It’s a book that looks at the difference between falling in love and staying in love.
Although I don’t read much romantic fiction, I have watched many great romantic movies. Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Princess Bride, True Romance (sure it’s full of guns and blood, but it’s very romantic), When Harry Met Sally, Seventh Heaven (I fell for Simone Simon harder than I fell for Patricia Arquette, and that takes some doing), and etcetera. But as the credits roll, I’ve always found myself wondering: What happens tomorrow, and next week, and next year? What happens when the bad habits emerge, and you can’t agree on what colour to paint the kitchen? What happens when real life kicks in?
No never. The story in my mind was always William’s, and the secrets are all Ivy’s so it would be hard to work that the other way around. A side effect of this, though, is that whilst most readers love William, opinion is divided on Ivy. It’s a little unfair, because we never get inside her head and are never privy to her insecurities, doubts and frustrations. Fisher – because the book is written from his perspective – gets to explain, justify and lament all his misdemeanours, so he’s easier to relate to. But I take readers' conflicting takes on Ivy as a compliment to her depth of character. That said, I think this story told from Ivy’s perspective could be very compelling – but it’s too late for that now!
Well one of the ideas I wanted to write about was that good things and bad things don’t take turns. Life throws it at you all at once. But I don’t know if there is a lesson to learn there – a ‘proper’ way of anticipating or dealing with that. Knowing life has a sack full of curve balls, it’s clear that we should avoid complacency. But the tricky thing, perhaps, is how we adjust when life runs off script. We build things up in our minds – how perfect they will be, how happy we will be – but if we indulge this too much, we risk having the highs undone by the smallest glitch. There’s a tension between the two and I tried to explore that in the book.
I only read One Day after selling The Two of Us, and I thought I’d better see what I was being compared to. It’s a fantastic book; great characters and plot and craft, and I think the comparison is very flattering. If my book is even half as accomplished as David Nicholls’, I’ll be very happy. And if it’s even a tenth as successful, I’ll be delirious. I haven’t read The Rosie Project, so I can’t comment on that.
Thank you. Humour is probably easier – it comes more naturally to me. I can usually access the effect I want quite quickly. You have to tread so much more softly with sadness, though; taking care not to lapse into melodrama, cliché or farce.
To be honest, I didn’t write with an audience in mind. I just got the story down and made it as honest as possible. I would occasionally wonder how my wife or mother (the only two people I knew for sure would read it) would receive it, but even then I tend to push those thoughts away because I think they can stymie your progress. There’s always the second draft. And the third and the fourth. And, of course, my agent and editor.
I do have a new novel in the pipeline. It’s about making mistakes, changing minds, moving on. We’re supposed to learn by our mistakes, but what if all we really learn is the fact that we’re very bad at making good decisions? That what we are really good at, is making mistakes? And if you dwell on that idea, then it becomes increasingly difficult to trust yourself and your instincts and allow yourself to fall in love again and risk getting it wrong again. The new book features two such characters, so if they do get together, it’ll be a miracle.