I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Louise Beech’s latest book The Lion Tamer Who Lost and my thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda for the spot on the blog and my copy of the book.
Instead of a review of this book I thought I would have a nice, mature, intelligent chat with Louise about writing and then I remembered I was talking to Louise so I apologise in advance to anyone who gets easily offended:
LOUISE: Let’s talk coincidences … so you and I have quite different opinions of them, at least when they feature in novels. You admitted you removed a star from your review of The Lion Tamer Who Lost because you have pet niggle with them, and of course there’s a bit of a one in there. What is it that bugs you?
TRACY: Strangely enough I LOVE coincidences in real life. When something spookily coincidental happens to me in real life it makes me feel all fuzzy and happy, however there is something about coincidences in books that gets right on my wobbly bits. I absolutely HATE them. Personally, I feel they are a cop-out, a lazy way to add a twist and it sometimes makes me think the author has cheated me out of a clever plotline.
LOUISE: Oh God, I love real life coincidences too. I’ve had the most bizarre ones. Ones that if you did put them in a novel, no one would believe them or read it! I was on a train to London to do an event for my How to be Brave book. A couple sat opposite me. We got chatting. I mentioned my book and the woman stared at me a moment and then said, ‘I know this story.’ When I asked what she meant, she said she lived on the same street as the other survivor from the book, Ken Cooke who was on the lifeboat with my grandfather. ‘We weren’t even meant to be in these seats,’ she said. ‘Ours are over there.’ If that wasn’t profound enough, a few weeks later a man sat on a packed bus next to me. He asked if I recognised him. I was confused. He said he was meant to be opposite me on that train to London, but we all seemed to be getting on well, so he sat elsewhere.
I agree that in novels they can be lazy if they have obviously been added to the story last minute to inject drama or interest. That is indeed cheating a reader. The coincidence should never be the icing on a novel – it should be the foundation. The coincidences in a few of my novels came to me before anything else. I work hard at them, right from the start.
Okay … sex … do you like it?
TRACY: Believe it or not I am actually a bit of a prude in real life and get embarrassed easily but I do like a bit of rumpy pumpy in a book providing it’s part of the storyline and not just a chance for the author to sell books by shocking the audience. I’ve read several books (not mentioning any in particular *cough Maestra) that have used sex in the most gratuitous way and it’s obvious to regular readers that this is purely for sales and really doesn’t add anything to the book, however I will also say some of these books have been highly educational and I’ve learnt so much about figging, double dipping and even nasolingus, but I haven’t actually had the chance to experiment on Mr Fenton yet.
With regards to actual sex scenes in books, sometimes less is more and it can be more arousing and sexier without the use of certain words… some of my least favourite words during a sex scene would be; moist, clunge, front bottom, throbbing love muscle and of course the ultimate turn off – schlong.
How do you feel about writing sex scenes and reading them?
LOUISE: Hahaha. If you EVER read a scene that uses schlong, PLEASE send it straight to me so I can read it aloud at my next church meeting. I’m a real mix of secrecy and openness. I know people expect me to be crude all the time, but I’m private about my own life in many ways. I’ll share certain things. But something I don’t want to share – you’ll never get it out of me.
I love writing and reading sex scenes. I’m a total perv. I prefer graphic to cheesy. I’m not very romantic. I like pretty hardcore words. Intensity wins for me every time. Love is intense, so the sex needs to be. I like to feel I’m not just there in the room for a scene but taking part. (That doesn’t translate well in real life, as I found out before my last restraining order…)
But front botty. Who could not love that? Or undercarriage. Right, I’m off to google nasolingus … right after I add it to my spellchecker.
TRACY: I actually think you and I should co-write some erotic fiction. It’s guaranteed to be a best seller but obviously we need pen names. I’ve used a name generator app and from now on I want to be known as “Foxxy Zirconium”.
Moving on from sex, what are your thoughts on bad language/swearing/cussing etc. I know lots of readers find the “C” word absolutely unacceptable, but personally it doesn’t bother me again in the right context.
What does aggravate me though are books containing police/serial killers who don’t swear. The police officer has chased the serial killer across three continents, watched him bludgeon to death 45 male strippers, narrowly avoided being blown up twice and finally comes face-to-face with the psychopath who slices off his arm with a machete and DI Pottymouth says “ouch that hurt!”. FFS really? Everyone I know swears in real life (classy aren’t I?), so I think for the sake of realism books need to contain naughty words – don’t you?
Are they any words you feel uneasy writing or reading?
LOUISE: I’m up for co-writing erotic fiction. For my pen name, I took the name of our first dog, the name of the street I lived on before this one, and put a rude word in the middle – Bridie Bum-Hole Brigg. Let’s kick off by writing about a group of readers locked in a lift who decide to pass time by acting out their favourite book sex scenes …
There are no words I find unacceptable. I’ve probably used most at some point. They generally only work with a first-person voice or as dialogue though. Like you said, swearing is real life. Fiction should reflect that. I’m a terrible swearer. Husband tells me off. But I’m always mindful of those who might not like it. Like I call packs of ready grated cheese Lazy Fucker Cheese. I spotted some cheap in the fridge at Heron the other day and was about to say to said husband, ‘Oooh, that Lazy Fucker Cheese is only a quid.’ But there was this cute old dear near it. So I said, ‘Oooh, that Lazy Person Cheese is only a quid.’ Thinking about it now, that cute old dear probably calls everyone a cunt …
What else is a pet peeve for you in books?
TRACY: Apart from the obvious like typos and grammatical errors, I really don’t like books printed with small fonts. The older I get the worse my eye sight and the more I find I am squinting and it’s a struggle to read small print, so I’ve practically stopped reading real books and now read everything on my kindle where I can make the font as large as I need and as bold as I like.
Another pet peeve is implausibility: those moments in a book where you think WTF, like a police officer in the middle of a murder investigation going home at 5.30pm on a Friday evening and not returning to work under Monday morning, and don’t get me started on female characters who always go for a run in the morning before work and a quick 5K sprint after work to clear the cobwebs away – F*CK right off and eat a chocolate bar instead.
What about you? Any book peeves?
LOUISE: I hate unbelievable characters. I think plot-wise, anything goes (ESPECIALLY coincidences, ha!) because life is strange. Life is random. Life doesn’t follow a personality. But people in novels who do things they would never, ever do, just to fit around the plot, or just so something happens that the writer wants to happen, that pulls me right out of the story.
It’s a bit like in films where women hear a sound in the night and go downstairs and look for an intruder in their underwear, with no lights on and no weapon, when there have been eight murders nearby in the last week.
People should also go to the toilet more often. No one pisses in novels. They should also call the toaster a cunt and make sure their picture frames are symmetrical and take bites straight out of the cheese in the fridge.
None of this is based on me.
None of it.
To read my reviews on Louise Beech’s books – please click below: