Thursday, 28 July 2016

Check out this Jon Rance Q&A with me!

Jon Rance
On April 22 of this year, lad lit author Jon Rance was kind enough to feature me on his website in a Q&A as part of the Lad Lit Blog Tour. Jon has since created and designed a new website (check it out here) so my Q&A will soon disappear from the big wide world of the web! But you can now read the interview here on my blog instead :)



I'm excited to have a new author on my blog today. Steven Scaffardi is just about to release his second comedy novel, 'The Flood' and so I thought I'd catch up with him and see what all the fuss is about.

Hi, Steven, welcome to my blog! It's good to have you over for a pint of lager and a packet of crisps. For the people out there who have never heard of Steven Scaffardi tell us a bit about yourself.

Cheers Jon, it's great to be here. For people who have never heard of Steven Scaffardi before, I am tall, athletic, and as good looking as David Beckham. I once dated Kelly Brook and Sofia Vergara at the same time, and believe it or not, I am the person who wrote the lyrics to Baby for Justin Bieber. And if that hasn't impressed you, I am also a lad lit author in my 30s desperately trying to recapture my youth on the pages of my two novels, The Drought and The Flood - both part of the Sex, Love and Dating Disasters series.

To promote your first book, The Drought, you ended up spending a year on the stand-up comedy circuit, what was that like? 

It was a great experience, full of the most eclectic mix of people I think I have ever met, from out of work actors to a six-foot blonde who graced the covers of lads mags, and 20 year veterans of the circuit who had never quite made it and hated the world for it, to people who had very messed up views about what they thought funny was! There is probably a book that could be written about some of those characters! I did it for a year and I managed to get to the final of the Golden Jester competition after about 50 gigs which wasn't too bad. Nothing quite beats the buzz of being up on that stage when you're having a good gig. The flip side of that, of course, is that it is the most awful place in the world to be when you have a bad gig. Apart from a South American prison perhaps.

I've always had the ambition to do a bit of stand-up at some point, any tips?

Do it! Someone once said to me that stand-up comedy is the best hobby you can ever have. You get to stand around in pubs all evening watching comedy! The best advice I can give is make sure you write a varied set because if you stick to one story or theme and it doesn't work, you have nowhere else to go. And don't be afraid to try different material. Open mic stand-up comedy audiences can be quite forgiving because they know you are new, so when something works keep it in, and when something bombs throw it out. Sooner or later you'll have a set that works.

How is it different writing stand-up comedy to writing a comedy novel?

With stand-up you don't really have time to build up to the joke like you might in a book. When you first start up in stand-up you are doing gigs where you have 5-10 minutes (at most) to do a set. It might not sound like a lot, but believe me - trying to find five minutes of material that is funny is really hard. I take my hat off to guys like Micky Flanagan and Kevin Bridges who put together an hour long show with laughs all the way through. With stand-up you are constantly looking for a quick punchline to keep the audience on side. They have turned up to have someone make them laugh after all. With a 5 minute set, you want to aim for a laugh at least every 20-30 seconds, but with a comedy novel you have more time to build things, even if the reader already knows where you’re going. In The Drought, you know from the very start that Dan is on a sexual drought. As a reader you know at each and every attempt to get his leg-over he will fail, but it doesn't matter. My job as the writer is to make sure that even when the reader knows Dan's latest attempt is doomed to failure, they are always thinking "But what if he does succeed this time?"

Your second novel, The Flood, is out now - congrats! - tell us a bit about it?

The Flood is the follow-up to The Drought, although you could quite easily pick up The Flood without having read The Drought. This time the main character, Dan, gets himself into more dating disasters when he makes a drunken bet with his friends that he could date four girls all at the same time. That challenge is hard enough as it is, but when the girls he ends up dating include a stalker, an ex-girlfriend, the office ice queen and the one that got away, Dan soon finds out that dating a flood of women is a lot harder that he thinks. He has eight weeks to juggle all four girls without them finding out about each other.

This is a question I've been asked a few times. Why do you write romantic comedy? What draws you to the genre?

It was a combination of two things. 1) My wife is a huge romcom fan and I have lost count of the amount of times I would shout out "But a man wouldn't do that!" watching one of those films. Let's be honest, men are not very good at romance. We rarely get those sort of things right, and even though we talk a good game, we're fairly hopeless at understanding the opposite sex so I wanted to tell a story from the male perspective. And 2) Most guys have stood around the pub talking rubbish about first dates and relationship experiences. More often than not, those stories are hilarious for all the wrong reasons. I started making notes of all the funny stories I'd heard, threw in a few of my own experiences, exaggerated them for comedy value, and that is pretty much how The Drought came about.

OK, here's the bit where you get to show us how good a salesman you are. Why should people buy your book?

Because (hopefully) they'll laugh lots! The best contemporary fiction, in my opinion, is the stuff you can relate to, and I try to do that with my books. I have a had a lot of male readers tell me how much they can relate to some of the stupid things Dan and his friends get up to, while most women are horrified (in a good way) to find out what men really think. I've been lucky to have some really great reviews on Goodreads and from book bloggers, and that probably carries more weight than anything I could tell you. Chick Lit Plus said of The Drought: "Steven Scaffardi's first novel is absolutely hilarious and will leave every reader, male or female, laughing out loud." Hopefully that might make one or two of your fans give it a go.

You describe yourself as writing lad-lit. What exactly is lad-lit and how does it compare to chick-lit?

Lad lit is best known as the male equivalent of chick-lit, primarily written by men exploring relationships, emotions and day-to-day life experiences from the perspective of a male protagonist. Often told with humour, charm and wit, lad lit leaves many readers laughing out loud at the scenarios men get into. My favourite lad lit analogy is this: If book genres were diets then lad lit would be the rather disheveled 'before' picture and chick lit would be the perfect 'after' image. Lad lit is like that car crash of a first date you went on or that person you went out with and still wonder years later "What was I thinking?" For me, the goal of chick lit is to get to that perfect happy ever after (HEA) ending, but lad lit does not always have to follow that pattern. In relationship terms, you have to get through a whole lot lad lit before you find your perfect chick lit!

What are your top five books by men about life, love and relationships? To get the ball rolling and to see if we're any different mine would be: Nick Hornby, High Fidelity, Tony Parsons, Man and Boy,  David Nicholls, Starter for Ten, Mike Gayle, My Legendary Girlfriend, and since I really can't include my own books and these are all better than mine anyway, The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi. 

That's a pretty good list - I'm not sure I can beat that! High Fidelity and Man and Boy have to be in there, without question, and you couldn't have a top five list of books by men about relationships without Mike Gayle, although I'm going to opt for Seeing Other People. Another author I'm a big fan of is Danny Wallace and I really enjoyed Charlotte Street so I would put that one in there. The last spot is tough as you have other great authors in the genre like Matt Dunn and of course your good self (This Thirtysomething Life is next on my read list!) but I think I'll give a shout to Nick Spalding for his Life From... Both Sides because I think it's a great series of books.

What's next for Steven Scaffardi?

I am busy promoting The Flood as part of this Lad Lit Blog Tour right now, but I already have plans for the third instalment of the Sex, Love and Dating Disasters series. The working title is The Pact and this time Dan and his friends travel to Latvia in search of a girl who dated Dan's best friend Rob. It is a little bit different to the first two books in that the theme to this book is a bit of a tribute to one of my favourite books of all time The Book With No Name. It includes a whole host of unsavoury characters including a Russian mafia don, two drag queens, a pimp who is stuck in the 70s, a sleazy hotel boss and his strange wife, two karaoke loving corrupt cops wo worship Wham, and a henchman who goes by the name of Ray The Local. I'm hopeful of having it out by the end of the year, but we'll see.

Cheers Steven, I hope you enjoyed the pint and the crisps and thanks for answering my questions. One last question and it's the classic question every author gets asked. What are your top five writing tip?

Thanks for having me Jon, it's been a blast and the pint and beer snacks were a pleasant bonus. My top five tips would be: 1. Create bios for your characters. The more you know about your characters, the better equipped you will be to write about how they will react in certain situations. 2. Create a playlist for your book like a movie soundtrack. I find music really helps come up with ideas and develop scenes you are writing. 3. Make sure you have a great proofreader. The amount of little mistakes and errors that creep in will surprise you. I've conceded that I'm not a good writer, I'm a good storyteller! 4. Always be prepared to make notes on the move. I'm forever tapping into my note app on my iPhone as the most brilliant ideas always pop into your head at the most random of times. 5. Immerse yourself into the world of book bloggers. These people will become your best friends, but don't take them for granted. They blog for the love of reading and they do a bloody good job if you ask me.

Thanks so much to Steven for popping over. He's doing a ridiculous number of interviews and blog appearances for the release of 'The Flood'. If you want to check out some of his other blog tour stops have a look at this...

Lad Lit Blog Tour, Steven Scaffardi, The Flood, Lad Lit,

This Q&A was originally posted by Jon Rance at his old website on April 22...