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The Worm Hole Podcast Episode 08: Andrew Blackman (On the Holloway Road; A Virtual Love)

Charlie Place and Andrew Blackman (On the Holloway Road; A Virtual Love) discuss life on the road, following in Jack Kerouac’s footsteps, offline and online identity, writing an entire book about a character but never giving them a voice, current climate change activism, and withholding – for very good reason – the endings your readers expect.

Andrew’s round up of his travels in 2019
A list of selected articles written

Release details: recorded 27th January 2020; published 10th February 2020

Andrew’s social media: Twitter || Website

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Show notes:

Question Index
Book Purchasing Links
Photo Credit Line

Question Index

00:57 You’ve been travelling for quite a few years now, can you tell us more about this?
01:57 You sold your books…
02:33 Where can we read your articles?
03:22 What was your journey to publication like?
11:07 When did you first read Kerouac’s On The Road?
11:59 Had you made a journey of the sort Neil and Jack go on?
13:34 Were you ever tempted to emulate Kerouac’s writing style?
15:42 What’s the relationship between your own characters and Kerouac’s?
17:28 Why the Holloway Road?
18:51 The ending – what did you want readers to take away with them? [vague spoilers]
21:18 How much did your experience of blogging influence A Virtual Love?
22:52 Was Jeff’s granddad inspired by your own relationship with a grandparent?
24:47 Why doesn’t Jeff have a voice in the novel?
34:38 Is there a way we can be more social in our current age?
37:40 Where did the environmental activism stem from?
40:01 How important is a sense of silence?
41:20 [Spoiler question] Can you talk about your choice not to have a big reveal?
44:27 What’s next?

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For ease of reading, ‘umms’ and similar, as well as sentence false starts, have been left out.

[intro music]

Charlie: Hello and welcome to The Worm Hole Podcast. I’m Charlie Place, and joining me today is a fellow book blogger and author of the fantastic literary fiction books, On the Holloway Road, and A Virtual Love. Welcome, Andrew Blackman.

Andrew: Hi Charlie, how are you?

Charlie: I’m good, yeah, and you?

Andrew: Very well, thank you, very well.

Charlie: You are talking to me from Belgrade, I believe.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right. We’re – my wife and I – came here a couple of weeks ago, we’ve been travelling through the Balkans, through Turkey, through the Caucasus, and now we’ve come back to Serbia and we’re just gonna take it easy here for a few weeks.

Charlie: And to quote your Twitter profile, you’re a ‘permanent traveller’. You’ve been travelling for quite a few years now, can you tell us more about this?

Andrew: Yeah, I’ve been travelling since February 2015, so pretty much five years now. Because I work freelance – I mean I basically make a living by writing a little bit and also freelancing and some copy-editing bits and pieces here and there. So it’s all freelance stuff that I do online and I could be anywhere and my wife is the same, she does the same kind thing. So, yeah, we got tired of living in London paying huge rent and we decided we could just live on the road, basically, so we’ve been doing that, we go from place to place, mostly hotels, AirBnB apartments, that kind of thing, and mostly around Europe, although we’ve done a few field trips elsewhere. And, yeah, that’s kinda how we live; we’ve got a Toyota and we have nothing much else in life, we sold everything else and gave up our flat in London that we were renting and we don’t really have a home but we have lots of different homes in different places.

Charlie: You sold your books…

Andrew: Yeah, that was hard, [Charlie: yeah] that was the hardest part of all. I had massive bookcases full of books that I had been accumulating for years, and some of them I kept, you know, the ones I really wanted to hold on to, but I was quite brutal – as we were leaving London I sold a lot and I gave some to charity and gave some to friends and just distributed them but yeah, that was painful [Charlie: yeah]. All the rest I could happily let go of, all the furniture and all the little bits and pieces, but yeah, the books – that was tough.

Charlie: You said about freelance writing, is there anywhere we can go online to read your articles?

Andrew: There’s various places. I write for the Wall street Journal but it’s only fairly occasionally, it’s quite intense writing for the Wall Street Journal, they do a lot of editing, a lot of checking and so. Yeah, you can find, if you Google ‘Andrew Blackman Wall Street Journal’, you’ll find plenty there, and I link to some from my website as well,, I’ve got a writing section where I link to stuff I’ve written in various places around the web so that’s it. But some of what I do is more editing, I do now, which you can’t see because [laughs] that’s more behind the scenes. So that’s some of the day-to-day work that I do which is less visible but yeah, you can find my stuff, either through Wall Street Journal or through my website.

Charlie: Excellent. So, talking of another journey – although not the journey that you’re expecting me to ask about now – what was your journey to publication like?

Andrew: It was strange; to get On the Holloway Road published was actually very easy. But there’s a caveat to that. But the actual process was I submitted the novel to a contest, it was a bursary called the Luke Bitmead bursary which was set up by the family of a writer called Luke Bitmead who had died very young, and his family set up a prize in his name to give unpublished authors a shot at publication. So the prize was money and publication contract with Legend Press, which is a small UK publisher. So the process was – like literally after I’d just written the novel I saw this thing, I thought, I’ll send it in and to my amazement I won and I got published. But before that I’d been through the kind of grueling process of submitting previous novels to various publishers, agents, and getting nowhere and so although it was easy to get On the Holloway Road published, I did go through my share of pain and suffering before that.

Charlie: Yeah, I was thinking when you said that first, goodness, that is amazing! No, it sounds a lot more reasonable, I suppose, with the industry.

Charlie: So, from there on you had a publisher for A Virtual Love and you went on from there. Your first book is On Holloway Road and it’s a story about unexpected close friendship. It’s a road trip that’s written rather like a great American novel, as far as I’m concerned, with no surprise really because the characters are inspired by Jack Kerouac’s autobiographical fiction. Jack is a struggling first-time writer living in London; on New Year’s Eve he visits a kebab shop, and in comes this very extroverted, devil-may-care sort of man called Neil, who gets Jack to follow him on to clubs and parties, and shortly after they depart for Scotland. So it’s a fantastic book and Andrew, you have a reading from the first chapter that you’re going to give for us.

Andrew: Yes, yes. So this is from right at the beginning of the book…

[Reading excluded to respect copyright]

Charlie: As said, part of the inspiration for this book was Kerouac’s On the Road. When did you first read it?

Andrew: Yeah, like a lot of people I read him as a teenager. I read On the Road and some of his other books but mostly On the Road was the one that spoke to me as a teenage boy living in suburban London feeling a bit disconnected and dissatisfied with life and dreaming about other things. So it struck me as a very – I don’t know, I was just very taken with this very different world and this free-wheeling road trip across America. And then I read it later in life, as an adult, I kind of read it very differently, as a strada book, less progress and more circularity and less achievement of the freedom that they were seeking. And I think that sort of partly inspired me to write the book.

Charlie: So, obviously, you’re now travelling, but had you made a journey of the sort that Neil and Jack go on yourself?

Andrew: Before I wrote this book I’d been living in America for six years and I’d done a lot of road trips there, all across country and down the east coast, west coast, and it was just a great place to do road trips. For me, getting out of London, moving to America, was a very freeing experience in a lot of ways. I think when I came back to England I felt confined again. Again this is like a personal reaction, I’m not saying it applies to everybody, but to me, I sort of felt that the trips I’d been doing in America were not so possible in England, I felt, that the broad horizons I found there were not available to me in England and I felt a lot more – maybe because I was back where I started and back to my, you know, original social environment – I felt more restricted, whereas in America I felt a lot more free to be who I wanted and to get away from expectations of what I should be. So, I think the book kinda reflected that at the time, how I felt moving back to England after being in New York for those six years. It kind of felt that it was harder to travel in that free sort of way, that there was less space, less freedom, and I wanted to put that into the books, so I sort of transposed an American road trip into England.

Charlie: That’s a very natural weaving of stories of your own then, that’s lovely.

Charlie: Going back to Kerouac, were you ever tempted to exclude paragraphs in your novel or write in the style of him at all?

Andrew: I didn’t want to mimic him too closely. The style is somewhat based on Kerouac; I want to sort of give a nod to Kerouac without copying his style, so I didn’t want to go too close to On the Road, but I wanted to have the parallels between On the Road and On the Holloway Road. So some of the language in certain places is similar – On the Road starts with ‘I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up’ and so my book starts in similar but different language. But most of the stuff in between is different but I wanted to kind of use that, some of the energy and sort of free-wheeling of Kerouac in my own work. And I think at the time, it was good for me because I was also like Jack, working on a long, learned, literary novel, that wasn’t really going anywhere [laughs] so it helped me to write in this more spontaneous way as Kerouac did. And I actually wrote the book very quickly, I wrote it in a month, the first draft, and didn’t change a whole lot after that, so it was a very freeing experience for me to write it. And I sort of took inspiration from Kerouac’s way of writing without necessarily sticking too close to the actual end result.

Charlie: That’s fascinating, because yeah, you’ve got this novel and you say you don’t know where it’s going, well, where it goes is absolutely amazing. So, yeah, you got that right. [Andrew: Thank you.] I just want to note for people who like me, actually, I haven’t read On the Road, and I’m obviously talking to Andrew her, only really knowing his book. But research showed that Andrew’s book using characters Jack and Neil, is emulating almost – Kerouac uses Sal and Dean, who are based on himself and Neal Cassady. So there is a link there as well, in the characters.

Charlie: So, can you describe the relationship between your own characters, Neil and Jack, and Kerouac and Cassady?

Andrew: Yeah, I mean, the initial idea was to kind of just transpose the American road trip onto the UK and sort of see how these large characters would fare in contemporary Britain as opposed to 1950s America. But they also – obviously when you’re writing a book the characters change and they become different, in a sense they’re copies, they’re kind of wannabes who have read On the Road and they want to try and do something like that in Britain. So they’re tired of London, they get in a car and just drive up the Holloway Road and see where it takes them and it takes them obviously up to Scotland, and they want these sort of adventures and the spontaneity and the authenticity that they’ve seen in the book but they don’t quite manage it. So, in that sense they’re kinda like fans who don’t quite live up to the reality. But also in a way they’re doing the same thing as Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, you know, they’re young people who are trying to be free, they’re trying to be more authentic, they’re trying to break out of these sort of confines of society and be free and they’re searching for meaning and they end up mostly adrift and still searching even with every mile that they travel.

Charlie: I love the journey they go on and how you’ve got the journey there because it is like a very British attempt to emulate the American and it’s very apt, I think. Not saying that – you know, I’m British, you’re British, we’re not awful by any means – but it seems very British, it’s very good.

Charlie: So, why the Holloway Road as opposed to another road?

Andrew: Well I used to live very close to it, in North London, so I was very familiar with it. I liked that it was this road that, when you see it, there’s nothing really there, I mean it doesn’t make a big impression on you, it’s a lot of kebab shops and pubs and old furniture shops with all these closing down sales that never end and greasy spoon cafes and it just doesn’t make a big impact on you. But it is this very historic road, it’s the A1, it goes all the way up to Scotland – it’s the great north road – so I sort of thought it would be a good place to set a novel. It’s a place where you can escape because there’s lots of night life and that kind of thing. So that’s where they start off, Jack and Neil, they’re trying to escape their lives, just by getting drunk and going to parties and that kind of thing and it’s not working for them so they try a bigger means of escape, which is travel, they think if we just get out of here, get out of London, things will be different, which is not entirely true but that’s what they think. And then I just liked the Holloway Road because of the name of it, the hollow – there’s a sort of hollowness to their lives and even to their travel that there’s something missing that they’re trying to fill, there’s a gap and so the Holloway Road is a good name for that because of the symbolism.

Charlie: I’m so glad I asked that question, because that was very interesting to hear about, yeah.

Andrew: Good.

Charlie; So, the ending is simply incredible, I don’t want to say any more than that for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. And I found it interesting – where I’d forgotten the ending when I first read the book, re-reading it I got to a few chapters before the end, and it becomes quite slow, and you’re thinking, okay it’s winding down, Jack’s musing a lot. And I’m thinking well where’s this wrap-up, and then boom! There’s your ending, and it is sensational. What did you want the reader to take away with them?

Andrew: I think, without trying to spoil it too much, I wanted them to take away the idea that someone like Neil, living the way he lives and trying to be free, trying to be spontaneous, trying to break out, is difficult for him to actually achieve that. But without giving it away, it’s kind of a tragic and sudden ending, and a lot of people who live that way do end up that way, you either end up like Jack, kind of musing about what could have been or you end up like Neil. It’s, yeah. I just wanted it to kind of catch people a bit unawares because as you said, yeah, I thought it would be an unexpected ending so I wanted that to kind of hit people a bit in the gut. And then also just give them a sense of what happens when you’re an individual who goes up against society with no real back up or no real way of coping with that.

Charlie: No, it is a surprise ending, and yeah, reading it the second time and thinking, gosh I completely forgot that, it just second time whammy there, it was brilliant. So, we’d better move on A Virtual Love, which is your second book. Now, to introduce it for everybody, the book is about a man who has a very normal life, and one day he’s greeted by a woman who is a big fan. It turns out she thinks he’s a popular political blogger, but this blogger simply shares his name. And so this man who’s met the woman, she’s Marie, and he’s Jeff, he decides to assume this identity of the blogger in order to be with her. The novel looks at identity, both in general and in the digital realm, and it’s very up to the minute, I mean it was published, I think it was seven years ago, Andrew?

Andrew: Yeah.

Charlie: Yeah, and it’s still very relevant today, it’s like it could have been written yesterday.

Charlie: How much did your experience of blogging inspire the book?

Andrew: It did get me thinking, I mean obviously I’m not as famous a blogger as the guy in the book, but it did get me thinking as a blogger; I realised that I was putting forward a version of myself and it was partially based on reality, of course, I mean I don’t lie on my blog, but I was selecting which parts of myself to show, and it got me thinking that we do that a lot when we’re online, whether it’s blogging or on social media, we kind of curate our lives, and cut out the embarrassing bits, put forward the bits that we wanna show, and it just made me realise how easy it is just to construct an identity online. And I find it is a much more conscious process than it has been in the past – I mean obviously in real life we behave in different ways, in different situations we’re a different person, with our boss than we are with our friends, whatever – but I think when we’re online, we create these very different identities on social media or on our blogging that… yeah, I just wanted to explore that. So it wasn’t so much based on my direct experience of blogging, because I’m just like an uncontroversial writer who blogs about books, but it was based on the things that it made me realise about myself and about some of the people that I saw online and then social media takes it a lot further, so I wanted to explore something about the identities that we create and how it strikes me that it’s somewhat fractured, and fluid.

Charlie: And of course we’ve got the granddad in the book, who starts off the book, and he comes in in different periods – we’ll see from your reading, how you structured the chapters – and he wants to take things slow; and one of the symbols in the book is a clock and it kind of shows the slowness of time. Was this inspired by… I got the sense that some of the chapters with the granddad were maybe inspired by your own relationship with a grandparent? Was this the case?

Andrew: Yeah, there were, actually. I never knew either of my grandfathers – one died before I was born, the other died when I was very young – and I only really knew one grandparent, my grandmother. And yeah, the memories of sitting in her front room with – she had a clock that used to tick on the mantelpiece – I certainly drew on that. But the character himself is quite different from my own grandmother but I did draw on my memories of visits to her and you could feel a different sense of time, even then, that was before the speeding up of recent times with technology, even then there was a sort of sense of time stretching and becoming ore fluid in a way, and being more aware of each moment as it passed and less distracted, less running around doing different things; I remember that from when I was young and yeah, that definitely fed into the book, although as I said the character was very different.

Charlie: Well obviously not to go against what you’re saying about the relationship with your grandmother, and I’m sorry to hear about the situation with your grandfathers, but I’m very surprised that you said that, because it just comes across so real, I think. It was like I could kind of see you sitting down and talking to your grandfather. So, yes, that’s the book for you, listeners, it’s incredibly real.

Charlie: So to go back to Jeff, he’s not in the book at all, really; you’ve got these chapters, and various different characters voices. And Jeff, the guy who is pretending to be the blogger, he hasn’t got a voice at all. Why was this?

Andrew: It kind of went to the way that I was thinking about identity; there’s a line in the book where Jeff is talking to his granddad and he says, ‘identity is what you show to the world,’ and the granddad gets very upset by this because to him, identity is not some fluid thing that you just make up and show to the world, it’s something much more solid. So the way that I structured the book, I wanted to reflect that in that Jeff doesn’t really exist in any way except in the way that he is seen by other people. So he’s constantly performing and he’s constantly putting out these different versions of himself, and so there’s a kind of gap there in the middle, like his true identity is mysterious – I kind of wanted it to remain that way. So he’s only seen by other people and in the end of the book, again I don’t want to give a spoiler but when you realise who is writing the book and who is actually compiling all these stories, and why they’ve given them to Jeff, you kind of realise that there’s also a sort of plot-driven reason why it’s these sorts of compilations of different stories from different people. And it’s all addressed in the second person to ‘you’ who is Jeff, you know. So it’s kind of telling him who he is from different standpoints which is the only way he can understand who he really is.

Charlie: What’s fascinating is we’ve got this entire book about Jeff, and I know I, for one, would actually like to know more about Jeff [Andrew laughs] which I think is quite an interesting thing to close the book, you know like, you get a side of him, you get different voices about him that, yeah, because you don’t hear from him you do want to hear more, but there is a good reason for that, and I will stop there.

Andrew: Yeah. Well I was kind of aware of that as I was writing it too, that people might be frustrated, and I think maybe some readers were, that they did want to know more about who this guy really was, and you get so much about him from different standpoints, I think it’s natural to want to hear from him as well. And I sort of wanted to frustrate that desire [laughs] but I recognise that’s a bit of a risk. But, yeah, I wanted him to remain – even after the book – somewhat mysterious because, yeah, you don’t really know which of these versions of him is true, if any of them.

Charlie: So, as said, we’re going to hear from these characters’ voices, you have a reading, shall we have it?

Andrew: Yeah. So I’m actually gonna read from a couple of different chapters because as you said, the novel is structured with different chapters from different voices, so this is from his from his friend Jon, to begin with.

[Reading excluded to respect copyright]
[Andrew also reads part of a chapter narrated by Jeff’s grandfather]

Charlie: So, I mean that bit with the granddad is wonderful and his character obviously stays quite present. Is there a way, you think, that we can be more social in this age where we are all effectively isolated from each other?

Andrew: Yeah, I mean it’s an interesting question because I think in a way we are more social than we’ve ever been, because, you know, I met you, for example, online, and then I met a lot of people through book blogging, not so much on Twitter although I guess if you’re more active on Twitter and Facebook you can do that as well. But I think for me I need to take a step back from all that sometimes and I’ve certainly taken a big step back from social media in the last few years and I’ve been more social as a result [laughs]. I’ve had more time for real interaction in the real world and I travel a lot, I meet people, talk to people, and I find those interactions more valuable than the majority of interactions – certainly on Twitter, which I find kind of shallow; it’s a difficult one because these things are useful and they connect us in a way we’ve never been connected before and people use them for wonderful things, I just think sometimes we take it took far and I guess it’s a case of finding the balance and I don’t think we quite know what we’re doing at this point because it’s all very new, and there’s been various bits of research showing how the Internet’s kind of re-wiring our brains and the way we think now is changing because interacting online and constantly clicking around different things is changing our ability to think more clearly and more logically so I think so many things are changing that we don’t really understand at this point, so for me I guess you could take a leaf out of the grandfather’s book and just spend some time with your wife, with your grandchild, with your friends, cleaning a clock, doing more real-life activities. But I guess everyone has to find their own way and I’m certainly not saying social media’s evil, just got to be treated with care I guess.

Charlie: No, you saying about the granddad, he’s actually a very good… even as a reader, I think, he’s very stabilising as you’re reading the rest of this Internet story.
Andrew: Yeah, I wanted him to sort of come across that way as a stabilising effect, as an anchor, because it is a very scattered kind of novel by definition, with all these different characters; the identity’s very fluid, and he’s the sort of stability right the way through, he’s the anchor. He also surprises you a bit in the end; people always tend to underestimate older people and think that they’re just sitting in their chair doing nothing, but he ends up playing quite an active role. And, yeah, so I wanted that to be the case as well because too many older people in books either don’t exist or end up dying [laughs], I wanted him to be more active and play a more active role as well.

Charlie: He definitely does. So on a completely different topic – well, it’s not a completely different topic in terms of the book but it’ll sound like it. Marie, the woman who mistakes Jeff for the blogger, she’s someone who’s very into activism, mostly environmental. Where did the environmental activism stem from?

Andrew: It’s something that I wanted to cover because it is an interest of mine and I’m kind of interested in how we’re walking towards catastrophe and nobody really seems to be doing a lot about it. And we have activists trying to get a message across that we need to do something and people are listening, people are writing articles, people are saying yes we need to do something and nothing’s changing. And it’s interesting why that is and I think… you know, I went back to London last year some time and found some of my old primary exercise books from the 1980s in my parents’ loft, and I saw in one of the exercise books I had a thing about the greenhouse effect, we’d been learning about it back then in 1986, I think it would have been, in primary school, and today in 2020 people – like very powerful people, including the president of the United States – don’t even believe that it exists. So it’s something that kind of boggles my mind and I’ve kind of got to the point where it feels strange to be writing a book that doesn’t even mention the environment because it’s something that if we don’t deal with climate change, there will be no more books, not too far from now, and there’ll be no more of anything, so I wanted to include it in some way.

Charlie: Yeah, I mean this is where when I was re-reading it a couple of weeks ago, re-reading, and I was reading this book and thinking my goodness this is like Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, and things, and I’m thinking well, no, because this book was written a few years ago but this is how it’s so relevant, we’ve got all these things, and potentially I think your book is even more relevant today-

Andrew: I hope it becomes less relevant cos [so] these things don’t matter any more but I don’t know…

Charlie: Yeah, as much as it would mean that your book would maybe be outdated, at the same time, yeah, it would be a good thing.

Andrew: Save the planet, and my book gets less relevant, I dunno, it’s a tough one [laughs].

Charlie: You’ve still got On the Holloway Road if that happens [laughs].

Andrew: I’ve still got that [laughs].

Charlie: So, how important, do you think, is a sense of silence, both literal and digitally, in terms of where we are?

Andrew: I guess it depends to some extent on your personally; I’m a big introvert, I feel very uncomfortable with constant contact with people and noise and crowds and when that gets replicated online I get overwhelmed fairly quickly. So I’ve always been someone who needed space and time and silence and even before the Internet – I’m old enough to remember that – I used to go and just needed time by myself a lot to think about what I’d seen and to process it and as I travel around the world now, for five years, I need a lot of time as well because we’re seeing new things all the time and meeting lots of people and it’s very very good but very intense. Yeah, for me silence is important and it seems to me as if it’s diminishing all the time in the world we’re creating [laughs], it’s very hard to find silence now.

Charlie: Okay, so we’re about to discuss the ending, just letting you listeners know. We’re not gonna discuss it in great detail, but if you don’t want to know anything about the ending, skip to 44:27.

Charlie: The ending of A Virtual Love, you do have a choice to not have a big show, let’s leave it at that. This is very frustrating, I think, in a way – I was reading this book and thining, oh I’m really looking forward to the end of this book and how it’s gonna go and there must be a lot of drama and there must be everything going on’ and of course it doesn’t; it’s a very modest ending, I suppose. Can you talk about your choice not to have this big reveal, I suppose, in the end.

Andrew: I feel that I’ve written the book so that everything was pointing towards, as you say, a big showdown. Jeff’s pretend identity was getting more and more assaulted from different sides, the real Jeff was coming out and trying to out him basically and say no, I’m the real blogger,the real guy, this guy’s a fraud. And, you know, it was coming from different directions as well, different plots threads were coming together so it sort of felt like it has to now all come out. And yeah, I wanted that expectation, I wanted to have a bit of a surprise and a bit more of an, I guess, a subtle ending, but as you say it’s less dramatic but it’s kind of an ending where he doesn’t get outed, but he gets something which, to me, is kind of wore, in that he’s still maintaining the illusion but he’s… I don’t know, it’s not a very happy ending, to put it that way. So he’s kind of got what he wanted but I don’t think it’s what he really wanted, whereas the real Jeff Brennan actually feels liberated when he realises that this guy’s taken over his identity, he’s like, thank god, cos this thing was killing me, this being a famous blogger dealing with all these flame wars and angry commenters and he’s thinking I can just slip out and live a quieter life. So, it does subvert expectations and I’ve heard from other readers that some of them wanted the showdown, they wanted Jeff to be exposed, but I just wanted to write it a bit differently that he was not exposed in the way you’d think he would be because in a world of fluid identities maybe he would get away with it, maybe he doesn’t need to be found out in the way that in the past, if you pretended to be someone else, you got found out, and maybe now that it’s so easy to take on another identity, maybe you can do it, maybe you get away with it, what happens if you get away with it? But then where does that leave you? Living a kind of fraudulent life; so again without trying to give away too much, that was my thinking.

Charlie: Well, no, I mean, yes, it’s very frustrating – you’re kind of a very frustrating author to read, Andrew, you know, these two books [Andrew laughs], I mean they’re brilliant but yeah [laughs]. But no, I mean it is very satisfying at the same time, getting to the end of the book, it’s not that it goes full circle or anything, but the entire book does stand in many angles within one, I suppose, and yeah, it’s a very satisfactory ending.

Charlie: Thus ends our discussion of the ending. So, I know on your blog, I think, you were talking about your writing – what’s next?

Andrew: Yeah, I’m working on a few different things now. I’d written a novel after A Virtual Love that I’ve kind of put on the side for now because I had sent it to my agent, he wanted me to do something different with it, went back and forth so many times, and still didn’t feel very happy with it, and he didn’t feel happy with it, so I’ve kind of put it aside for now. And I’ve started a couple of different novels that I’m writing simultaneously, they’re very different, and I’m kind of switching between them as I go, which is kind of fun. So one is a novel dealing with the refugee crisis, it’s about a guy in London who opens his house to any refugee who wants to come, and tries to be all generous. That leads to a whole load of problems with his neighbours who don’t want all these people coming on their road and camping outside; so it’s about that, it’s about how we respond to refugee crisis and what we do about it in our privileged world with people who are not so privileged also want to live. And then there’s another one that’s totally different, it’s about a boy who has a tough upbringing and is sort of bounced around from place to place and he creates worlds in his head to escape from that tough life, and one of those worlds turns out to be ours, it turns out to be the world we’re living in, so it’s kind of a story about the nature of storytelling and creation and I guess religion as well. So they’re two very different books, and at the same time I’m trying to piece together something on this travel we’ve been doing around Europe, I’ve written various sort of snippets about the travel we’ve been doing and about our observations about Europe and I’m trying to shape it into a non-fiction book that would make sense and that would be not just a travelogue but sort of, I don’t know, something about living in the way I’ve been living and what that’s like and what the sacrifices are and what I’ve learned about Europe and… I don’t know; I’m unclear about that as you can probably tell, so that one is kind of more at the note-taking stage, but the two novels I’m kind of working on side by side at the moment and I’m enjoying that.

Charlie: Brilliant, so we’re gonna get a double bill – it’s been a few years since A Virtual Love, we’re gonna get two novels at the same time, yes?

Andrew: Yeah, that’s the plan!

Charlie: Yeah, you need to say yes, we need these two novels [Andrew: yep] [both laugh]. They do sound very good. The first one about the refugee, very up to the minute again, that’s brilliant, but equally, yeah, a non-fiction book from you would, you know, just looking at your blog… and there is a link there, there’s possibly going to be multiple links in my description, to different posts Andrew has written, listeners. But yes, you could definitely do a non-fiction book as well. So, On the Holloway Road and A Virtual Love are out now, and you’ll find purchasing links in the episode description. If you have enjoyed this conversation, do subscribe for future episodes. Andrew, it’s been absolutely wonderful having you today and I’m really glad we did this. I’ve got so much more out of your books, particularly, I think, A Virtual Love, from talking to you, it’s been fantastic. Yeah, definitely do whether it’s one book or the two books, we’ll look forward to whatever you’re going to publish next. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Andrew: Thank you very much, Charlie, I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been great, thank you.

Charlie: Join me on Monday the 24th February, when I will be talking to Fran Cooper, author of These Dividing Walls and The Two Houses.

[production credits]

Photograph used with the permission of the author. Credit: Genie Austin.


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