If you were to ask most men whether they read romantic fiction, they’d probably give you one of those blokey sniggers and go off and watch the football with a beer. Not me, of course…I don’t drink. But the truth is that most of us are drawn to romantic themes, if not necessarily romantic books; men just don’t like to admit it. And I think it’s fair to say that even determinedly literary or hard-nosed fiction often has a romantic heart. Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd, for example (not one of my favourites) seems to be about everything but romance; murders, conspiracies, evil-doing…yet an unlikely love story emerges from all this chaos. And I could quote many other examples. We’re human and most of us harbour a romantic sensibility, even if some of us have to dig deeper than others to find it.
If I had to place Song In The Wrong Key within a specific genre, I’d suggest contemporary humorous fiction, yet readers have variously described it as ‘women’s fiction’ ‘chicklit’ ‘manlit’ ‘romcom’ and ‘rubbish’. Ok, that last one isn’t true (not at the time of writing, anyway!). All of these (except ‘rubbish’) imply a romantic theme, whether major or minor. My principal themes in the book are marriage, family, friendship, career issues and following one’s dreams, but at the heart of the story is the re-ignition of an old flame. Protagonist Mike Kenton’s marriage appears contented rather than passionate – well it’s been 20 years – but he’s quite happy to plod his way through to retirement safe in the belief that his family unit – wife Lisa and daughters Millie and Katia – is secure. It is only when he loses his job that his life derails and everything he holds dear is jeopardised.
I thought long and hard about the nature of Mike’s marriage. Both he and Lisa have apparently settled for what they have, yet both recognise that something isn’t right. They remain affectionate, but love seems to have got lost somewhere along the way. I would venture that many long relationships fall into this kind of rut. Not mine, of course. 22 years, and it don’t seem a day too long…well maybe a day. Ahem. I jest. But many of us in long term relationships remember someone from our past who still represents pre-domesticity passion and unfinished business. As a young man, I was madly in love with a woman who didn’t love me back quite as much. We were only a couple for about 18 tumultuous months, but I didn’t get over her until I met my wife several years later. It’s not uncommon, I think, to keep an old flame burning and I wanted to explore this theme in the context of a faithful husband who can’t bring himself to accept that his marriage isn’t perfect.
I approached the entire story from a comedic perspective – Mike, the first person narrator – eschews emotional depth, covering everything in a thick layer of sarcasm – but as the story progresses, he comes to accept certain emotional truths and explore his feelings. I like to think the book is deeply romantic, even if it takes a while before you get there!
If you get a chance to read the book, I’d love to hear what you think.
Song In The Wrong Key
Michael Kenton is a middle-aged man living in middle-class comfort with wife Lisa and daughters Millie and Katia. Drifting complacently towards retirement, Mike’s world is turned upside-down when he is thrown unexpectedly onto the career scrapheap.
While Lisa’s career sky-rockets, Mike slobs around in his track suit playing guitar, rekindling his teenage love affair with pop music. Knowing Lisa wouldn’t approve, he plots a secret ‘comeback’ at a grimy Crouch End bistro where music executive Ben, desperate and out of time, asks if he can enter one of Mike’s songs into the Eurovision Song Contest. With nothing to lose, Mike focuses on Eurovision but quickly finds himself staring down the barrel of low level fame. His crumbling marriage now page five news, he must choose between his musical dream and mending his broken family, a task complicated by the re-appearance of ex-love of his life Faye.
A laugh-out-loud comedy about love, family, friendship and Euro- tack by acclaimed stand-up and comedy writer Simon Lipson.
Simon Lipson was born in London and took a law degree at the LSE. After a spell as a lawyer, he co-founded legal recruitment company Lipson Lloyd-Jones in 1987. In 1993, Simon took his first tentative steps onto the comedy circuit and has since become an in-demand stand-up and impressionist across the UK, as well as a regular TV and radio performer/writer. His broadcasting credits include Week Ending, Dead Ringers, Loose Ends and Fordham & Lipson (co-wrote and performed own 4 part sketch series) on Radio 4; Interesting…Very Interesting and Simon Lipson’s Xmas Box on Radio 5 and And This Is Them on Radio 2. He is also an experienced voice artiste who has voiced hundreds of advertisements as well as cartoons and documentaries. His first novel, Losing It, a thriller, was published by Matador in 2008. Simon is a columnist for Gridlock Magazine (www.gridlockmagazine.com).His next novel, Standing Up, will be published by Lane & Hart in Autumn 2012.
Where to buy it
My show, The Accidental Impressionist, is on at the Camden Fringe 20 – 23 August @ 8pm. Everyone welcome! Details and tickets here: http://j.mp/JDPBnu