The subject of equality and how men act towards women has only become more relevant since I wrote The Joy of Ex.

The novel follows the story of a bet between two [male] friends about the nature of love and whether someone who once loved you can love you again.

The novel was written from the point of view of the men – they always say write about what you know – but I wanted to extenuate the pressures which make men behave the way they do towards women.

The ongoing themes were the three “M”s of marriage, maternity and mortgage which I had found men so feared.

They build up walls and hide from each of these types of commitment – some of these issues more than others (and some men more than other men), I depict a protagonist who has a mortgage, but a profound fear of marriage and maternity.

This created a tale to explore these themes, against a back drop of a bet, which only heightened the sense of disconnect from women.

When I first sent the manuscript to agents I got a call from one. I was pleased, I had a list of 70+ agents to send the manuscript to and the first round had resulted in a call. I assumed there would be more calls.

Flashback to 2001 and my previous novel, UHF Shadow I had sent this to lots of agents and one had called back. It was a Wednesday, I know as I was in the office late on deadline day putting the newspaper to bed and I took the call and walked away from my desk, the journalists and subs watching me stroll off to take a private call on my mobile. She wanted to see the whole novel as she liked the sample chapters I had sent. I sent these off the next day. I didn’t get a deal. But I learnt my work was good enough for all of it to be seen by an agent.

Back to the novel in hand (I may well write more about UHF Shadow another day).

I knew The Joy of Ex was better than UHF Shadow, the main criticism from people who read the earlier work was there was a story, but the premise was weak.

I took on board the constructive criticism and The Joy of Ex was premise through and through – that bet was a beautiful premise upon which hung lots of episodes which built up into a whole narrative.

In the great Chekov tradition, I loaded lots of bullets at the start and shot them off one by one. With the biggest one being shot with the reveal of the reason behind his fear of marriage and maternity.

When I took the call about The Joy of Ex after sending out only the the first wave of samples, I figured there were going to be lots of calls.

This agent said she liked the concept and would sign the book if I agreed to do one thing for her.

As I say, this was the first wave of samples, I assumed there would be lots of interest if this was anything to go by.

She asked for a complete re-write of the novel to make it from a woman’s point of view.

This: a) seemed like a bucket load of work; and b) would mean writing about something I didn’t know – I’d never been a woman, so how could I write as one?

I said: “No”.

Talk about a sliding doors moment.

That one word has no doubt defined everything which has happened to me since I spoke that simple syllable.

No other agent even so much as called me.

Sanitised versions of my concept sprung up. Maybe this is coincidence and maybe this is connected. I will never know for sure.

Since I wrote the novel the concept of toxic masculinity has become something I am aware of. Thanks in part to Tim Winton, a great Australian novelist who has an ongoing theme around masculinity in our modern world.

The two men in The Joy of Ex are completely toxic. I even led the reader up a garden path of redemption towards the end of the novel*, only for it to roll away with the wind. He was just too toxic for salvation.

I had always intended the protagonist to be an anti hero. A bastard who perhaps women would love to hate.

The type of male I was trying to create would be just the type of guy women flocked to the worse his alpha male behaviour became.

I wrote The Joy of Ex intentionally to be challenging and thought provoking. There is a line in The Doors where Val Kilmer’s Jim Morrison says: “I guess I always liked being hated” – this line was in my mind as I wrote the novel and I think this shines from the character.

Indeed, the close of the novel refers to the protagonist knowing he was exactly what his sister had called him.

I had used the word already in the novel, so avoided a second C-bomb at the end, feeling the repeat would detract from the power of using it in the first place.

The Joy of Ex was published more than a decade ago. It had premise and a plot.

In retrospect, I think I could have made the irony around the toxicity of these men more apparent. Hindsight is 2020.

Life is all about learning and I know the jump from book to book has made me a better writer, both in terms of reflecting on what I had written and the time passing between each.

In the end I self-published The Joy of Ex as I had drafted it and didn’t sell many copies. But it can be purchased for Kindle from Amazon here.

I am working on a new novel, but that is a story for another day. Hopefully a decade from now I will not be lamenting either not getting my message across as I had intended, nor another sliding doors moment over the fate of this new book.

* I certainly played with the idea of a cut away where Lorna Adams goes home to her fatherless son, but I felt that was letting them both off the hook and didn’t stand up in the logic of the narrative, so got cut.

The digital era brings problems for those who produce copyrighted material.

Ever since the era the tape recorder the copyright producing industry has fought against pirating. CDs, PC and especially MP3s made the situation worse. Napster screwed the whole music industry (and ensured I would never buy another Metallica album).

More or less the iStore and various other legal download sites have now made the situation less bad (as well as the Spotify model)

The one-time super star DJ Carl Cox has come up with a different approach (possibly because of the terms of business with the legal download sites / Spotify -esque models, but I donot know for sure), his latest album All Roads Lead to the Dance Floor is being released as a USB stick. The stick will update with new tracks and other multi media goodies over time. Sounds like a good idea?

I am not convinced. Why doI have to buy a piece of external media to own an album? I stopped doing that when I ceased purchasing CDs. Why would I replace one form of external media which came with nice paper packaging for a USB stick, which has  the artists name written on, but really, isn’t that special.Can I transfer the Carl Cox tracks from the USB onto a portable MP3 player? Can I only listen to the tracks when i plug the stick into a device? Why can’t it just live on the cloud like everything else is starting to?

Apologies Carl, I think this idea is not going to take off for the general consumer (loyal fans may find it tolerable).

Google, the web giant, have an application called Google Books.

There was a court case not so long ago. And read what Google say about the court case too.

What long-term effect this will all have on publishing remains to be seen, but I am sure there will be changes. Google are the kings of free content are they not?

At present, copyright holders can upload their work and limit access to bits of the material. They can choose to allow access to all of the material if they wish and restrict download, again if they wish.

Google Books then links to places such as Amazon where you can purchase the book you have tried out on their site.

I imagine, the book sellers linked to from the Google Books page pay some commission to Google for the sales made via these links.

I assume, at some point Google will also (if it hasn’t already) further monetize this section of its empire through some kind of advertiser paid search facility.

I am not sure exactly how Google Books will change the publishing industry, as I have mentioned before there is so much else already happening in the industry. Is this the most significant change, or is it just one of many, many changes that will add together to change the industry?

Right now, I am not sure any of us can answer with that much certainty.

What I can say is, at present, I see no reason to be against what Google are doing.

You can have a read of extracts of my books using Google Books and if you like what you see click the link and buy it.

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