Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love : My Next Big Thing

Last Wednesday the writer/publisher Adele Ward tagged me in an on-line blogging chain called The Next Big Thing. The idea is that when tagged the writer has to answer ten questions about his/her latest book and then go on to tag some more writers who will do the same thing the following Wednesday and so on. 
Thanks Adele for thinking of me – if you want to see her Next Big Thing here is the link to her blog:
This is my link in the chain:

The Next Big Thing
 1) What is the working title of your next book?
The final title for my novel, to be published in 2013, is Stephen Dearsley’s Summer of Love but the working title had been, with a touch of self-mockery but also with a connection to the plot-line, Unpublished Material. The first draft did look slightly depressing with that title though so I’m happy that the publisher came up with a much better one. Wag friends said now I should call it Published Material.
 2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wanted to write about someone who was obsessed with history but found it difficult connecting with the contemporary world. I wanted him to be thrown into a period that was going through an historic change without him noticing, at first, that it was happening all around him. In my lifetime, the excitingly optimistic (but not fulfilled) late Sixties counter-culture provided a suitable period – something, as a young man, I witnessed from afar. I was also interested in the idea of someone who was more intent in writing a biography and studying other people than finding out about himself. It was to be a story about an unworldly biographer and his very worldly subject – Stephen’s opposite, the charismatic Austin Randolph who thrived in the 1930s and 40s, the very period and culture that the late Sixties was rebelling against.
       3)  What genre does your book fall under?
      I am not very good at these literary definitions. I suppose the book is general fiction but that sounds like a cop-out. It could be historical fiction because it is set in two specific historical periods: 1967 and also the 1930s and 1940s. It takes an ironic tone so I would like to think you could call it humourous.  It could be called literary fiction too – at least in intent – as I have always dreamed of writing one of those slim Penguin paperbacks by people like Christopher Isherwood or E.M.Forster or if I’d been American, Raymond Chandler or Scott Fitzgerald. It also has a mystery fiction element connected with Austin Randolph’s ‘unpublished material’ that causes such alarm among his former friends and lovers.  As to genre, I honestly don’t know. You tell me!
 4)  What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Thinking about that now for the first time, I would say the Harry Potter star, Daniel Radcliffe (as he is now) would make a good Stephen Dearsley and manage the transformation from geek to hippie convincingly. Ben Whishaw would be good too. Austin Randolph has to be impossibly handsome in the Clark Gable mould – not easy that one, I know.  Maybe Michael Fassbaender’s versatility would work with good period make-up. He would certainly not be embarrassed by some of Austin’s sexual exploits.  Dys, Stephen’s girlfriend, needs to be a modern-day Twiggy with a touch more cool – maybe Antonia Campbell-Hughes. Imelda Thornton would be perfect as the faded starlet, Ivy Cooper with Romola Garai as her younger self. Felicity Kendal could play the aging English rose, Emilia Jeffries with Emma Watson as the young Emilia.  Tom Wilkinson as the unfortunate closeted Philip Irving in later life with Rupert Grint, another Harry Potter actor as the young Philip.  Hey, I’m getting excited by this now!
 5)  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In 1967 The Summer of Love, the mysterious hippie girl, Dys, draws the unworldly biographer- wannabe, Stephen Dearsley, from his young fogey’s obsessions with the past into a world that is changing around him and rebelling against everything that the subject of his biography, Austin Randolph, stood for.
 6)  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book will be published by Ward Wood Publishing without the intermediary of an agent. 
 7)  How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Writing the first draft probably took about a year. The later drafts involved a lot of cutting so I could probably have written the first draft quicker if I’d been wiser from the start…as with many things in my life.

 8)  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I wouldn’t dare compare myself to any of my heroes but I was interested in writing a book with some of the detached irony of the Graham Greene entertainments – especially Our Man In Havana which is one of my favourite books. I am still in love with the last sentence and tried to achieve something like that in my final chapter. 

 9)   Who or what inspired you to write this book?

One of my favourite biographies is Michael Holroyd’s Lytton Strachey.  I was impressed that such an erudite writer was self-educated, like he was, in a public library.  This was an early idea for Stephen Dearsley’s similar struggle with self-education in Brighton’s Reference Library. Holroyd’s achievement in his great biographies made me wonder what the relationship might be like between a relatively unassuming writer and some of the giant egos that they set themselves to study. Austin Randolph is one of those big personalities – a hero and, ultimately, like so many heroes, a destructive force. For me this is a David and Goliath story. Also, as above, Graham Greene’s Our Man In Havana inspired the idea of writing about an underdog, someone who is never quite as successful as we want him to be. The contrast between Stephen and Austin was born out of these thoughts. I was also inspired, yes I guess that is the write verb, by being lucky enough to remember the late Sixties and to be young enough to believe that the world could actually be changed if enough idealists got together in the spirit of peaceful revolution. Some of the melancholy in the book comes from looking back on what actually happened between then and now.

 10)  What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

During my television career, I was asked to research an epic documentary about the 20th anniversary of The Beatles’ album It Was Twenty Years Ago Today for Granada Television. Called It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, the two hour documentary was transmitted around the world on the 20th anniversary of the day the album was first released with its opening song “It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.” The documentary traced the album’s  influence within the counter culture and the influences that inspired The Beatles to make it. I was lucky to work in the golden years of British television and I was allowed to spend two years researching this film and meeting most of the important figures of the period from the surviving Beatles and many of the other rock legends of the time to some of the cultural gurus, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs to forgotten but still thriving hippies in the USA, Britain and The Netherlands. I hope that some of those research conversations guided my hand in writing about the history of the period. There was also, at this time, a less inspiring conversation with the British fascist, Sir Oswald Moseley’s widow, Diana Moseley whom, I’d hoped, might have given me some understanding of how anyone in Britain could have supported such a vile idea. Sadly, she had found a comfort zone to hide behind and I left none the wiser. That too became a theme in the novel.

Stephen Dearsley’s Summer of Love will be published next year by Ward Wood Publishing:   
Here are my tagees – two interesting poets who also write blogs – look out for them next Wednesday:

Keith Armstrong

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community development worker, poet, librarian and publisher, Keith Armstrong, now resides in the seaside town of Whitley Bay. He has organised several community arts festivals in the region and many literary events. He is coordinator of the Northern Voices Community Projects creative writing and community publishing enterprise and was founder of Ostrich poetry magazine, Poetry North East, Tyneside Poets and the Strong Words and Durham Voices community publishing series.
He recently compiled and edited books on the Durham Miners’ Gala and on the former mining communities of County Durham, the market town of Hexham and the heritage of North Tyneside. He has been a self-employed writer since 1986 and he was awarded a doctorate in 2007 for his work on Newcastle writer Jack Common at the University of Durham where he received a BA Honours Degree in Sociology in 1995 and Masters Degree in 1998 for his studies on regional culture in the North East of England. His biography of Jack Common was published by the University of Sunderland Press in 2009.
His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as New Statesman, Poetry Review, Dream Catcher, and Other Poetry, as well as in the collections The Jingling Geordie, Dreaming North, Pains of Class, Imagined Corners, Splinters and The Month of the Asparagus, on cassette, LP & CD, and on radio & TV. He has performed his poetry on several occasions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and at Festivals in Aberdeen, Bradford, Cardiff, Cheltenham (twice at the Festival of Literature – with Liz Lochhead and with ‘Sounds North’), Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne, Greenwich, Lancaster, and throughout the land.
In his youth, he travelled to Paris to seek out the grave of poet Charles Baudelaire and he has been making cultural pilgrimages abroad ever since. He has toured to Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland, Iceland (including readings during the Cod War), Denmark, France, Germany (including readings at the Universities of Hamburg, Kiel, Oldenburg, Trier and Tuebingen), Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Cuba, Jamaica and Kenya.

Noel Duffy 

I studied Experimental Physics at Trinity College Dublin, before turning my hand to writing. I co-edited (with Theo Dorgan) the anthology ‘Watching the River Flow: A Century in Irish Poetry’ (Poetry Ireland/Poetry Society, 1999) and was the winner of the START Chapbook Prize in 2003 for my collection ‘The Silence After’. My full poetry collection ‘In the Library of Lost Objects’ was published by Ward Wood in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Strong Award for best debut by an Irish poet.

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