If I were that bloke who announces the snooker players, I’d be saying, “We’re delighted to see him back here again – the packet in the jacket, Liam Livings!” I’m thrilled to have him back here to discuss his latest release, “And then that happened”.
When you were last here we chatted about watching your first book fledge. What does it feel like with the second and the third?
I often have to pinch myself when I realise I have contracts with publishers who want to publish my books. I’ve definitely refined my *process* as I’ve written more books.
What do you think you’ve learned since you were first published?
So much: that sending the manuscript to the publisher isn’t the end, it’s end of the beginning, that there’s a whole new set of stages afterwards, with line edits, content edits, cover forms, blurb and even then it’s not the end, it’s the beginning when you start to get reviews. And that’s scary. Also, *whispering* not that long ago, I didn’t know what an ARC was, or the difference between a line edit and a content edit, or that gay romance and gay fiction aren’t the same thing. But everyone I’ve worked with has been so lovely, and explained things when I’ve asked silly questions.
Is there anything you regret doing since you were published?
That I hadn’t written my first story I wanted to be published, sooner. I was waiting for someone to give me permission to write it, or something. It meant that my granddad never knew I was going to write, and he wrote his account of World War II for me to know what he’d done. It would have been nice to have told him.
What inspired “And then that Happened”?
The concept of an and then that happened came from a Canadian friend in January 2005. We were sitting around telling funny stories about things that had happened to us. She told this long story about something awful happening to her that had come from nowhere. When she finished, it was obvious we weren’t meant to laugh, so there was this big silence that filled the room as everyone looked around and didn’t know what to say. She then said with a smile, ‘So, OK, and then that happened.’ She shrugged her shoulders, and everyone went back to normal with a nervous laugh.
From then on it’s always been my shorthand for one of those things life throws at you from nowhere – because isn’t life just like that? There can be good ATTH and bad ATTH, it’s about the randomness and the in the middle of doing all this stuff in my life, this thing came along and happened.
My friend, H had been trying for a baby for years but she’d been told she couldn’t have one due to a medical condition. She moved to New Zealand with her boyfriend, split up from him and started seeing another man, and then got pregnant. Her opening phrase in her email was, ‘How’s this for an ATTH?’
After I wrote my first novel, Best Friends Perfect, I wanted to have someone who rather than being at the start of coming out as gay, had been in a gay relationship for a while. I was then interested in exploring this character if their relationship had withered on the vine somewhat.
I also wanted to explore how a character would deal with having mental health issues. I’ve had these, and it’s still one of those things people just don’t talk about. I wanted to show what it’s like to feel as if you can’t get out of bed, to cry at everything.
Have you ever been writing and discovered something totally unexpected about one of your characters?
I tend to work out the main details of a character before I start writing. I knew about Dominic’s parents and his best friend Matt before I started writing. What I didn’t know was how Dominic meeting Gabe would change his relationship with his parents and best friend, and how in turn they’d all react. That was fun to work out.
Which book do you wish you’d written and why?
I wish I’d written Now Is Good by Jenny Downham. It’s a YA story about a sixteen year old girl, Tessa, who is dying, and working her way through her list of things to do before she dies. It is first person present tense. It is so simple in the writing style, but so beautifully phrased and so life affirming about living for the now, really living your life, and not waiting. One of her things on Tessa’s list is love, and another is her boyfriend being allowed to stay over in her bed.
we made love twenty-seven times and we shared a bed for sixty-two nights and that’s a lot of love
I cried so hard at the end, and throughout at some points, I had to put the book down to gather my breath. The simplicity of the story, and the way the characters come so vividly to life through their dialogue is wonderful. It’s the best book I’ve read in 2014 and how it made me feel will stay with me long after I’ve given the book away for someone else to enjoy.
Should you settle for a nearly perfect happiness or put your heart on the line for more?
It’s 1999 and 28-year-old Dominic’s carefully planned suburban life with his boyfriend Luke is perfect. His job as a nurse, his best friend Matt, his relationship with his parents, everything is just right. He and Luke have been together ten years, seen each other through friends’ deaths and their parents’ ups and downs, and even had a commitment ceremony.
Gabe isn’t happy with his boyfriend, but he stays with him, because, well it’s complicated.
Fate throws Gabe into Dominic’s life. And then that happened. Gabe’s open relationship, impulsive nature, enthusiasm for life and straight talking advice are fascinating to Dominic. They’re friends, they click over a shared love of Goldie Hawn and Gabe shows Dominic there can be more to life than planned and safe. So why can’t he take his own advice?
And Then That Happened is about finding a new kind of happiness, even when what you have is already perfect. And how sometimes perfect isn’t quite what it seems.