You may remember I spotlighted It’s Killing Jerry and shared an excerpt with you in April. Today it gives me great pleasure to be chatting to Sharn Hutton about the inspiration for her novel, which character she would choose to be and she spills the beans about the hardest scene to write. Enjoy!
Sharn Hutton scuttled along in the rat race with everyone else, until the advent of babies provided an excellent excuse not to go back to the office. Before too long she realised, however, that ‘giving up work’ wasn’t really that at all. In fact, career motherhood had just as many challenges and disappointments as the corporate world, the hours were longer and the pay was rubbish! The best laid plans and all that…
Time marched on and as the children spent more hours at nursery and then school, she started to write during stolen moments. The seed of a story took hold and eventually grew into her first novel.
Now working from home in Hertfordshire, she wouldn’t trade her tiny writing room at the back of the house for the fanciest of corner offices. Apart from anything else, where would the dog’s bed go?
‘It’s Killing Jerry’ is her debut novel and she’s expecting many more to come. (Books that is, not babies. Definitely not babies.)
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Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise It’s Killing Jerry in 20 words or less.
Fantasist, push-over and all-round crap father: Jeremy Adler’s an inspiration. For blackmail, treachery and murder.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
It just struck me one day how difficult we’ve made life for ourselves. Second families (after divorce) are an absolute minefield of torn loyalties, guilt and jealousy. Slap on top of that a high maintenance job and the deflected fallout from other people’s problems (that you have to deal with the backlash from) and you’ve got yourself a character on a hiding to nothing. You’d have to be pretty unlucky to suffer with ALL the problems that Jerry does, but he’s dealing with issues that everyone will recognise in some form or another.
Please tell us about your characters.
The titular character, Jerry or Jeremy Adler, has just passed the forty milestone and as the story opens he’s trying to get himself into shape. Recently made a father for the first time, he’s finding himself pretty inept and is a bit too quick to pass the baton on to Rachel, his unimpressed second wife. Jerry likes nothing more than to shirk responsibility and he’s got avoiding reality down to a fine art with the creation of Remi – a fantasy alter ego who lives the life of a glamorous spy in Jerry’s imagination.
Rachel’s struggling with the responsibility of their new baby and her loss of identity after giving up work to be a mum. Teetering on the precipice of post-natal depression she’s aggravated by Jerry’s lack of effort and his seeming inability to say no to the demands of Isabell, Jerry’s manipulative first wife.
Isabell is a Mediterranean bombshell. Demanding and selfish, she knows what she wants and doesn’t care how Jerry gets it, but Jerry will get it!
Spink is Jerry’s boss. Vertically challenged, narcissistic and sexist, he’s pretty easy to hate and doesn’t waste any time making Jerry’s life hell.
Adam is Jerry’s old pal from school. He’s come back into Jerry’s life after leaving the job which consumed him as a criminal defence lawyer for years. With a new moral code and a desperate need to find his place in the world, he’s on Jerry’s case.
These are the main characters as we watch Jerry’s fate unfold, but the second half of the story brings on Detective Dinwiddy as he tries to unravel the case. Born and raised in Alabama, Detective Dinwiddy is extremely enthusiastic, though slow and methodical. He’s not always correct in his deductions.
If you could choose to be one of those characters Sharn, who would you be?
Remi is an obvious choice – he’s Jerry’s imaginary alter-ego. Super cool and living the life of an international jet setter and spy for the British government. Part of his character purpose is to always get what he wants and get it with style! Who wouldn’t want that?
Was there a scene you found hard to write?
The prologue was an absolute killer! It’s the scene where the reader discovers that Jerry is missing presumed murdered before the story hops back four months to watch his fate unfold. I rewrote it and rewrote it, over and over – it drove me crazy.
I wanted the reader to know what Jerry had coming right from the start. I had versions that were fly on the wall, inside Jerry’s head, funny, frightening and watching the vital scene unfold from the outside. The problem was that I didn’t want to give away the identity of the other character in the scene besides Jerry himself and masking names and physical description reads really unnaturally.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?
Now this is easy for me to answer because I had character profiles set up to refer to as I wrote.
- Jerry as Simon Pegg
- Adam as Robert Downey Jnr
- Rachel as Keira Knightly
- Isabell as Salma Hyek
- Spink was the only one where I had a photo of an ordinary person that I found online – I suppose Danny Devitto is an option, but he’s a bit too likeable
- and finally Detective Dinwiddy is a hybrid of Tom Hanks (Forest Gump) and Martin Freeman – not quite sure how you’d pull that off! LOL
Panster or a plotter?
Total plotter. For IKJ I had a spreadsheet with details for every scene mapped out in advance. I wanted to make sure that the characters had satisfying arcs, subplots were resolved and I didn’t write myself into a corner. POV switches between a handful of characters too, so I really wanted to keep a handle on that so it didn’t lose focus.
What are your thoughts on book to movie adaptations?
I think it’s pretty impossible for a film to do a book justice. It’s just not feasible to include all the intricacies and imagination that you conjure reading a book in a two hour film. Having said that, I am a Harry Potter nut and have seen all the films multiple times. Films have to be different beasts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have their own magic.
What are you reading now Sharn? Thoughts?
I have just started reading Even Stranger by Marilyn Messik. I loved the first one, Relatively Strange. She has such an amazing voice – I felt like I was right there talking to the characters.
Will you be writing again about Jerry?
I have outlines for a prequel, where Jerry and Isabell meet and Remi is born plus a sequel using a couple of the characters from It’s Killing Jerry.
Finally Sharn, can you share what you’re working on now?
I’m mapping out my plot for the sequel. This time I’m using a colour coded array of post-it notes in my loft stairwell to plan out the subplots – my family must love me!
Thank you for being my guest.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects Sharn.
Paperback: 478 pages
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 955 KB
Fantasist, push-over and all-round crap father: Jeremy Adler’s an inspiration. For scandal, treachery and blackmail.
Fleeced by his ex-wife, oppressed by a narcissist boss and ridden over rough-shod by a two month old infant, Jerry might have thought he’d been keeping the peace but, the tide of resentment is turning against him.
Fighting for his job, control of the bank statement and, ultimately, his life, Jerry’s got problems and they’re about to get a whole lot worse.
Breakdowns and break-ups, manipulation and thievery, green-eyed phoneys and unscrupulous deals. Pretending to be someone else just won’t cut it this time and featuring on the late evening news as: missing, presumed murdered, is only the beginning.
With adult themes, ‘It’s Killing Jerry’ is the head-hopping tale of Jerry’s desperately funny demise.