*shimmies sideways singing* Well, I don’t care if the sun don’t shine, I’ll get my lovin’ in the evening time, when I’m with my bayyyyBeeee…
Well, it ain’t no fun with the sun around, I get going when the sun goes down, And I’m with my bayyyyybeeeeee…
Ummmm, oh…ahem…er…hello! I didn’t see you there. Please, please excuse me. I’ll, ummm, I’ll just remove this tutu and take off my make-up and, oh pick up this totally random photo that I have just found on the floor and is not at all covered in lipstick kisses, no, no it isn’t….
Right *cough* um, helloooooo and the warmest of beardy welcomes to my humble blog. You may be wondering why you are here. In fact, I am certain of it. Some of you may actually have chosen to come here of your own free will. Well, that was silly of you, but I am glad you’re here. Seeing as you are here, either by hook or indeed by crook, let me help to ease your confusion and enlighten you as to to point of this post.
You see, today I am very proud to host a Q&A as part of the blog tour for Louise Beech’s sublime new book, “The Lion Tamer Who Lost” (published by the immense powerhouse that is Orenda Books).
But wait! Before we continue, you may not know what a Q&A is. Silly me, let me explain; It’s really quite simple. a “Q&A” is a blogging term meaning Questions and Answers: the ‘Q’ part – that’s the “Questions” and the ‘A’ part – that’s the “Answers”. The squiggly thing in-between the Q and the A is an “and”. See? It’s hardly rocket surgery this blogging lark.
So, if you are ready, sitting comfortably, and have a stiff drink to hand, we shall begin:
Ok, so you may be asking the question: Who the hell is Louise Beech? Why should I care and what on earth is The Lion Tamer Who Lost?
These are good questions. These are pertinent questions.
The first was something I asked my beardy self not so very long ago, but before we get to that, let’s kick things off here with a bit of an old mini bio, shall we:
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. Her third book, Maria in the Moon, was widely reviewed and critically acclaimed. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.
You can see from that that Louise has had three other books published before Lion Tamer (as it shall here on in be shortened to). I discussed these previous books, and how I came to discover, fall in love with, and generally become besotted with, Louise in this gushing blog post HERE. Before we continue you should toddle off and get yourself all caught up with all things Peachy Beechy.
You’re back? Thank goodness…er…I mean…Excellent. Lion Tamer is Louise’s 4th published novel and I have previously reviewed it HERE. It is a truly beautiful book so you know what to do. More toddling is required so off you go, I’ll wait… *drums fingers*…
In fact, if you, sorry, when you buy your copy of this wonderful book you will find your favourite beardy blogger (what? You know another beardy blogger? Pah, they’re an impostor, not worthy of the name), quoted inside. Yes, that’s right beardy blog fans, I can now add “quoted” to my growing list of accolades (ok, I only have 2 accolades, but from little acorns and all that).
Anyhoo, this blog post isn’t about me, it’s about this wonderful woman below, so, without further ado let’s get on with the Q&A 🙂
Hi there Louise and many, many thanks for answering my questions on this sunny/rainy/windy/snowy/autumnal/post-apocalyptic* day (*delete where applicable). Let’s kick shizz off:
What was your inspiration to write Lion Tamer? It started out as an age-gap love story between a man and a woman, no?
Yes. It was originally young Ben and forty-five-year-old Amy. An early reader asked if I was aware that Ben was gay. I think on a subconscious level I had been aware and was perhaps afraid to write that story, as I was just starting out and didn’t know if I could do it justice.
What was it about Ben in the original version that made you (or the beta reader) realise he was gay?
That’s so hard to answer. I don’t want to be cliche and say his sensitivity or something else stereotypical. I think in the end I just knew, in the way we know our own sexuality.
One of the greatest things about you, amongst many great and unhinged things, is that your full name is Mrs. Louise Jane Lady M Puffbrains Beech? How on earth did that come about? What does the M stand for?
Hahaha! I was actually christened Jane-Louise and was called that until I went to school. Then it just got shortened to Louise (never sure why not Jane, guess I looked like a Louise) and I was Louise from then on. However, on official letters and documents I was obviously still Jane-Louise. It was a pain being called Jane by the doctor or dentist. So when my passport ran out in 2012 I decided to change my name by deed poll from Jane-Louise to Louise. Why stop there, I thought, being the devil I am. Why not have some fun? So Puffbrains is the nickname my husband Joe used to always call me (don’t ask why, I have no idea) and Lady M is a tribute to my idol, Marilyn Monroe.
That all makes perfect sense to me 😉
In your books to date you’ve always written from a personal perspective: the devastating floods in 2007; working on helplines; your daughter’s diabetes; foster care; to name just a few, so how important is this aspect to your writing?
You know, Mart, I think I am slowly working towards writing the scariest thing of all – my memoir. I will write it. My parents will have to be dead though. Not because I’ll be cruel, not at all, but I can’t tell the truth about my childhood if I know they could read it. Whatever they may have been, I wouldn’t want to hurt them.
You’ve spoken before about the very long and arduous road you took to finally getting published (in fact, you can read all about it here.), so how did you finally celebrate when you signed your first book deal? (I’d like to say keep it fairly clean, as this is a family blog, but sod it, just let it go. Nearly all kids seem to be in therapy these days so I’m sure they’ll get over it).
I’d had a bottle of expensive champagne in the cupboard for years to open when the day came. I told Joe that if he came home and I was drinking it, then I had a book deal. That
Wayheeeyyy!! FYI, for those of you who don’t know what a ‘conjugal right’ is, it is a special squelchy cuddle between two people, or persons, who love each other very much. Sometimes they don’t love each other at all, but the result is kinda the same and just as squelchy. So, after rights have been conjugated what is your writing day like? Do you have a routine? Do you write to music?
I write early. Pretty much an hour after I’m up. I always write to music. Certain albums remind me of certain novels. However, I can’t edit to music. Need silence for that. I don’t have time to write every day (the curse of actually being published!) but I miss it desperately. I love writing. I really do. I’m living the dream.
I often have dreams that I would quite like to live, but then I would very likely be locked up, or at the very least restrained. On that note, you’ve often said you’d like to write erotic fiction. That sounds good to me, but do you think that Karen would ever publish it? Is there even enough red pen in the world for her if you did?
Nope. She wouldn’t. I’m sure of it. But, never say never. I could always self-publish my novel about the exploits of truck driver Helen, who finds love and adventure between Hull and Wigan four times a week …
I would totally read that. Mind you my mother’s name is Helen, so, umm, moving swiftly on….
In a recent blog post you talked about genre switching (and you can read that post here), are there any genres you wouldn’t write and which ones are you itching to write, if any? Would you consider writing under a pseudonym, if only to avoid the dreaded Red Pen of Sullivan?
My next novel, Star Girl, is a psychological thriller, and with the lovely repsonses to Lion Tamer, I’m very scared about the reception it’ll get. I really want to write a ghost story. I have one in my head. A memoir too.
Ok, the Big Question: Biscuit or cake? Examples please.
All and every one. I’ve actually been cutting carbs from my diet. I’ve not eaten bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cakes etc for 12 weeks, and have lost 12lbs. Despite LOVING biscuits (esp custard creams *gasps* me too!) and cakes (esp Lemon Drizzle cake) I’ve found it quite easy to do, and feel really good.
Ok, this is The Beardy Book Blogger so if you could grow a beard what colour would it be, what style and why?
Oh, gold, dear. Or gawld as we say around these parts. I love a bit o’ gawld. I could grow one you know. I’m forty-seven. Hormones are all over. I could be the weird gold-bearded woman called Puffbrains.
Paper book or eBook? Do you think that one day books will be beamed directly into our brains with images, sounds, even that rustling sound of the page being turned? Hang on, surely that’s an audiobook? Balls! Ok, what do you think of audiobooks and are we likely to see any of yours produced this way?
All of my books are available as audiobooks (well, that’ll learn me not to do my research beforehand! I’ll be birching myself later). How to be Brave was narrated by Judi Dench’s daughter, Finty Williams, and she sounds just like her, so it’s beautiful. I like both ebook and physical books. Ebooks are easy, especially on the bus or when travelling. But you can’t beat a really gorgeous physical book. I’m a sniffer. (Of books, not … actually, yes, humans too.)
Ahhh, I’m a sniffer too. Love the smell of a book, be it old or new. Anyway, far more interesting than that is who would you love to sniff, dead or alive? C’mon spill the beans. Oh, and I don’t mean dead as in dead now, that would be wrong, and rank, clearly! For me it would be Winona Ryder, just because, and, of course, Freddie Mercury; I want to know what awesome and legendary smell like 🙂
Hahaha. I’d love to sniff … Sacha Baron Cohen. Preferably alive. Don’t ask. I have the weirdest crushes sometimes. Next week it’ll be Phil Mitchell.
Okaaaay, moving very swiftly on….
We all know that Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books supremo and Queen Bee of Indie Publishing) is a wonderful publisher with an acute eye for awesome writers and story, but what is she like as a publisher and editor to you personally (don’t worry, she won’t be reading this, probably)? How much influence does she have on the finished book?
She is sharp, honest, and passionate. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks of our work, even if it stings, and this is good because we need it, and it always makes our work better. I love her dearly. She has quite a bit of influence, but she always respects what we want to. Right at the start she said to me, it’s your book. Your book.
Have you considered writing a series if the right idea came along, or are you happy to focus on standalone stories?
I’ve honestly never considered it. When my stories are done, I’m done.
I believe you also write poetry and have written a play, is this something you’d ever do again, or write a collection of poetry?
I probably haven’t written enough poetry to have a collection, but I’ve written enough short stories to have two or three. Many were published before I got my book deal. I’d love to release a collection, if I had time. And I have a couple of plays not yet performed…
In your wonderful book ‘How To Be Brave’ you write about your grandfather Colin Armitage’s epic and extremely moving story of survival of 50 days at sea on a small boat during WWII. I still can’t quite believe that this isn’t a more well known story. Was it ever made into a movie or TV show and would you even want it to be? It’s a very personal thing for you and your family, but it’s such a remarkable tale of survival and endurance do you feel that it’s a shame more people are not aware of it?
It was part of a Channel 4 documentary back in 1984. Sadly there’s no copy of it now and I never saw it then (you can watch part of that documentary here; it’s absolutely worth 20 minutes of your time). Ken Cooke, the other survivor, was on This Is Your Life I believe too. Other than that, it made the local papers, but not much more I don’t think. I’d LOVE HTBB to be made into a film. It’s my dream.
Oh my actual gee…seriously, so would I. I think it would translate beautifully to the big screen. Who would be your dream cast and director?
Dream cast for HTBB? Hmmmm. Tom Hardy is possibly a bit old to play Grandad Colin, though to be fair they looked older back in 1943, and especially in those harrowing circumstances. So yes, him. And I’d love to have seen a young Julie Walters play Natalie. Damien Chazelle directed two of my favourite films – Whiplash and LaLaLand – so he’d be a contender to direct, though it might be out of his comfort zone. I’d have a cameo as Scarface the shark.
Interesting choices. Actually, you can add Julie Walters to my ‘sniff list’. She’s brilliant and I bet she smells equally brilliant.
Final question time:
Now I’m not a writer, I’m far too lazy to be bothered, but I quite often come up with story ideas, etc, in my head where they stay and languish and eventually fizzle out. One such idea, and do bear with me on this – please don’t call the authorities – was that in a convoluted way (involving Karen Sullivan placing all of your books in a capsule sent into space for reasons that I forget now but probably involved a publicity stunt and a serious scientific observation on the effects of zero gravity on books, or something), your books ended up being shot into deep space where they travelled for centuries of thousands of years until they, and the capsule they were in, crash landed onto a distant alien world. There upon the indigenous peoples, thinking that they were the only intelligent life form in the universe, discovered that they were not in fact the only intelligent life and that there was a wonderful planet out there called ‘Hull’, created and ruled over by a omnipotent god named Louise Beech. As the years passed your books became revered holy texts, their society changing and becoming influenced by your writings and books, practising Beechism and becoming Beechists, and, as their world was a dying one, they eventually created huge, city sized generation ships – spaceships that held tens of thousands, if not billions, of embryos and people all frozen cryogenically – and sent out into space to find the planet ‘Hull’. Each ship was named after one of your books: The How To Be Brave; the Mountain In My Shoe; and the Maria In The Moon (this was Before Lion Tamer, or BLT, as it became known). In my original idea we followed the HTBB as it travelled through deep space for thousands of years to reach ‘Hull’ and the ensuing troubles aboard that I won’t go into here. The pilot, named Colin (as all of the people on this planet took their Holy Names from your books; there are even many Bob Fracklehursts), is our hero and tasked with ensuring the HTBB reaches ‘Hull’ with its precious cargo safe and intact. ANYWAY, my question is this: If these aliens finally reached ‘Hull’, and assuming that the human race is still alive and well, as are you after their multi millenia trip, and they greet you as their god, what would you say to them and what would be the first thing that you would show them? What kind of god would you be? If they were to raise a huge erection to you, a huge statue I mean, obviously, where would you have it erected and what kind of pose would you insist on?
Hahaha. You’re not a writer? I think you are, my dear. I think you are. You have a wild and debauched and wonderful imagination. I love this. Aliens coming to Hull? Can you imagine their faces? Even most humans are baffled when they come here. We’re a crude, brusque, and sarcastic lot, but when we love you, we love you. All aliens welcome. A huge erection, just for me? I should like it to be on the river front, so that it gets whipped and lashed by the wild winds. As for any wording … I think a diagram would suffice. And I think you can well imagine that. And I would be a strict god – firm but fair. Just like my … dare I say it … should I say it … oh, go on then, for you … just like my tits.
Aaaaand with that we shall call and end to the Q&tits, I mean Q&Acup….Q&boobs….Q&arse….Q&A…A!! Q…&…A! Sheesh. I’m off for a lie down.
Be careful what you wish for…
Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…
Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?
A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…
My hugerist thanks to Louise for suffering my questions and general nonsense. You can buy her book, The Lion Tamer Who Lost, in all its formats here:
My most sincere and heartfelt thanks to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for suggesting that I do this Q&A in the first place and to Anne Cater (Random Things Through My Letterbox) for having me on the blog tour.
The Lion Tamer Who Lost is out NOW in ebook and paperback – the cover of which, in case you didn’t know, is embossed.
Check out all the other bloggers on the tour: