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.

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My first published book The Joy of Ex  is available from Amazon here.

The Joy of Ex was published in 2008 on Oktober Books.

The back page blurb says:

“It all starts with a drunken bet, well actually it starts with a lot of Jose Cuervo, some casual sex with strangers and a drunken concept, the drunken bet kind of follows naturally along behind. Nick is convinced the spark that gets a girl to sleep with him is still there between them forever, however the relationship ends.

His best mate Blake doesn’t agree. Instead Blake believes the fire between two people is gone, on one side at least, when things come to an end.

To find out who is right Nick bets Blake he cannot seduce and bed six of his ex girlfriends/one nighters – and provide photographic evidence. So is an ex girlfriend ripe for seduction, or is everything truly over when one partner says goodbye? Blake is about to find out when he discovers The Joy of Ex.”

My first published book is available from Amazon here.

The Joy of Ex was published in 2008 on Oktober Books.

The back page blurb says:

“It all starts with a drunken bet, well actually it starts with a lot of Jose Cuervo, some casual sex with strangers and a drunken concept, the drunken bet kind of follows naturally along behind. Nick is convinced the spark that gets a girl to sleep with him is still there between them forever, however the relationship ends.

His best mate Blake doesn’t agree. Instead Blake believes the fire between two people is gone, on one side at least, when things come to an end.

To find out who is right Nick bets Blake he cannot seduce and bed six of his ex girlfriends/one nighters – and provide photographic evidence. So is an ex girlfriend ripe for seduction, or is everything truly over when one partner says goodbye? Blake is about to find out when he discovers The Joy of Ex.”

The Great Wide Open

May 26, 2011

My first attempt at writing a novel (now refined) is available from:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1222989

This is a re-working of the novel I had a go at writing when I was 16.
Probably 65% of the content is from 1993 and the rest a bit of a re-write in 1999 and a further re-write to pull it all together in 2009.

The back page blurb says:
“When you are 16 the adult world is a great wide open space full of possibilities. Or at least it should be.
The grunge-fuelled early 1990s, saw the last of Generation X reach adulthood.
Will and his friends are among the last born to this desolate, degenerate generation.
They are full of hormones, full of alcohol and full of fears about the grown up world.”

My first published book is available from Amazon here.

The Joy of Ex was published in 2008 on Oktober Books.

The back page blurb says:

“It all starts with a drunken bet, well actually it starts with a lot of Jose Cuervo, some casual sex with strangers and a drunken concept, the drunken bet kind of follows naturally along behind. Nick is convinced the spark that gets a girl to sleep with him is still there between them forever, however the relationship ends.

His best mate Blake doesn’t agree. Instead Blake believes the fire between two people is gone, on one side at least, when things come to an end.

To find out who is right Nick bets Blake he cannot seduce and bed six of his ex girlfriends/one nighters – and provide photographic evidence. So is an ex girlfriend ripe for seduction, or is everything truly over when one partner says goodbye? Blake is about to find out when he discovers The Joy of Ex.”

UHF Shadow, one of my older novels, written in 2000 / 01 is now available to buy:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1537046

You can also look through some preview pages at this link.

The back page blurb says:

“Ever felt like you were not quite tuned into the rest of the world?
Do you watch things happen all around you, but whatever you do, none of your actions seem to make any difference in the world?
Do people mistake you for someone else, think you are someone they should know, should care about?
Have you ever felt like the only impression you have made on this planet is your name being tattooed on the backside of your first lover?
Ever felt like you were the UHF Shadow you get behind people on a television set which is not quite tuned in fully?
This novel is for anyone who has ever felt out of place in the world, out of tune with reality, or like a child wearing grown ups clothing.”

Print is dead?

September 20, 2010

Anyone with a big interest in digital publishing should check out this book: Print is Dead by Jeff Gomez. (At time of writing I can only see a paperback and hardback version available on Amazon, think someone is missing a trick here by not having a digital version…)

Jeff is a  senior director of online consumer sales and marketing for Penguin Group USA – so he knows his apples.

I read his book while in Zante last year sat by the pool and mostly found it enlightening.

The only real area I disagreed with him was on pricing of digital books. As I recall his argument was that publishers needed to charge the prices they do to ensure they could keep their staff in their offices doing the fine work they do.

This mostly amounts to quality control of submissions that go on to become books and then editing the text and laying them out before distributing them.

In my previous post I mentioned Gail Rebuck of Random House, in her Media Guardian interview she said: “Publishers are relevant. We have practical expertise and, of course, money. We give our authors advances which enable them to concentrate on their work in hand … My idea of hell is a website with 80,000 self-published works on it – some of which might be jewels, but, frankly, who’s got the time? What people want is selection and frankly that’s what we do.”

The argument from the established publishing houses appears to be the high prices of digital books needs to be maintained so THEY can offer the paying public quality control.

For some reason I quite like the idea of a website with 80,000 self published works – I suspect the collective readers of the internet will let you know what is good and what isn’t – hasn’t Gail just described YouTube (I recommend the video I link to here btw) but for books???

Anyone interested in setting up such a site should email me at edd@edwardkeating.co.uk

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