What can you tell us about your new book The Radio?
The Radio is my first novel and took around four years to write. It was shortlisted in the Novel Prize 2012 and published this year.
The Radio centres around the decline of the lovable yet hapless George Poppleton, a middle-aged henpecked father and husband who stumbles across an old transistor radio in his loft. His obsession with listening to the radio drives him on an unexpected journey, fuelled by the painful memories of the suicide of his only son many years before. Whilst his only daughter, Sam, and wife, Sheila, plan perhaps the most ill-fated wedding ever conceived, the radio transports George further and further away from reality. When a garlic baguette is used as a lethal weapon and the hogs finally take a stand and turn on the farmer who is about to roast them, nothing is likely to go as smoothly as the family may have hoped. The accidental return of Sam's ex-fiancé, David, coupled with the endlessly drunk Auntie Lesley ensures that an almighty farce is just around the corner.
The Radio ends with an unimaginable twist, when the family realise that things are not at all how they seemed. It is a story of what it means to be a family, the perception of loving and being loved, and what it means to be sane. It will appeal to anyone who enjoys family-based modern contemporary fiction with both poignancy and humour.
The Radio has been described as a comedy so black that you'd have to eat a lot of carrots to know whether George's adventures are actually visible.
What inspired you to explore the emotions of family dealing with a suicide?
My brother, Simon was the main inspiration for the character of Adam in the story. My brother survived a jump from a multi-storey car park over twenty years ago. There is a lot of truth in some of Adam’s actions and unfortunately, my brother Simon finally succeeded and died in 2005. There was something very cathartic in sharing this.
You always wanted to be a writer; what stopped you pursuing it full-time from an earlier age?
I have collected journal after journal of ideas, themes and clippings for more than 25 years. I wrote a number of short stories over the years, but I suppose getting a full-time job and providing for my family became paramount and writing took a back seat. Five years ago, after my friends became thoroughly bored of me saying that I would ‘one day write a novel’, I made time and began writing properly.
At only nine you self-published a magazine that sold over 500 copies; please tell us a bit more about this!
As a schoolboy I had become obsessed with a certain genre of book that allowed the reader to decide the fate of the lead character by turning to a specific page in the book. I enjoyed the books so much, a friend and I began writing a magazine to give to friends. It sold for 7p and this was only to cover costs. In total there were 7 editions (each of 24 pages) and we sold around 700 copies in total.
You then went on to run a mail order collectible music store that you sold at 19. What made you venture into this?
Music is an absolute obsession of mine. I began to collect rare records and CDs of bands I liked and built up quite a network of places I could pick them up cheaply. After a while, I realised that I could make sometimes up to 500% of what I had paid for them and so from age 16, my brother (who was two years older and had a driving license) would drive me around Yorkshire picking up items to sell on. I sold them mail order for three years and did my first record fair at 17. I sold the whole lot just before I left for university at 19.
You travelled the world for a year after university; which was your favourite place to explore?
New Zealand, without question. I spent 8 weeks there with my best friend, and we basically did a road trip around both islands. Although a very small country, the place and scenery are so varied that one day you can be on the beach and the next wandering around glaciers. I love the pace of life and would be love to go back – maybe permanently.
The novel was shortlisted for the Novel Prize in 2012 – how did this make you feel?
This was overwhelming, especially for my first novel. I believe there were around 3,000 entries, so to be selected was amazing. It gave me the spirit to continue and keep following my dream.
You are now working on your second novel The Page; what can you tell us about this?
I have written around 50,000 words of The Page, about halfway through.
The Page begins with a tragic car accident, leaving Michael Sewell alone and lost for the first time. The loss of his wife, Margaret, after thirty years of marriage has left a hole far greater than Michael could have imagined.
Persuaded to go on holiday alone for the first time since this accident, by his daughter Jane, a huge gust of wind whips up stripping a book being read by a stranger across the pool. A page blown from the book sticks to his chest.
The words from the page resonate with Michael, describing in detail the recent events in his own life. Now, Michael must delve into his past and face his future, taking him and his family on a horrifying and tragic journey toward the truth.
In the spirit of The Radio, The Page ends with a twist that no-one sees coming.
How does your writing fit around your three children and your full-time job?
With great difficulty! I work around fifty hours a week, and then have joint custody of my children, so see them almost every day and they stay with me at least three nights a week. I tend to get two six-hour periods a week to sit down and write. Hopefully one day, the day job may disappear from the equation!
Have you any ideas for another novel after The Page?
Yes, absolutely. The Radio is the first part of a trilogy so there is plenty more to come from the Poppleton family yet. At the present moment I haven’t yet had a chance to think about working titles for the next two in the series but I do know in my mind exactly how the stories will go.
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