Steve, it’s a pleasure to be invited on to your blog. Yes, the last few months have been busy. Six Lies came out in December, the idea being that it could fill a stocking far more effectively than your average socks, ties and cheap aftershave. The book did reach No.1 in some obscure category on Amazon for a while (books written on a Tuesday by a bloke called Ben), but the absolute top of the charts was dominated by a bunch of barely literate sportspeople with bugger all to say.
The story is in some ways classic lad lit. There’s a band stuck in the 1980s, a wife running off with a librarian and a fair bit of drunken banter. But there’s more. Our protagonist, Dave Fazackerley, discovers the day after her funeral that his mother wasn’t his mother after all. Six Lies follows Dave as he tries to make sense of his life. Will he discover the truth about his mother? Will he ever discover that there’s life beyond U2? More importantly, will he win his wife back from the clutches of the book dork?
I remember staring into my fridge one lunchtime. It was Good Friday. I was in a pretty low place. My kids were off having fun with my ex, my house was oppressively quiet and all my mates were with their own perfect families. Should I open a can of lager and drift blissfully into a drunken stupor? It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time.
Somehow I found the will to kick myself up the arse, to stop feeling sorry for myself. It was time to get a grip. In a moment of inspiration, I decided to write Six Months to Get a Life.
Although it was a story about a man coming to terms with his divorce, it was never my story. I couldn’t write about my life. Aside from the fact that no one in their right mind would want to read my story, I had no right to write about my kids or my ex. So instead I took great pleasure in inventing a new ex, in inventing more interesting mates and, without giving much away, inventing a new love interest. Six Months to Get a Life is purely a work of fiction but it is certainly true to say that the emotions that Graham Hope, the divorced dad, feels are those that I felt at one time or another whilst going through my own crap time.
You also took part in a BBC documentary which aired in January called The Age of Loneliness. What made you decide to take part and how difficult was it to make the decision to speak in front of the cameras?
The documentary-makers approached me on the back of a blog I published bemoaning the havoc that my marriage break-up had reaped on my social life. ‘Will you speak openly on camera about your loneliness?’ The producer asked me. ‘No.’ I replied, and a year later, there I was, pouring my heart out on BBC1.
To this day I don’t really know why I agreed to take part in the project. Being filmed playing football with my boys, barbecuing sausages, writing my next book and then sitting on the BBC Breakfast sofa talking about the film were certainly a break from the routine. Being on the telly helped my book sales too, but I like to think that the reason I said yes was that I wanted other people who are going through what I went through to know that they aren’t the only ones feeling the way they do.
You've decided to tackle a genre of books dominated by female writers. How difficult is it for a lad lit author to make an impact when the audience you are going for are already committed to chick lit?
Most of my readers are women. I pitched Six Months to Get a Life to a few chick lit websites when it first came out. They gave the book great reviews but that doesn’t mean I am yet rivaling Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding for top spot in the bestsellers list. I have got a fair way to go before I can really say that I’ve made an impact.
In your opinion, what are the main differences between lad lit and chick lit?
Beer as opposed to wine? Penis size as opposed to weight loss? Moody strops rather than neurotic hang-ups? And maybe more lust, less love.
Seriously, I’m not sure there is a clear difference. Lad lit doesn’t always follow the same formula, and neither does chick lit. I might try and write a book with a neurotic, weight-conscious, wine-swilling protagonist one day.
Who are your favourite authors/books and why?
I love anyone who writes witty character-based stories. Without wishing to be clichéd, I have been a big Nick Hornby fan for more than twenty years. He writes about people you wouldn’t be surprised if you met down your local. Lisa Jewell’s ‘Ralph’s Party’ is also a story that has stuck in my mind. But I probably have to confess that Adrian Mole, or should I say Sue Townsend, probably convinced me that I wanted to write. Adrian and I are the same age. Obviously Adrian’s penis is shorter than mine, but other than that, the two of us had a lot in common. I started writing a diary once I had read his, and the rest, as they say, is history…
You are doing lots of self-promotion. What is the best advice you can give to an indie author from what you have learned promoting your first two books?
Don’t give your money to the multitude of websites that claim to have millions of readers clamoring to hear about your books. Instead, get active on social media. Blog more often than I do, tweet, be nice to other authors and doors will open for you.
From the two books you have written, which character is your favourite and why?
All of my characters have their personality faults but I love each and every one of them. They have all occupied a place in my heart for months at a time. If I had to pick a few out, I would say that I enjoyed writing Dave’s dad’s dialogue in ‘Six Lies’. He’s a cantankerous old sod. And Graham Hope’s children gave me some fun in ‘Six Months to Get a Life’. Children say things that adults might think but wouldn’t dream of saying.
I read one of your blog posts where you said writing is better than sex. Care to explain?!
No, my girlfriend has only just started talking to me again. If you really want to hear the argument, you can have a look here.
And finally, what can we expect next from Ben Adams?
More of the same I’m afraid. My third book, provisionally called ‘Trouble in the Staffroom’, is clogging up my laptop at the moment. I am thoroughly enjoying writing it. Hopefully it will be out later this year.
Great stuff, thanks Ben! Good luck with the new book.