Please join me in welcoming Simon Lipson on his Virtual Book Tour for his book Song in the Wrong Key. Simon was kind enough to answer some questions for me. Simon's tour will feature interviews, excerpts and reviews. You can follow it here.
Me: Most of the writing you've done is tied to your stand-up comedic routine. What prompted you to turn to writing full length novels? Did you always plan to write fiction?
Simon: I always fancied myself as a novelist, but could never quite muster the confidence to actually plan, plot and finish a book. It seemed so daunting. Eventually, I decided to give it a go and started writing Losing It, a psychological thriller, about 18 years ago when I was only just starting out in comedy and reading a lot of heavy books. I wrote about 50 pages, realised it was rubbish and forgot about it for 10 years until I finally got round to trying again. I think the book was ok, but I knew that if I ever wrote another, it would be within my natural genre of comedy. Hence, Song In The Wrong Key.
Me: You have self published both of your books, Losing It and Song in the Wrong Key. Can you tell us what prompted you to self publish? How have your experiences been with book sellers as a self published author?
Simon: I could have taken the traditional publishing route had I been more prepared to play the game. J K Rowling’s agent was very keen on representing me off the back of Losing It, but I got a little prissy about some suggested amendments – artistic integrity and all that – and walked away. What an idiot. I decided to self-publish some years later simply because it was sitting in a drawer doing nothing and I couldn’t be bothered starting again through the traditional route. It’s very time-consuming and rejections are hugely depressing. Song In The Wrong Key also earned me an agent. Sadly, he wasn’t up to the job and we parted company. A few other agents passed on it, figuring my ex-agent had covered all the bases. He hadn’t, but that’s another story. So I stuck it on Kindle to gauge reaction, rather than try again with agents. I subsequently published a paperback version through my own company and engaged a PR person. It has now been downloaded around 2000 times and been very well reviewed. This, in turn, has prompted the interest of another agent, so I may yet go traditional. That would be my preference, in all honesty.
Me: Can you tell us who or what inspired you to write "Song in the Wrong Key" and make the hero of the story, Michael Kenton, a middle aged married man whose life is literally falling apart?
Simon: I’m very drawn to stories about Ordinary Joes who, late in life, suddenly rise to prominence through the arts. Like Mike, I was a thwarted musician who might have made music my career had I been less focused on doing something ‘sensible’. I became a lawyer – sorry – but managed to break free. Mike is a plodder, though, professionally unfulfilled but unambitious with it. I was lucky to find a means of expressing my ‘creative’ side through comedy, which I only took up when I was 34. Mike’s opportunity comes about at 42 as an indirect result of his marriage crumbling. Like Mike, I have two daughters (and Mike’s are based on mine as kids) but my marriage is very happy (Note to self: don’t get too smug). So the book has some parallels with my life, but it’s certainly not a mirror. I just wanted to write something funny, something real and something with heart.
Me: In "Song in the Wrong Key" Michael is trying to revive his frustrated and discarded musical career. Do you yourself play any musical instruments?
Simon: I’m a desperately average guitarist. I’d like to say my voice is my instrument, but that would be pretentious and somewhat at odds with the sound it makes!
Me: Is the Eurovision Song Contest a real event? If so have you ever attended?
Simon: Oh yes! It’s huge. Some 200m people tune in annually. Over the years, it’s gone from being a genuine contest based on the quality of the songs to a tacky, glittery kitsch-fest dominated by the Baltic and Balkan countries who have swarmed all over it since they were granted entry after the Wall came down. I have never attended and rarely watch it on TV now. The songs are generally lowest-common-denominator rubbish and the voting has become political, which seems silly for something so frivolous.
Me: For those of us that are non-British, can you explain the term Euro-tack?
Simon: I guess I’ve answered that above.
Me: Can you tell us what you are currently reading?
Simon: I’ve just finished Jubilee by Shelley Harris, a brilliant account of Britain in the late 1970s as well as an intriguing mystery. I’m reading Charlotte Street by a romcom by a young British writer/comedian called Danny Wallace. I’m champing at the bit awaiting Tom Wolfe’s next book.
Me: Are you currently working on another book?
Simon: I actually finished it a while back, but decided to adapt it into a TV sitcom rather than publish. A couple of production companies are currently interested, but I now intend to publish the novel anyway after I’ve done a serious edit, hopefully in the Autumn (Fall?). It’s called Standing Up and is about a lawyer who gets into stand-up comedy in order to revive his relationship with an old flame. Similar themes in many ways to Song In The Wrong Key.
Quick 5 Get to Know You:
Me: Favorite Football team (Yes the British kind we call soccer):
Simon: Tottenham Hotspur (perennial under-achievers)
Me: Favorite Color:
Simon: Green. Don’t know why and I never wear it. I think I used to say ‘green’ when I was a kid because no-one else did - and I never grew out of it.
Me: Favorite Food:
Simon: Easy! Chocolate.
Me: Favorite Comic, who is not you:
Simon: US: Jerry Seinfeld/Larry David/Louis CK. UK: Michael McIntyre
Me: Favorite Movie
Simon: Difficult question. I see so many. Of recent films I’ve seen, The King’s Speech was pretty good.
Song In The Wrong Key by Simon Lipson
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 Bio:
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.
Buy links – paperback and Kindle:
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