Wednesday, 25 July 2012

An interview with Simon Lipson

I'm excited to have stand up and comedy writer Simon Lipson here today, he also write romance!


Song In The Wrong Key
Michael Kenton is a middle-aged man living in middle-class comfort with wife Lisa and daughters Millie and Katia. Drifting complacently towards retirement, Mike's world is turned upside-down when he is thrown unexpectedly onto the career scrapheap. 

While Lisa's career sky-rockets, Mike slobs around in his track suit playing guitar, rekindling his teenage love affair with pop music. Knowing Lisa wouldn't approve, he plots a secret 'comeback' at a grimy Crouch End bistro where music executive Ben, desperate and out of time, asks if he can enter one of Mike's songs into the Eurovision Song Contest. With nothing to lose, Mike focuses on Eurovision but quickly finds himself staring down the barrel of low level fame. His crumbling marriage now page five news, he must choose between his musical dream and mending his broken family, a task complicated by the re-appearance of ex-love of his life Faye. 

A laugh-out-loud comedy about love, family, friendship and Euro- tack by acclaimed stand-up and comedy writer Simon Lipson. 

So Simon, a few questions first about your book.  

If you had to sum up ‘Song in the Wrong Key’ in 30 words or less what would you say?  
 A romantic comedy about love, friendship, families, redemption and seriously crappy music. 

What/who inspired you to write it?
I loved the idea of a middle-aged nobody rising from obscurity to public acclaim. It’s the X Factor age, after all. As a thwarted teenage pop star myself – and now deep into middle age - I think this was a case of living the dream through my protagonist, Mike Kenton.

Where did the title come from?
 It was originally called A Song For Europe, but I think that title suggested that it was a book about Eurovision. Far from it. Mike’s emotional journey – powered, in part, by his musical rebirth - reveals that he’d been kidding himself about having the perfect life, hence Song In The Wrong Key

 Do you play the guitar or sing? Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a rock star?
I play the guitar very badly. I’d like to say that my voice is my instrument, but others would disagree. I was the lead singer in various bands during my teens and early twenties, but lack of talent and a sense that I should do something sensible with my life, scuppered my musical ambitions.

Was it a love affair with the characters or were you glad to type ‘The End’?
 Mike is a version of me (I like to think I’m much more successful and have better hair) so I’m rather fond of him. His children are based on mine and his best friend Chaz is not unlike my best friend Graham. So I suppose I was sorry to lose them. I do have a sequel in mind, though, so maybe they’ll all be back.

Did you wish any of the characters were actually real (or are they?!)?
See above! A couple of other characters are loosely based on people I know.
Who designed the cover?
 A very clever lady called Iona Hickman at Mercer Design. I gave her a brief and she came up with the basic design. I made a few tweaks and voila!
Any more books in the pipeline? About?
 Yes. I’ve already written Standing Up, which is about a solicitor who takes up stand-up comedy in order to try reel in an old flame. As a solicitor who became a stand-up comedian myself, you will gather that I’m not very imaginative!  The book should be out in the Autumn.
Do you throw yourself whole heartedly into marketing, or is it just a necessary evil?
 Both. I’ve engaged Helen McCusker at Booked PR to help out. It’s been slow going because independent authors don’t get much change out of the key reviewers. I’ve done a radio interview, a few readings at festivals and libraries and am constantly plugging the book on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else I can think of. I’m getting great reviews (on Amazon and Goodreads principally, with another good one due in next month’s Self Publishing Magazine) and hopefully this will create some momentum. It’s exhausting, though.

And getting personal… 

Where/when do you write?
 In a West End Starbucks mostly. I’ve tried writing at home but there’s so much else to do there – TV, eating, TV, the newspaper, TV, eating – that I get nothing done. I find I can get into a bubble in a café and quite like the ambient hubbub. I also like to star spot during my down time – Danny de Vito and Hugh Grant are my most recent marks.
As a male writer you’re in the minority when it comes to writing romance, could you write the ‘Rom’ without the ‘Com’? Or do you think it’s the mix of the two that appeals to you?
 Comedy is my speciality and I set out to write a funny book. But I think most of us – men and women alike - rather like romance. Men just don’t talk about it. From a young age I was hoping to meet ‘The One.’ It took me 29 years in the end. I think rom and com are a lovely mix. Although I’ve aimed principally for laughs throughout the book, some readers have told me they shed a tear or two as well.

With your background I’d guess that writing dialogue (the nemesis of many writers) isn’t a problem, what do you find the hardest part of writing?
 Spot on. I love writing dialogue and think it’s what I’m best at. I actually wrote the book in no time. It seemed so easy. It was only when I got into first re-draft that I realised how badly structured it was. The chronology was all over the place and I wasted pages and pages on irrelevant comedy riffs. Taking laughs out was very difficult for me, but I like to think the story and structure is now tight, and the comedy entirely relevant to the characters and situations. Hopefully, anyway.

Sum yourself up in 30 words or less?!
 Was fat, now thin; good head of hair for a man of my age; dodgy knees; deaf-ish; love my family to bits; love comedy; love Spurs - unrequited.

Do you spend much time reading? What’s your favourite bedtime/holiday read? Favourite author/genre?
 I’m an avid reader. I usually have two books on the go, one for bath time, one for bed. I enjoy pithy contemporary fiction with a humorous bent – Nick Hornby, David Nicholls, Jonathan Tropper, Tom Wolfe. I read the odd thriller (mostly on holiday) and delve into things like the wonderful Jubilee by Shelley Harris. Don’t like historical or fantasy as a rule.

Coffee or tea?
Starter, dessert or brandy?
 I love all food. It’s a problem. Please don’t make me choose. I don’t drink.
Favourite place in the world?
 Toss-up between Edinburgh and Manhattan.
What would you be doing if time, money, age were no object?
 Nothing except eating, feeling guilty, cycling it all off and starting again. And watching football in between. I’m desperately lazy.
Best bit of advice you’ve ever been given, and by whom?
 Shut up if you know what’s good for you. My wife.

Where can your readers find you?
My blog:
Twitter: @SimonLipson
Google +: NA

Simon Lipson Bio
Simon Lipson was born in London and took a law degree at the LSE. After a spell as a lawyer, he co-founded legal recruitment company Lipson Lloyd-Jones in 1987. In 1993, Simon took his first tentative steps onto the comedy circuit and has since become an in-demand stand-up and impressionist across the UK, as well as a regular TV and radio performer/writer. His broadcasting credits include Week Ending, Dead Ringers, Loose Ends and Fordham & Lipson (co-wrote and performed own 4 part sketch series) on Radio 4; Interesting...Very Interesting and Simon Lipson's Xmas Box on Radio 5 and And This Is Them on Radio 2. He is also an experienced voice artiste who has voiced hundreds of advertisements as well as cartoons and documentaries. His first novel, Losing It, a thriller, was published by Matador in 2008. Simon is a columnist for Gridlock Magazine ( next novel, Standing Up, will be published by Lane & Hart in Autumn 2012. 

Can I also plug my upcoming show, The Accidental Impressionist at the Camden Fringe 20 – 23 August @ 8pm:  Everyone welcome. It might be quite funny!

Thanks for the interview Simon and good luck with the rest of your tour, the book and the show!

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