28th July 2016 - Andy Jones
Andy Jones lives in London with his wife and two little girls, who inspired him to write Romantic Fiction rather than crime thrillers! During the day he works in an advertising agency; at weekends and horribly early in the mornings, he writes fiction. Follow Andy on twitter: @andyjonesauthor.
Andy's books offer a refreshing male perspective in the romance genre, and his secret in writing his female characters is discussing and honing them with the women in his life. His first novel,The Two of Us, was described as One Day on fast-forward. His new book The Trouble with Henry and Zoe, is a story about love and the choices we make, how bad choices can lead to good things, and how life is never what you expect it to be.
Below, exclusively for Foyles, Andy writes about how he came to write romantic fiction having previously written crime and thrillers, and why he wouldn't have it any other way.
Why I Write What I Write
I didn’t make a deliberate decision to write a ‘romantic book’ after the birth of my first daughter. But I wrote one anyway.
Prior to my debut novel, The Two of Us, I’d written one novel that will forever remain in my bottom drawer, and around two-dozen short stories. Subjects included: murder, torture, suicide, drugs, confused sexuality, paralysis, psychopathy, fighting, a one-legged shoe thief and a genetically engineered assassin.
Then my little girl Ruby was born.
Then my little girl Evie was born.
Anyone who has experienced it will agree - becoming a parent changes you. Massively, fundamentally, immediately. I found it difficult to watch or read about anything that involved children in jeopardy. I found myself moved to tears by movies, TV shows, news articles, novels. It’s as if a dormant gland had sprung into action, pumping out weird hormones and sensitising my tear ducts. Other male friends have reported the same thing.
I continued to write, but something had changed. Gone were the killers and junkies; instead I wrote about a couple falling in love and then trying to stay there while they come to terms with an unexpected pregnancy. Which, it transpires, contains more than enough drama without involving anything more lethal than a flat-pack cot. It never occurred to me at the time that it was a romantic book, but I have been assured it is. It’s an emotional story, too, and I cried more than once while I was writing it. I assumed this was simply down to my overactive dad-gland, but when people read the book – my mother, my wife, my agent, my best friend – they cried, too. And then something amazing happened. Simon & Schuster published The Two of Us. People bought it, read it, reviewed it – favourably for the most part.
One comment I received a lot was that readers found it interesting to read about romance from an entirely male perspective. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was anything unusual, but I think the appeal goes a little deeper than simple novelty value.
I think writing a male perspective on relationships is something like letting the reader in a secret. When women read romantic fiction written from the point of view of a woman, their reaction is likely to be: 'Tell me about it!' When they read romantic fiction written by a man, perhaps they’re thinking: 'Tell me more about it…'
As a rule, men keep their emotions and insecurities bottled up. But with my characters, we get to see inside their heads. We hear what they really think, what they wish they’d said, and what they wish they’d kept to themselves. We learn that men have feelings too. We learn that deep deep down … men are romantic too.
For my latest book – The Trouble With Henry & Zoe – I’ve taken a gamble. As well as writing from Henry’s perspective, I’ve also told the story from Zoe’s angle. Obviously, writing as a 29 year-old woman with a ton of emotional baggage wasn’t entirely natural for me. But, like I said, I am surrounded by women, and the first two people who read anything I write are my mum and my wife – so if (when) I got Zoe wrong, they were quick to correct me. (As they are in all other aspects of my life, now that I think of it.)
They grew close to Zoe, empathised with her, felt her pain and wanted her to get the happy ending that has been eluding her. When she was happy they were, when she was exasperated by Henry, they were too. But because they’d seen inside his head, they were a little more understanding and forgiving of his failings.
Probably, I should take all the credit for everything good in the book, but the truth is some of the best scenes and details wouldn’t exist without the input of my wife and my mother. And very possibly, the book wouldn’t exist at all if it weren’t for my two little girls. Without them, it’s highly likely I’d still be knocking out stories about thugs, killers, pimps and zombie bees. Not that I have anything against those kinds of books (I love ’em), but it turns out I’m much better at writing about more relatable concerns. About relationships, life, love.
Right, I’ve got to make a bunny costume, paint a tea-set and clean the pink fluff out of the tumble dryer.
And – much like my writing – I wouldn’t have it any other way.