I’m delighted to welcome R J Gould to my blog today. R J Gould (aka Richard) released A Street Cafe Named Desire with Accent Press last month and it’s a brilliant read. My review will be posted later today (click here to get hold of your copy). Richard could also be considered quite a rarity, writing in such a female populated genre so I was really looking forward to quizzing him on on where he gets his ideas from, how he came up with that fantastic title (I love it!) and what he’s working on at the moment…
I’m male. I appreciate that approximately half the world’s population share this characteristic, but when it comes to writing in the Romance genre, I’m pretty unusual. That’s so very apparent when I go to Romantic Novelists Association events where it really is possible to play a spot the man game. I think my writing only fits loosely into the Romance category, I write about people, their emotions and their relationships with, I hope, a strong sense of humour.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest novel, A Street Cafe Named Desire (released 14th December 2014)?
This is the story of David and Bridget who meet at a twenty-five year school reunion. At school they weren’t part of the in crowd, he was a dreamer and she, let’s call her a late developer. Both are going through difficult times, with partners, their teenage children, at work, and the story at one level is how they try to offload a lot of baggage in an attempt to start a relationship. The story is largely told through the eyes of David who has the dream of opening an arts café.
A Street Cafe Named Desire sounds like a brilliant read. What gave you the idea for this storyline?
I used to teach in Holland and the students were only about ten years younger than me. It was an international school with a strong culture of staying in touch. Eventually I agreed to join students and teachers at a twenty-five year reunion and I was fascinated by how some people had hardly changed since at school and some were unrecognisable. This event sparked the idea for my novel – from that point on everything is fictional!
I love the title ‘A Street Cafe Named Desire’. What inspired you to come up with this title and can you give us a clue as to how it relates to the novel?
The simple answer is that I really do think it would be a neat name for an arts café. But to let you into a secret – my publisher, Accent Press, decided that A Street Café Named Desire should be their first release, but it isn’t the first novel I’ve written. I have this in-joke of including this café in some small and very different way in each novel I write.
I always enjoy reading contemporary romances which are told from the male point of view. Is David a completely fictional character or is he based on anyone in real life?
David is completely fictional, but of course bits of people you have met get chucked into the melting pot. Authors have different ways of creating their characters, some spend ages building up a profile ahead of starting to write. I don’t do that because I find that my characters change as the plot develops. Sometimes their thoughts and actions literally surprise me. It’s when I’m editing that I collate the protagonists’ traits to ensure they’re consistent and realistic.
How do you find writing for a genre that’s typically female dominated?
The genre is female dominated in two ways, by those who write romance and those who read it. From my experience so far, women readers are interested in the male perspective, although I do think my writing provides strong female voices, too. Perhaps the irony and humour in my novels is more common with male writers, but I wouldn’t want to generalise.
I think writing is shifting from traditional gender stereotypes. A Romantic Fiction course I did quite a while back identified the formulaic pathway – the woman hates the man to start with, another seemingly good but actually bad man gets in the way, there’s a female best friend who’s either a genuine support or two-faced, the man and woman can’t possibly end up together, but incredibly they actually do (and live happily ever after). There’s still a big market for this type of story but fortunately the genre is widening for several real-world reasons, for instance the power balance between mem and women is much less one-sided than in the past, a single life-long relationship with ‘the one’ is increasingly rare.
Can you tell us a bit about your other novel, The Engagement Party and short story, Domestic Blisslessness?
The Engagement Party was another idea sparked by an actual event, a family occasion when the two sets of parents met for the first time and there were eight of them – actual parents, step-parents and partners. From that real point it is fictional with all sorts of conflicts between current and ex-partners plus the imminent meeting of two families with very different backgrounds. He story spans the week leading up to the party and the day of the celebration itself. Domestic Blisslessness is a taster for a story I’m in the process of writing.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
I’m a member of Cambridge Writers, a group that meets to read and discuss each other’s’ work. A couple of years ago a group of five of us had each completed a novel and had received considerable praise from agents but no takers. We decided to go it alone and e-publish on Amazon. We shared ideas about publishing and marketing and were successful in terms of number of downloads and good reviews. I decided to have another go at getting mainstream published, in part the decision based on the increased difficulty of getting visibility due to the high volume of books going onto Kindle. I was selected for the New Writers Scheme of the Romantic Novelists Association and the very positive review I received was a major help in being offered an Accent Press contract.
Who are your favourite authors and what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
This varies according to mood but the books I read must have strong characters, though of course plot is important too. Sarah Waters is high on my list of favourites, I thought Fingersmith was outstanding and that got me into Victorian pastiche like Alias Grace (Atwood), The Crimson Petal and the White (Faber) and The Observations (Harris).
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
The Engagement Party will be released by Accent Press in Spring 2015 and ahead of that, I anticipate some discussion about revisions with my editor. I’ve completed a third book, Nothing Man, and will be passing that on soon. It’s the story of a man with such low self-esteem that he is contemplates suicide (yes, it is humorous) and his helter-skelter journey to fulfilment. I’m currently writing the novel that includes the theme in Domestic Blisslessness.
A huge thank you to Richard for participating in this interview. ♥
Click here to get your copy of A Street Cafe Named Desire