My guest today is Liam Livings, aspiring author, one of the organising team behind my favourite annual event – the UK Meet – and owner of a car called Muriel.
Elin: I understand that your first novel is finished as is with a rather special beta 🙂 Is this your first work or have you been writing for years?
Liam: Yes, Clare London kindly agreed to read it, not just once, but twice! I won’t be offended if she bows out of betaing for the next book. The second time it had been significantly polished after my other beta readers. I’ve been writing on and off since I was about 14: I started writing poetry and pen portraits while sat bored in my French exchange’s lessons. I’ve written for my secondary school’s creative writing magazine (how very of my school to have had that, which only occurs to me now, typing it). I’ve kept a diary since 1998, every day, which is both a blessing and a curse. When I travelled round Australia I wrote quite a few pen portraits about people I met, I’ve used these as the basis of some characters Kieran and Jo meet in Best Friends Perfect. Before writing BFP, I think I was waiting for someone to say it was ok to write a novel (not sure who, but anyway…) This is my first ‘I want to get this published’ work, and has been my entry to the world of GLBTQ fiction (about which I knew nothing before the UK Meet in September 2012). It hadn’t occurred to me what I’d written was GLBTQ fiction, I just wrote something which I would want to read, about characters I could identify with, and ‘as a gay man’(again with the very phrases) there are of course other gay men within the world I created.
Elin: Have you decided yet whether to self publish or go down the traditional route? What has influenced your choice?
Liam: I recently submitted it to a potential publisher, based on their broad range of gay fiction. The fact that it’s not a category romance, but more of a coming out story, with plenty of humour I hope, meant I didn’t think it would suit some other publishers. I’ll wait to hear and take it from there – ‘playing it by ear’ as my Mum says *crosses fingers*. I’ve read loads about how great self publishing is, and then loads more about how awful self publishing is. That’s the beauty of the internet isn’t it?
Elin: There’s a very entertaining sample of your novel on your website. If you were given the opportunity to follow it up with whatever you wished is there any genre you’d love to have a bash at?
Liam: Thanks, I’m glad you found it entertaining! The rest is the same – a mixture of humour and more serious topics. I think it’s so important to be able to laugh, even during the darkest times in life. A friend was very ill for a month or so in hospital, being visited by an endless round of grapes toting and sympathetic simpering friends, until his best friend turned up, plonked herself in the seat, looked around the room and said, ‘You look like sh*t, when you getting out so we can have a drink? Where can I have a fag?’ It was the first time he’d smiled since collapsing four weeks earlier.
Sorry, bit of a digression there, it’s all this tea you’re giving me! My favourite genre is contemporary romance, but I do like a bit of recent historical periods too. For instance I read a great book set in the 1930s, Windfall by Penny Vincenzi: I could literally taste the gin fizzes and see their clothes as they walked along the beach at Le Touquet Paris Plage. I also like the idea of stories set in the relatively recent past, so Best Friends Perfect is set in the nineties, maybe something set in the eighties would be fun! There’s something about a time pre-internet, social media, smart phones which gives you loads of story options which nowadays a character would just google the answer. Is recent periods in history a genre? I’m interested in friendships, relationships and how those shape us as individuals, so probably not romance in the purest sense, but there’s definitely a bit of romance there too. Have I answered the question?
Elin: Do you plan your novels or do your characters shove you aside with a manic giggle and go their own way?
Liam: I’m a planner: I write a chapter summary of a few points, then before writing each chapter thrash that out a bit more, before actually writing it. Often I find what the chapter actually contains is different from the original points. And that’s usually the characters shoving me out the way and taking the driving seat, so I suppose it’s a bit of both. I like to work up character biogs before I dive in, and those usually steer me as I move through the book, and become more comfortable with the characters.
Elin: Let’s have some sources of inspiration – movies, books, architecture, conversations overheard in Lidl/Morrisons/Waitrose?
Liam: I’m a bit of a magpie for ideas really: I have an ongoing note on my phone for sparks of inspiration which I add to most days. I can get ideas from anywhere – films, music lyrics, conversations overheard on public transport…Much of the time, events in my life and those around me give me ideas – conversations with friends and family. Best Friends Perfect has autobiographical elements in it, but not too autobiographical, enough to make it ring true I hope. I take the phrase, conversation, situation, person which has inspired me and throw the idea around a bit – is it an interesting premise for a book, could that be the basis of a scene?
Elin: Do you have a crisp mental picture of your characters or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Liam: At the start of a piece of writing, I have an idea what they look like, how they dress, how they stand etc. This becomes clearer as I work my way through the writing, and they change what I’d originally planned them to do. This image, and I wouldn’t say it’s crisp, dictates how they behave as I get to know them more throughout the writing.
Elin: So what’s next? Can you talk about your current WIP or do you refer to keep them underwraps until they are finished?
Liam: The Second Book (TSB) no better title yet, is finished in first rough draft stage. It’s about how a new friend causes a man to re-evaluate and question everything in his life, his relationships with friends, family, partner up to that point. Much like Best Friends Perfect, it’s about friendships, relationships and how they inform who we are, but also how a new friendship can throw everything you thought you knew upside down.
Elin: Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Liam: Here’s a sample of TSB
I imagined pasting on a false smile and telling all our friends how 1999 had been such an amazing year again.
‘You’re so lucky,’ they’d say, gesturing around the house. ‘Ten years, it’s like a proper married couple, you’re so lucky.’
I would nod, and Christian would hug me from behind and kiss my neck in that way which used to send a jolt of horniness straight to my groin, until recently when he had touched my hand and I’d shivered, so frustrated and untapped was my libido from months and months of Sahara-like dryness.
The double bed, perfectly made, with an indentation from one of our dogs, stared back and mocked me. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d had sex in it, in fact I couldn’t remember the last time we’d had sex anywhere in the house, the shower, kitchen, living room, all scenes of perfect domestic bliss, like you’d have with your brother or mother. Shiny, smiley, happiness, which if you peered behind the curtain was more like a flat share than a marriage.
Why this room? Why this house? Why those clothes?
Surely this New Year’s Eve, of all NYEs was something to celebrate. I mean, it’s the start of a new century, we’d all soon be walking around in shining silver one pieces, driving hovering cars and eating instant freeze dried food from silver packets wouldn’t we? Now it was officially the twenty first century, the future was arriving and we were here for the ride.
Part of me was humming the lyrics to the Debbie Harry song, ‘Here comes the twenty first century, It’s gonna be so much better for a girl like me…I want that man.’ But what if you already had that man, and you’d already had him for more than ten years, was the new century still something to look forward to?
Many thanks for agreeing to be my guest, Liam. I hope you enjoyed your time in my Comfy Chair.
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