence aren’t you?’ she said. And of course I say it is. And then Mum says but it’s too unlikely to be a coincidence. And then I say that if it wasn’t unlikely it wouldn’t be a coincidence. And so on. I mean, if it isn’t a coincidence, what is it? To set the record straight: I like coincidences. In fact, there were several joyous coincidences during the writing of Odd Bird.   Coincidence 1: My working title for Odd Bird was The Birdman of Acton – yes Burt Lancaster, I was thinking of you. The opening chapter takes place in pub in Acton. I called the pub The Swan because ─ spoiler alert ─ Simon, my protagonist, loves birds. Next thing I knew I had invented the ‘Swan Song’ in order to show Simon and his friend Phil sparring. I’d already written that opening chapter when I visited Acton for the first time. I walked around its streets and parks to decide where Simon would live and eat and shop. Finally that afternoon I walked the route that I knew Simon would run in Chapter 3. Ahead on Acton Road I could see a pub. As I neared, I could see a sign. The Swan. What are the chances? Swan is not a rare pub name. There are two-hundred and eighty-nine in the UK which means it pips White Horse to the number 7 most popular pub name slot. However, there are approximately forty-nine thousand ‘settlements’ in the UK. This means that for every Acton there are one-hundred and sixty-nine settlements that don’t have a Swan. I had a beer in the Swan obviously and I garbled the premise of my novel to the lady behind the bar. Soon I will return, clutching Odd Bird.   Coincidence 2: This is a good one. I decided that Kim, Simon’s love interest, should live in an area which was more up market than Acton and yet it needed to be nearby and close to Empirical. I plumped for South Kensington. I suspect I wasted a lot of time on little details that nobody would notice while writing. For example, I spent time on Rightmove finding accommodation for characters and I found their faces and clothes on the internet too. But I found Kim’s address in my little, battered London AZ. I was writing a scene about Simon and Kim having a spat on the way to her flat from South Ken Tube. I needed her flat to be far enough away from the station to let the argument build. I got out my AZ, opened it to page 73, drew a red line around the boundary and then dropped the pen down onto a street. ‘That’s where she lives,’ I thought. The pen landed on Selwood Terrace. Simon’s surname is Selwood. What are the chances? There are sixty thousand streets in London and just three that include Selwood. That’s quite a coincidence.   Coincidence 3: The bullfinch has an important role to play in Odd Bird. It’s the second most important bird species in the book. I can’t explain why here, but it is. My little house backs on to a small wood and I put out a lot of bird food and so I’ve seen a lot of birds in my garden since I began Odd Bird. I rarely see bullfinches though. I was putting the final touches to my Odd Bird submission when I saw my first. She was sitting on the grass beneath the apple tree. I picked up the binoculars and stood by my window and watched her. What are the chances? I wondered. The BTO say that there is only a 10% chance that a garden will receive at least one visit a week by a bullfinch. But I hadn’t seen a bullfinch in in four years…   Let’s agree that it was all a coincidence. Except, that by the time the bullfinch flew off, I was feeling more confident about my submission. I must ask Mum what she thinks.  

Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth is publishing 15 October 2020.

Pre-order it from Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play Books, Kobo, Waterstones or Hive.

Lee Farnsworth on Writing ‘Odd Bird’

The Odd Bird author on books, birds and bikes.

  Odd Bird took a while to fledge, it’s fair to say. In March 2003 I moved to North Carolina with my girlfriend. By June, she had returned to the UK and I was licking my wounds. Heartbroken and a long way from friends and family, I moped. I’m a gifted mope, but I soon started to tire of it. Seeking a breakthrough, I bought the kind of bike which makes your arse plead for mercy and I enrolled in a creative writing workshop. I arrived at the workshop expecting flip charts and biscuits but almost immediately we were writing from prompts and the teacher was encouraging us all to read to the group. Read! Did she say read? I was terrified, but eventually read a very short piece about three boys and a treehouse. At the end of the workshop, the teacher came over to speak to me. ‘You have to keep writing,’ she said. ‘You have a voice.’ I was so happy that on the ride home I almost forgot about my arse. I started to think about what I was going to write. ‘Write what you know,’ the teacher had said. I knew about molecular biology and genetics and I definitely knew that relationships were tricky. One Saturday afternoon in a sprawling Barnes and Noble bookshop, I came across a popular science book called Mating Games. In it I read about a mischievous little bird called the pied flycatcher. ‘Hmm,’ I thought, ‘they’re as a bad as we are.’ Fast forward a decade comprising a load of busy and a bit of writing – and I got dumped again. This time the wounds were inflicted by an employer, but they needed licking all the same. On the evening of the announcement I met with my friend Antony for a curry because he is the world’s foremost optimist and because curries are good for endorphins. ‘What will you do?’ he said, snapping off half a poppadum. I told him I was going to take some time out. ‘I might write a book about strategic marketing,’ I said, trying to sound brighter. ‘Ha! Don’t be ridiculous, man,’ he said, reaching for the lime pickle. ‘You should write that novel you’re always rattling on about. About a bird, isn’t it?’ Next day I started telling everyone in my path that I was going to write a novel. It was going to be about a scientist who studies the sexual behaviour of birds but struggles to find love. This might all sound very foolish, and I am often foolish, but I wasn’t, I think, foolish on that occasion. You see, I knew that writing would be hard. I knew that I would be tempted to give up. I knew that fear of public failure would drive me on. Writing Odd Bird was a great experience. It’s definitely the best inanimate thing that ever happened to me. I loved getting to know Simon and the rest of the characters. People tell me, my daughter especially, that it’s not appropriate to laugh at your own jokes ─ but I did. Sorry. So what about my prediction? Yes, writing was hard, especially at the start. The ‘voice’ that kind teacher from North Carolina had spoken of proved to be elusive. In fact, I used to positively dread turning on the computer. In order to force myself to write I would set a timer. For twenty-five minutes I wasn’t allowed to do anything but write. When the alarm chirped I was allowed a fifteen minute break, during which I would try to learn to juggle. Why juggling? Because I reasoned that if I could teach myself to juggle then I could teach myself to write. Of course this seems crazy now ─ except it kind of worked. Gradually, the dread dissipated, the pleasure grew, the breaks got shorter and finally, the juggling balls were forgotten. After that initial period, Odd Bird was a huge amount of fun to write. I hope people will feel that as they read it.

Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth is publishing 1 October 2020.

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