– ‘The Magic Of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Gap Years’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote the book I have a guest post written by its author, Dave Holwill, but b
About the Author :
Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
Gap Years is his third novel – following on the heels of Weekend Rockstars and The Craft Room, and he is currently working on the fourth (a folk horror set in his native mid-Devon) and a sequel to Weekend Rockstars.
19 year old Sean hasn’t seen his father since he was twelve. His mother has never really explained why. An argument with her leads to his moving to the other side of the country.
Martin, his father, has his life thrown into turmoil when the son he hasn’t seen in nearly eight years strolls back into his life immediately killing his dog and hospitalising his step-daughter.
The one thing they have in common is the friendship of a girl called Rhiannon.
Over the course of one summer Sean experiences sexual awakenings from all angles, discovers the fleeting nature of friendship and learns to cope with rejection.
Martin, meanwhile, struggles to reconnect with Sean while trying to delicately turn down the increasingly inappropriate advances of a girl he sees as a surrogate daughter and keep a struggling marriage alive.
Gap Years is an exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st Century seen from two very different perspectives – neatly hidden inside a funny story about bicycles, guitars and unrequited love.
Guest Post :
In the world of fiction, Not-London is a strange place, a place for people to be from – striving through their young lives to get to the bright lights of London town; or a place to go and hide, to get away from the stresses and strains of the high-powered lives they lead in the capital. It is peopled by those who have failed, those who are resigned to lead lives of no meaning and quirky, menacing characters that will derail the hero’s quest. A place for young, go-getting, couples to relocate to before being terrorised by ungrateful locals.
Of course in reality we all know this is untrue, but the way our creative industries work in the UK has made it a fictional inevitability. For as long as anyone can remember, in order to ‘make it’ in the arts, one has had to live in London. This leads to a skewed view in fiction, since the most visible is written by Londoners, and one has to write what you know. It’s not a conscious bias, but it’s there – for the same reasons that Doctor Who now finds herself in Sheffield all the time, and used to keep popping up in Cardiff – convenience (and yes there was a lot of London in there wasn’t there?)
I have never lived in London, I’ve never even lived in a city. I’m quite happy that way, but I visit the capital at least a couple of times a year, because I like art, music and theatre, and have realised one needs to go to London to soak it up properly. I know the streets well enough, I’ve been walking them since the 1980s, and watched them change. Thanks to the magic of TV, books and movies, I feel like I have spent a lot more time there than I actually have. Although I still believe it is an alternate London, a magical, diverse place where everybody gets on, raises their hats and says good morning to one another. But this is because my memories have provided me with the London of Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear books, that probably never existed.
I exaggerate of course, but London is not the utopia Lord Kitchener (the grandmaster of Calypso, not the inventor of the concentration camp) sang of in 1948, it wasn’t that place in 1948. But because the media is run from London, by people with a certain life experience, that is what we are shown, and that is what we expect: the working classes left in as an afterthought, victims and suspects, suitable for our sympathies. As a Not-Londoner, I set my stories in my native Not-London (Devon, to be precise) and try and make sure it has at least a basis in the reality I live every day. Representation is important.
I recently read a book set in the very part of North Devon in which I grew up, and found it to be completely unrecognisable. I suspect the writer – who did briefly live in Devon, I checked – has a very different lived experience as a former city dweller who moved here in adulthood. He gave it the kind of public transport links that most of us can only dream of and wrote of life in the large, beautiful sea-front houses that locals know are only ever lived in for half of the year as if that was the real community. It did well, it was a popular book, amongst the London publishing insiders who could relate. I could not, as an actual person who lives in Devon and knows that we need cars here, big petrol-belching monsters that mean we don’t have to sit for hours in the rain waiting for cancelled trains and broken down buses and that the majority of us live on the sold-off former council estates on the outskirts of town.
Representation is everything these days, and yet still the most represented characters in fiction all seem to live and work in London – whatever their colour, creed, gender or sexual orientation – mostly as journalists, freelance writers and editors, if they aren’t troubled Detectives. In my own small way, I’m trying to stand up for that most under-represented of peoples, the Not-Londoner. It may not seem like the biggest battle, but it’s the only one I have, and the hill I shall ultimately die on.
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