Forfatter-interview #72 Simon Packham

Simon Packham.JPG

OMKRING BOGEN Hemmeligheden om mig

Mention three fun facts that your fans maybe don’t know about you:

Two of my favourite activities are eating pizza and swimming in the sea.

I was one half of a comedy double act called ‘The Amazing Spendinis’.

I deliberately avoid eating eggs and owning a mobile phone. (I mean separately of course. The chances of anyone finding me eating an egg at the same time as carrying a mobile phone are about a million to one!)

When did you know that you wanted to become an author?

My Dad was a teacher and playwright. So I saw from an early age the elation (though rare) of a manuscript being accepted and the desolation when a script plopped through the letterbox with a photocopied rejection letter. I think I always knew that I wanted to be part of it.

How long have you been writing? And what started it?

I started writing plays when I was about 7 years old, and (much later!) had a couple of performed at London fringe theatres. My main ambition was to become an actor, (which I was for twenty years) but I always intended to write a novel at some point. I started writing seriously when I gave up acting and became a stay at home dad for our two children. It took me about seven years to get my first book published.

Who discovered you? (Did you contact publishing houses? How was the process?)

My first novel ‘The Opposite Bastard’ was published by Macmillan New Writing, an imprint which allowed you to send unsolicited manuscripts direct to the publisher. My children’s and young adult writing (which I started mainly to amuse my young – now 22 year old – son) was taken on by a literary agent who then found me a publisher.

How many books have you published (so far)? And which genre?

I have published seven novels so far. My first book ‘The Opposite Bastard’ is a black comedy for adults and the rest are a mixture of children’s and young adult fiction.

Why this story? What made you choose this specific theme?

For the one and only time in my writing life, the story came to me after a chance meeting. We always spend Christmas day at my sister’s house. And at dinner, I found myself sitting next to a teenage, transgender boy who was a friend of the family. I was already interested in writing about identity, but the things he told me about transitioning and how difficult it was for him at school were both inspiring and depressing at the same time. He also offered to help me with my research, and by the end of the Christmas holidays I’d more or less plotted Lauren’s story.

What inspires you to write? Which authors have inspired you? (Music, art, things in life?)

I think it’s probably the need to try and make some kind of sense of a sometimes incomprehensible world. I also think that writers tend to write about what frightens them most. In my case it’s probably death, not telling people you love them and being misunderstood. Plus which, I have always had a strong desire to make people laugh. As for inspiration, my Dad, who is still sending out manuscripts at the age of 93, is a great example of the tenacity required to be a writer. It’s little things that often inspire me too: a conversation overheard in a restaurant; a man with balloon sitting outside a hospital.

So many writers have inspired me over the years, but probably the greatest influences (although sadly, it doesn’t show) have been Richmal Crompton (who wrote the William stories) Evelyn Waugh, Bret Easton Ellis and especially George Orwell.

What is the message of your book? How should the reader interpret it?

I’d never try to tell a reader how to interpret one of my books. But I suppose, if ‘Only We Know’ is about anything, it’s about tolerance and the desirability for good communication and a world where you are free to be completely open about yourself.

How do you identify with the character(s) in your book?

There’s definitely a part of me in all of my characters, even if I have to dig deeper to find it in some of them. I approach this rather like I would a part as an actor; researching their backgrounds, their ways of moving and speaking, their favourite TV shows etc and core beliefs. Sometimes I try to live like the characters too. For instance, when I was writing ‘Firewallers’ (a book about a girl who goes to live in a remote island community where technology is forbidden) I didn’t use the internet, watch television or read a newspaper.

What are you currently reading?

The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz

Mention 3 book titles that you wish to recommend:

This is easily the hardest question because there are so many to choose from. But here are three books that I have really enjoyed at different stages in my life: ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ (J.D.Salinger) ‘The Debt To Pleasure’ (John Lanchester) ‘The Secret History’ (Donna Tartt)

When is your next book going to be published?

For the first time in ten years, I’m afraid I have no idea. But I’m working on two books at the moment that I’m hoping my agent will be able to place for me. My most recently published work is a German Edition of ‘Silenced’ (‘Stumme Helden lügen nicht’)



Twitter: @baldambitions

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