Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. For those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit the clubhouse is via membership or invite to the clubhouse tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation I’ve had with a guest over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today I’m talking to Peter Jones about his writing. Hello Peter. It’s a lot time since we’ve chatted.
I’m delighted to be here, Paula. The Clubhouse tea is lovely. Real Builder’s tea here.
Now we have our drinks let me start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
“Chosen genre”? If I have a chosen genre, it’s called “things Peter wants to write about.” Hence the eclectic mix of self-help books (on the subjects of happiness, dating and weight loss), and three vaguely-romantic comedies. Choosing a genre might have been a better approach, but it feels so limiting.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
I’m about half way into the sequel of a novel that I finished earlier in the year. Both books are vaguely spy related, and loosely based on a couple of true stories or events. They’re also less funny. I mean, less funny that my other novels. There’s still humour there, but they’re “less laugh out loud” and more “wry smile”. This tea’s really lovely by the way? PG tips or Yorkshire?
Only the best of everything in the Clubhouse Tearoom so it has to be Yorkshire Tea ☕️ How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
Ooo.. let’s see. There’s the original sequel to The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl. Then there’s the first three chapters to my second attempt of the same book. There’s a few outlines for rom coms that Bookouture asked me for, and subsequently turned down (for the most bizarre reasons). There’s a short book on Tinder Dating that I’d lost interest in by the time I’d finished writing it – rather like Tinder Dating itself. And then there’s the first few chapters of a novel that I really hope to get back to one day.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter?
Neither. First comes “draft zero”. I sit down and write the most boring version of my book ever, telling ‘you the reader’ what happens in a blow by blow account. It’s a little like when you ask someone what the latest Harry Potter movie is like, and they proceed to tell you EVERYTHING, but in such a way that you really wish you’d never asked. When I’m done I take draft zero and turn it into a bullet pointed to do list. Then I start with chapter one. The synopsis is the very last thing you should ever write.
When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
Are you saying I’m a moody bugger? I mean, I am, but even so – rude! But yes, since you ask, my ‘mood swings’ do affect my writing. But then everything does. I can be having a conversation with someone about tea, tea bags, quarter tea spoons of sugar… and blow me down, it somehow makes it into the very next chapter!
😂🤣 I look forward to reading that😂🤣
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Sort of. My bestest buddy Rob was definitely the template for Alex (who appears in The Good Guy’s Guide to Getting The Girl). But my partner, Valerie, wins the prize for the most influence over my writing. Soon after we met I felt inspired to turn the short story I was writing into a novel, and set it in and around South London (and so I ended up with The Truth About This Charming Man). Val’s Ex (let’s call him… Steve) became the catalyst for my next novel, My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend. And the book I’ve just finished is based loosely on events in Val’s early twenties and her first job.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I have this really bad habit of deciding that it might be a really good idea to make my protagonist a teacher. Or have her go to Cambridge University. Or be really amazing at Netball. Or something of a budding poet. Or perhaps she’s found as a baby on the steps of a Catholic Church. In London. In the 1950s. And suddenly – being a man who was born in the late 1960s, and left school at 17 – I’m completely out of my depth! At times like these I do my best to track down the answers via google (yawn!), but by far my most powerful research tool is Facebook. I simply ask my ‘friends’ and I’m always astonished at the amount of material I get back, the quality, and where that might take me. People tell you things that a google search would never unearth.
You can actually see some of the questions I’ve asked here: https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/writingconundrum
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
At the moment I try and have two novel writing days a week (the rest of the time I’m doing less-interesting writing work – the day job, if you like). I aim to start writing at 7am, and finish around midday.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
Actually I set myself hourly words counts. Anything less than 200 words an hour and I give myself a stern talking to. I enter my hourly counts into a spreadsheet, and try and beat my Average WDWC (Writing Day Word Count) before I stop for lunch. The spreadsheet takes all this information and calculates the date I should, hopefully, finish my first draft. It’s quite motivating.
You can download a version of the spreadsheet here: https://peterjonesauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/calculating-your-novels-completion-date-spreadsheet-authortools/
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Funnily enough, my latest books might be published under a female pen-name. Both books are first person but told from the perspective of my female protagonists – I worry that if the reader knows the author is a man, then that might influence how they read the book. For instance, when my writing group read chapter one (of the book I’ve just finished), most of them didn’t twig that the narrator was a girl until about the third paragraph. That was a problem. I fixed it by dropping in the odd subtle clue here and there, but I suspect that writing under a suitable female-sounding pen-name might help set the scene even before the reader opens the book.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
Ugh! I hate coming up with names. In the book I’m currently writing I have two characters currently called Miss Xxx and Mr Xxx. I might ask Facebook at some point for name suggestions.
I do usually know quite a lot about the protagonist, but I discover much more whilst writing.
Quite often a tertiary character – who I never intended to appear for more than a page or two – suddenly blossoms into something more. One such character was Zlata, from The Truth About This Charming Man, who was only ever supposed to appear in one chapter, and then pretty much took over the entire book, and the book that followed.
I had so much positive feedback about Zlata that at one point she even acquired her own twitter account (@ZlataLovesCake) and a dating website (tiredofkissingfrogs.co.uk). And just when I thought I was done with her, her sister turned up in the book I’ve just finished.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I had to write my first sex scene about a year and a bit ago. That was a challenge! But aside from that, I often struggle with endings.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A novel takes a year. Self-help about six months.
Thank you so much for joining me, Peter.
It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.