Q&A About My Next Novel SOMERFLIP
My third novel, SOMERFLIP, is a black comedy about small town legends and reputations, father and sons, machismo and beer. Here is a Q&A I did with a friend that’ll give you a little more insight into the origins of the story, what it’s about, and all that jazz.
What is Somerflip about?
Local legends, stories and people who become larger than life based on people’s accounts of their lives and actions. That’s the arty-farty response. The truth is that it’s about two drunk idiots, one of which witnessed something when he was drunk that has helped a local man with a tough reputation become a legend in his town, which is something that means nothing to him, but has consequences for both him and his family during the story.
You’re from a small town yourself. How much of Somerflip is based on your own experiences?
What I like to do with everything I write – because I’m not very talented and also because I’m very lazy – is to take something that has happened to me, my friends, my family; or something that I’ve heard, and take it to a place of absurdity, darkness, comedy and tragedy. I embellish things that have happened to me all the time. For example, if I watch a film and I love it, it’s instantly the best film I’ve ever seen. And when it’s not very good, it’s a biggest piece of shit that’s ever been made. All I’ve done with this novel is take something that I witnessed when I was drunk and looked at it from the perspective of the people of the town I grew up in – at least how I perceived those people to be.
The Somerflip itself.
It really happened?
As far as I’m aware. I was walking home drunk with a friend, I came across another friend who was carrying some chicken balls, and I we stood chatting for a moment. Then suddenly this other drunk guy came the opposite way, mumbled something and then knocked his food out of his hand. My friend hit the guy with an uppercut and he did a flip in mid-air. At least, that’s what I think I saw. I’m convinced he did a flip, and the guy I was with said the same thing. But would it hold up in court? No. We were drunk idiots. Our word would count for nothing. As it shouldn’t.
So that was the starting point. Where did the rest of the story come from?
The main character is based on a guy I went to school with, who was a big softy yet built like Wladimir Klitschko, and for some reason people used to pick fights with him, despite of the fact he was twice the size of anyone else. People with no brains who wanted to be known for being tough guys thought that he was somebody to test themselves against, and they always came up short.
I always found this interesting, and rife for comedy, and tragedy. I mean, why would anybody want to go through life constantly looking over their shoulder for idiots who want to fight you? I wanted to tell a story about a guy who is cursed by his reputation, and who is trying too hard to prevent his reputation from being passed down to his son, who is a sweet, carefree kid without an ounce of aggression in his body.
Myths. Legends. Beer. Explain…?
The story is split between the main character Rob, who is having an uneventful day with his wife and son, and scenes in a pub, where Andy and Ben – two bricklayers who have finished work for the week – are getting drunk and talking rubbish. They’re the kind of lads you meet in these small towns, who talk about the tough guys they know like they’re gunslingers from the Old West. But in most cases, they were just guys who went to work, came home, went to the pub at the weekend and knocked somebody out at 1am outside of a chip shop. But when people like Andy and Ben get hold of a story like that, it becomes legend. It’s sad and funny at the same time. At least in my head.
Things get a little hairy when a couple of Londoners turn up at the pub looking for Rob, with retribution on their minds…
How would you best describe Somerflip to potential readers?
It’s a black comedy with a melancholy vibe. My biggest influences during the writing were Martin McDonagh and Shane Meadows: guys who can capture simple, small town stories and make them beautiful, hilarious and sad. I remember my days growing up around people who were constantly fighting as exactly that, and I wanted to capture that time of my life.
I want people to laugh, then to think “I knew a guy like that” and to go on their own journey. Everyone has a memory of somebody like Rob, or have known people who thrive on their stories, like Andy and Ben do in Somerflip. Many of the local legends where I grew up ended up in jail, died from drugs and/or alcohol or are now propping up the bar as a shadow of their former selves. Rob’s story is a cautionary tale, and it takes place at a time in his life when he could go either way.