Today I’m talking to R J Gould so keep reading to see what writing tips he has to share!
Hi Richard, tell me a bit about you and your latest work.
My name is Richard but I use ‘R J’, this being my cowardly compromise after agents suggested I use a pseudonym because I write Romance. In case you haven’t noticed, there aren’t many males writing in this genre. I didn’t set out to write romantic fiction, I just got dumped there because I delve into relationships, particularly second-chance ones. I use humour to relate tragi-heroic journeys derailed by the accumulation of often decades’ worth of baggage. Many of my protagonists are now ageing baby-boomers who refuse to be regarded as old or to behave according to previous norms and expectations. Although well beyond the pubbing, clubbing and young mothers set, they aren’t hanging around waiting for dementia to set in or for their children to place them in a warden-controlled flat.
My novel that’s e-published by Endeavour Media this July is ‘Jack and Jill Went Downhill’, in this case featuring a younger pair than usual. They meet on Freshers Big Party Night at university. For both it’s love at first sight and their relationship flourishes during their student years, this despite backgrounds, personalities and interests being poles apart. When they first met, they shared the joke that their names were those of the nursery rhyme. Down the line, they fail to recognise that their lives are matching the plot with Jack falling down and Jill coming tumbling after. Their relationship is on the rocks.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Playful. Humorous. Reliable.
What are your top 3 tips for aspiring writers?
- Your readers will need to care about what happens to your protagonists – they might love them or hate them, but they need to care. Make your characters unique and interesting.
- Writing is a lonely activity which in turn can make it hard to assess the quality of what you’re writing. Join a writers’ group, ideally real, but if not, an online one. I get valuable feedback from Cambridge Writers and Romantic Novelists Association colleagues. Be prepared for constructive criticism which, of course, on an ad hoc basis, you can either take or leave.
- There are no rules, only a set of options about how to write. Simply start writing and your set of preferences will emerge.
Are you a panster or plotter?
Definitely a pantser. I know the beginning, the end and a few key bits in the middle when I start writing. Even my characters aren’t fully formed at the outset – I like them to grow with the plot and at times I have the exciting experience of the characters telling me what they want to do next. This approach works well for me in writing about relationships, but if I were to write a crime novel, it wouldn’t.
What does success look like to you?
Renown and acclaim! When I published my first novel, ‘The Engagement Party’ on kindle in February 2012 one of my lifetime highlights emerged on the 25thMarch when the book reached No. 1 in Humour, No. 8 in Romance, and No. 18 in Fiction on Amazon’s Top Free list. In those days, putting the book out free for a short while raised visibility and led to sales. It’s so much harder now!
How do you choose your character names?
They’re important and I relate them to the backgrounds, ages and characteristics required for the plot. Sometimes I google ‘top babies names born in…’ to see what I like.
What do you do when you get stuck with your writing?
I don’t really get stuck. If a particular section is proving a challenge, I move on to something else – hooray for cut and paste.
How long does it take you to write a book?
When I was working full time, about two years. Now I’m a full time writer 😊 and my aim is nine months.
What do you find hardest/easiest about writing?
The hardest is making sure the middle has equal pace to the early and the end chapters. The easiest for me is to introduce self-deprecating humour that is tight and meaningful.
If your book/one of your books got made into a film, who would play the main roles?
‘A Street Café Named Desire’ has two leads with substantially contrasting personalities. I think Colin Firth would be a good fit for David, and Kate Beckinsdale for Bridget. Good – that’s sorted, all I need now is a script writer, producer and director!
Do you prefer pen and paper, or is everything on the computer?
By and large computer, but when mapping out the plot I use a big sheet of paper with post-its and different colour pens, and if it’s sunny, sitting in the garden with a pen and pad is tempting.
Who’s your favourite author and why?
It’s so hard to pick a single person, but Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier would be high on the list. Daphne du Maurier was quite something, too.
What’s your favourite book?
It took me a long time to recover having read and re-read The Magus (John Fowles).
How do you relax?
Tennis. Watching Nordic Noir (and the UK copies). Travel.
And now for some silly questions just for fun…
Tea or coffee?
It’s hard to imagine life without coffee.
Beer or wine?
Both – not excessive. A growing partiality to gin (not excessive!).
Chips or curly fries?
An admission – I’ve never had a curly fry.
Puppies or kittens?
To be truthful – neither.
Summer or winter?
This is the story of two young lovers who just happen to be called Jack and Jill.
The pair meet at a freshers party at university and for both of them it’s love at first sight. Despite their backgrounds, personalities and interests being poles apart, the relationship flourishes during their student years. It’s not quite as comfortable when their studies are over and they move to London to start work.
They’d always shared the joke that their names were those of the nursery rhyme. Down the line, they fail to recognise that their lives are matching the plot: Jack falls down, Jill comes tumbling after. Can their relationship survive?
Warm, witty and poignant, Jack and Jill Went Downhill is the story of a love on the rocks. If you love David Nicholls or Sophie Kinsella, you’ll love R J Gould.
Richard lives in Cambridge. He has two novels published by Accent Press (A Street Café Named Desire and The Engagement Party) and following a self-published edition, one now released by Endeavour Media (Jack and Jill Went Downhill). He is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, coming through their New Writers’ Scheme with a short-listing for the Joan Hessayon Award. He is also a member of Cambridge Writers where he leads the Commercial Editing Group, which provides a valuable opportunity to critique colleagues’ writing on a regular basis. He is a short story competition winner and runner-up with Cambridge Writers, and was highly commended for a Winchester Festival 2018 award.
What people write about Jack and Jill Went Downhill:
“A story about
trust, resilience, forgiveness and fresh starts, narrated with humour and
insight. It kept my interest hooked and made me smile all the way through. A
“I loved this book! Tender, witty, funny, with characters you can totally relate to.”
What people write about R J Gould:
“R.J. Gould writes about the things that I, as a reader, love to hear about: difficult families, marriage, relationships, and trying to find that all-important balance between life’s commitments. His novels are very real, down to earth and thought-provoking.”
“A sharp, perceptive observer of human relationships, demonstrating both their fragility and their absurdity.”
Thanks so much for joining us Richard! I hope you’ll all grab a copy of Richard’s fab book!