Toot, toot, it’s a blog stop on the Jon Rance tour! Enjoy!
“Hello Rosie Blake fans and a big thank you to Rosie for having me on her website. This is the third stop on the blog tour for my new book ‘This Family Life’. If you missed the last one you can find it here http://mattdunnwrites.tumblr.com/
So today I’m going to talk about writing in the diary format. Oh that sounds boring, I hear you say. Well trust me, it isn’t (he says hopefully). When I wrote the first book in this series ‘This Thirtysomething Life’ I decided to write it like a diary because I felt it suited the sort of story I wanted to write. Also some of my favourite novels are diaries and it was something I wanted to experiment with. When I started writing it, however, I discovered that writing in that way is a lot more difficult than I thought. When you read books like ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ and ‘Adrian Mole’ it looks so easy, but trust me it isn’t. What I discovered very quickly is that writing a diary novel is exactly like writing a diary. You have to approach it in the same way. Once I realised that I really started to enjoy it.
Writing in the diary format lends itself perfectly to comedy. It’s short, snappy, you can write down such menial, ordinary things and it all becomes a part of the story. When I was writing the first book I started writing down what Harry was eating all the time. It became like a running joke throughout the book, which would never work with regular prose, but with the diary it made it seem more realistic and it really added to the character of Harry. The trivial details become a huge part of the story and the humour. By the end of the first book I had learnt to embrace the mundane and by the second, I think I really understood how to write in the diary format to get the most comedy out of it while still retaining a strong storyline.
The best thing about writing in the diary format is that everything doesn’t have to be connected. You can write one off entries that have nothing to do with the overall plot, but are just humorous observations on life. Writing like this gives you a freedom to be funny, to be creative, and it changes how you think and how you write. The hardest part is probably keeping it exciting and the plot moving along. Think about it. If you picked up a regular diary of someone you didn’t know, it would probably be quite boring and it’s easy when writing a diary novel to get lost in the day-to-day, but you have to keep the big picture in mind. I think in ‘This Family Life’ I’ve got a good balance between the two. I hope this hasn’t been boring, and if it has then I’m sorry, but hopefully the following extract will make you laugh. Also note how I use the diary format…OK I’ll stop while I’m ahead.
Off to see the play Mum’s calling, ‘The greatest moment of her life’. Obviously I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I’m happy for her, but on the other, this means that her performing in a play is greater than having and raising me – her only child.
The play was awful. Mum was, at best, not as terrible as the script or the direction. The play, ‘A Night with Julie’, was billed as a coming-of-age, post-feminist, post-modern comedy. What it didn’t say was that it was a play about a woman (Julie) going through menopause, told from the point of view of her vagina.
Basically, Mum played a giant, talking vagina – the costume was either surprisingly accurate or deeply disturbing, I’m not sure which, and they definitely took it too far when during an orgasm scene Mum shot liquid into the crowd. Apparently, it was meant to be symbolic, but all I saw was fifty disgusted, middle-aged people covered in fake woman-jizz. The best bit was when her husband Frank (a giant talking penis) tried to have sex with her, but she refused and so he chased her around the stage shouting, ‘Penis power!’ and Mum screamed back, ‘You can take away my ability to have children, but you’ll never take away my freedom!’ The actor in the penis, obviously constrained by the costume, had to hop around the stage and kept falling over and had to be helped up by Mum, which took away from some of the drama. The last time he fell off the stage, he almost landed in the wheelchair section. Nothing ruins a play like a giant penis squashing the disabled audience.
The real drama happened at the end of the night. Dad (who’d had a couple of stiff drinks at the interval) ended up threatening Larry Laverne. Larry Laverne, who I can only describe as something of a Hi-De-Hi, must have spent the last thirty years working the cabaret circuit and was wearing a beret. He called Mum, ‘The greatest thing that has ever happened to him’. And then he challenged Dad to a duel!
All in all, a truly terrible night. But at least it’s half-term and Emily’s parents have agreed to babysit William so we can go on a date.”
Want to know more about the book?
Things that might happen during your first year of parenthood:
1. You’ll get covered in a ‘nuclear’ poo.
2. You’ll be convinced your son is talking with a Japanese accent.
3. You’ll worry that when your son waves, it looks like a Nazi salute.
Of course, this might just be Harry Spencer.
Taking up where This Thirtysomething Life left off, Harry Spencer and is wife Emily are back and trying to survive their first year of parenthood. It has its ups and downs (and a few bits in the middle), but along the way they begin to understand the true meaning of family and what it takes to be a parent.
Featuring a hilarious cast of extras including Harry’s father-in-law Derek, who has a unique problem with Scotch, Steve and Fiona, the parents from children’s entertainment hell, and a yoga instructor with a prominent camel-toe, This Family Life is the ultimate comedy for anyone who is a parent, has a parent, or is thinking about becoming one.