Paul Bassett Davies is a writer, director and actor. Over the years he has written for dozens of British radio and television shows, working with some of the biggest names in comedy, as well as writing several BBC radio plays. He also wrote the screenplay for the feature animation children's film The Magic Roundabout. His new sitcom 'Reception' is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in June 2013.
This month his debut novel, UTTER FOLLY, has been published on kindle. I didn’t need much persuasion to buy it. If you follow him on Twitter you'll already know he’s consistently hilarious. It's an honour to have him on my blog.
“The novel is a wicked comedy about an English country house weekend. When a young man visits a well-to-do friend’s family he learns some harsh lessons about love, loyalty, and the landed gentry, as his friend’s barely-legal sister tries to seduce him, he becomes a suspect in the efforts of a deranged policeman to nail a local retired rock star for drug trafficking, and ends up with all his illusions about the upper classes – including his friends – demolished.”
This is your first novel and some people might be wondering why such a prolific writer as yourself took so long! Have you been carrying this idea around with you for some time?
I came up with the idea for this book many years ago. I originally wanted to do it as a serial, and persuade people to subscribe to it, paying to receive the next chapter, once a month. This would motivate me to write to a deadline, and also emulate the way that my hero, Dickens, wrote much of his work. It wasn't a bad idea, but I got involved in other things, and the book went to the back of my mind to simmer on a low heat, which tells me I wasn't ready to write it. I eventually began it about three years ago, by which time I think it had cooked for long enough.
There are lots of ridiculous scenes in 'Utter Folly'. I particularly loved the doomed Bingo game which made me laugh out loud. How much research did you do? And honestly, what is the most you've ever won at Bingo?
I have to be careful about admitting to how much research I did as there is quite a lot about drugs in the book, and also some bizarre sex. So I'll just mutter inaudibly about that. As for the Bingo scene, it's based on something that happened to me in my youth. A lot of the things in the book are based on my own experience, and on people I've known. However, nobody is going to recognise themselves, as the characters are drawn from several different actual people, plus a lot that's purely invented. So, put away the writs, libel lawyers. I think I can honestly say that I've never won anything at Bingo. A couple of years ago the Bingo industry spent a lot of money on PR in an attempt to rebrand it's image, and convince people it wasn't just for old ladies. There was a spate of TV ads showing hip young people having a groovy time at the Bingo game. I don't think it worked.
James, your main character, is a city boy who doesn’t have the relaxing country weekend he expected. What’s your personal preference, city life or country life?
I lived in the country for a while, in the West of England, where most of the book is based. However, I was also living in Bristol at the same time, as a result of trying to have more than one girlfriend. Which didn't really work. But I love that part of the world, and my favourite type of countryside is in Somerset and Devon. It really is England's green and pleasant land. Given the right opportunity I think I'd like to end up back there.
Do you have a position on fox hunting?
I'd like to know how the fox feels about it. In general I'm not keen on hunting unless you eat what you kill. But even then I have doubts when it comes to grouse and pheasants. They are probably the stupidest creatures in creation. There is no sport at all in killing them. A baby could do it with a stick. A pheasant is so dumb that if you went to a quiet country lane and placed an open pan of boiling water on a small primus stove in the middle of the road, eventually a pheasant would climb in.
Which character did you enjoy writing most and why?
Great Aunt Prudence, probably. She's so old, aristocratic and entitled that she simply doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. I also liked writing Jarvis, the cop who becomes increasingly demented, although in some ways you have to be more careful and controlled than ever if you try to write about people being crazy. Someone simply raving isn't interesting. What's interesting is that people who are undergoing what we describe as a psychotic breakdown actually have a very logical, coherent and complex view of the world; it's just different from the one that most of us would call sane.
The writing process has been described endlessly and usually as a form of torture. Writer @Matthaig1 recently tweeted: ‘Writing a novel is like trying to squeeze an elephant through a doorway. And equally likely to end in crap’. How was the process for you?
It's hard work but I love it. I'm very, very lucky. To be able to make a living as a writer, as I have done for at least some parts of my life, doing what I most love in the world, is wonderful. I consider myself blessed.
What time of day do you write best? And with what beverage, if any?
I am very undisciplined. I try to write in the morning but not until I've had some coffee. I sometimes do some more in the afternoon and evening. I often do quite a lot of thinking before I sit at my desk. I do good work in the bath, and going for walks. Writers always have problem convincing their partners that they're actually working, when it appears that they're snoozing on the couch. It's very unfair on the partner, and I feel sorry for anyone who lives with a writer, including children and pets. When I was a lot younger I used to write under the influence of various things. It felt good, and I'd be convinced I was writing pages and pages of pure genius. Then you read it in the morning and you'd find that nearly all of it was trash. I used to reckon that you'd get about an hour of reasonable work and the rest was useless. I don't recommend it. You've got to be in it for the long game, and you need to look after yourself. Just say no, kids.
Will you be writing more novels in the future?
Yes. I've nearly finished the next one. It's called 'Dead Writers in Rehab,' because it saves having to explain what it's about.
You’re currently working on a new BBC sitcom for Radio 4. Are you allowed to tell us anything about it?
I'm not going to. There's not much to say. It's a simple set up. It's all about the characters. Character first, then story, then jokes. I don't like disclosing too much about what I'm writing in case I jinx it. I'm not superstitious - just slightly stitious. A lot of writers are like that, which is an interesting dilemma, because one of the ways you're meant to build an online profile, and engage with readers, is by talking to them about what you're doing. I didn't talk much about the content of 'Utter Folly' while I was writing it. But I did something I don't think anyone else had thought of yet: I held an online book launch party on Twitter and created a hashtag: #VirtualBookLaunch. That was fun.
Have you got any tips for aspiring writers?
Just one. Persevere.
UTTER FOLLY is available to BUY from Amazon for just £2.49
Paul Basset Davies blogs at www.thewritertype.blogspot.com