I reviewed the Two of Us in March and I said:
It’s such an honest look at relationships and intimacy in all its rawness. I felt their pain. How do you come back from something like that? The utter desolation and emptiness being expressed by William and Ivy in different ways made me think they would never be able to repair their feelings. I so want the future to be great for these two characters!
Now I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour organised by Simon & Schuster.
Welcome to JJ!
Please summarise The Two of Us in 20 words or less.
The Two of Us is a staying in Love story. It pits true life against true love.
Please tell us about the characters in your book.
The main characters are William Fisher and Ivy Lee. William is 31 and directs TV commercials for a living. He’s a romantic at heart, but he’s also been something of a lad and he’s become used to living the bachelor life. Ivy is 40, she’s a hair and make-up artist, she’s quieter than Fisher, more mature and thoughtful. Ivy has also experienced a few difficulties in her life, not all of which William is aware of. Yet. The book begins after William and Ivy have been together for a mere 19 days – less than three weeks, but long enough for them to just know they are meant to be together. However, it turns out that the very first time they made love, Ivy became pregnant. So now they have a little less than 9 months to truly get to know each other, and find out if that first wave of romance is strong enough to withstand all the surprises and pressures that real life has in store for them.
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice Andy before the opening pages of the book, what would it be …
Hold your breath and count to ten.
Did you do any research?
The main pieces of research I did involved midwifery, Huntington’s disease, film production, hair and make-up. I began with a little online research, then tracked down some humans to talk to. The humans were the best.
Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity?
I live in London, and it’s a great city in which to be inspired. There are just so many people; you witness strange events, odd characters, little altercations or acts of affection and it’s all good fuel for the story engine. But I find that if I’m ‘on’, that is, if I’m currently working on a story, I’m particularly receptive to what’s happening around me wherever I am. More so, I think, than at other times. Which suggests that it’s the process of writing itself that is inspiring. I’ll see a couple sitting side-by-side on the tube, say, not looking at each other, lost in their phones, perhaps, and find that I’m constructing some kind of narrative about them in my head – if it’s good I note it down for future reference. Last week for example, I overheard an exasperated woman say that one of her kids had just lost three cardigans in two weeks. Well I have a character in my new novel who will, at some point, look after her friend’s little girl. And do you think she’s going to lose a cardigan or two? You bet she will. It’s not a big thing (although it could be), but it’s a nice detail that might spin the story somewhere interesting.
How do your characters come into existence Andy? Do they have a bio?
My characters have extensive biographies, yes. I write copious backstories on them before I begin the novel proper. Much of this may not make it into the novel, but you go through the process to find the aspects of their history that work with the plot and theme of the book. I think about what the characters want, why they want it, what obstacles stand in their way. What are their insecurities, what are their weaknesses and so on. I ‘research’ their family background, best friends, pets, dirty secrets, formative experiences and so on. It’s a tremendously enjoyable experience for me, because it’s for my eyes only and I can just write free-flow without worrying about if it’s ‘good’ or if it fits, or if the language is just so. It’s just a process of discovery.
Panster or a plotter?
Oh, new word. I’m guessing panster means one who allows the story to pan out. Rather than someone who somehow employs kitchenware in the writing process. If so, well that depends. The Two of Us was very tightly plotted – I pretty much had a scene-by-scene outline before I typed the first words of Chapter 1. It took about 3 months, but it meant I could refine or reorder the plot without having to unpick thousands of words of prose. And it worked pretty well for that book. Right now, though, I’m panning. Well, kinda. I lost my job in mid December and found myself on a form of gardening leave for 6 weeks. It was a pretty shitty thing to go through on the run-up to Christmas, but the upside was I’d been given this gift of time which I could spend outlining my new novel.
Except it didn’t go entirely smoothly. I’m used to working in 2-4 hour bursts, often early in the morning before leaving the house for work. But now I had six weeks of eight-hour days stretching out before me. And I felt a gigantic pressure to use every minute of that time. And I drove myself a little crazy. I would obsess over the smallest plot point, or rework and rethink an aspect of backstory that may not even appear in the book. I switched roles between the male and female protagonists, switched them back, switched them again. I buggered about so much, in fact, that I came to question the entire premise of the novel. I wouldn’t call it writer’s block, exactly, more like writer’s doubt. But I did pull together an outline, not the detailed breakdown I had for The Two of Us, but a start, middle, end, some reveals and milestones, and two biographies. Ultimately, I wallowed in this awful process for about 2 months before giving myself a good talking to, stepping away from the outline and starting the damn novel. I’m writing it now, and whilst I know where I’m going, I don’t know exactly how I’m getting there – I’m figuring that bit out as I go. After the security of a strong outline, it’s a bit nerve-wracking. But it’s also pretty exciting.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
Chuck Palahniuk, Stephen King, Nick Hornby, Martin Amis, William Goldman.
Do you think movie adaptations do books justice? Do you have a favourite Andy?
Well it can go either way. Depending on the book, of course, then the scriptwriter, the director, the cast, the score, the cinematography, the editing and so on. One of my favourite books is One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and the adaptation is a work of genius. As is the book. They’re vey different though, and I would never suggest one is superior to the other. Books have the unique ability to take us into a character’s mind, to let us know what they’re thinking and precisely how they are feeling. Movies deal mainly in the external world. And then there is language – take Martin Amis’s novel, Money. The prose in that novel is sensational, Amis is an immensely talented wordsmith who will often use a great many keystrokes to convey a simple piece of information. But that stuff doesn’t work so well on the screen. In fact Money is very plot-light, and the BBC adaptation dragged in my opinion – what was great in the novel was largely absent on screen. And conversely, what was lacking in the book was exposed in front of the camera. A bit of heresy coming up, but I much preferred the Lord of the Rings films to the books. I will reread them one day, but when I read the trilogy as a young boy, I found them incredibly slow, as if Tolkien were describing every pebble, leaf and blade of grass in his epic world. I’m sure this was deliberate, giving the reader a sense of scale and helping them experience the enormity of Frodo’s task. But my god it came alive on the big screen.
Finally, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Getting my novel picked up by Simon & Schuster has been the culmination of a long-held ambition. The Two of Us is the third novel I’ve written. My first is in a draw in my study and it will stay there forever. I self-published the second, Girl 99, and it did fairly well on kindle. And then – third time lucky – there’s The Two of Us. So this didn’t come quickly or easily, and the thrill of having my novel picked up by a major publisher is still – nine months after that first email from my agent (“You have a deal, sir”) – a huge delight. Also, getting feedback from readers has been (mostly) amazing. Someone contacted me the other day to say that having finished my book late at night, he crept into his children’s bedroom to watch them sleep and remind himself how lucky he was – I mean, wow!
Thank you for sharing with JJ’s readers today Andy.
Wishing you continued success.
Andy Jones lives in London with his wife and two little girls. During the day he works in an advertising agency; at weekends and horribly early in the mornings, he writes fiction.
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