Andy Jones on ‘The Two of Us’ by Andy Jones
I have a confession to make:
I have never read ‘female fiction’. And I certainly didn’t mean to write any. And yet here I am on Books and the City, ‘the home of female fiction’. The home, I tell you! Don’t get me wrong; I’m actually quite partial to a bit of romance. I watched Grey’s Anatomy once, and The Princess Bride is in my top three movies. But romantic books, not my thing.
When I was a boy I read scary books – Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Stephen King. As I moved into my twenties I migrated to Iain Banks, JD Salinger, Raymond Chandler, Irvine Welsh. Later still I moved onto Martin Amis, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Eason Ellis. I was dabbling in writing myself by now, and these were the guys I wanted to emulate.
And then I wrote a novel called Girl 99. It didn’t turn out quite how I’d planned. It was funnier, warmer, more … romantic, goddamn it! But hey, Stephen King believes that a story has its own form, and the writer’s job is merely to uncover it – gently, honestly. So don’t blame me, blame the story.
I moved onto an idea for a real gritty book. It ran aground after 33,084 words.
Then on the New Year’s Day 2013, my wife and I were walking on Wimbledon Common, discussing what I was going to write next. It’s a big – really big – decision. You’re going to sink the next 18-24 months worth of early mornings and late nights into that story. And I’d just burned five months on the gritty thing.
Girl 99 was doing reasonably well at the time, with lot of reviewers saying how much they liked the characters. So we began speculating on what happens after happily ever after. What happens if you take a couple in love and throw a big bucket of ice-cold life at them.
The result is The Two of Us. There are no gangsters and no monsters but I’ve come to realise that life – the everyday variety – can be edgy, gritty and scary enough. It’s one of the reasons we read dark stories – to escape. Stories that embrace life, though, that deal with real human conflicts and crises, I think they affect us in a deeper way.
The Two of Us has been hard and, at times, emotionally exhausting work. But I have enjoyed writing this book more than anything I have written before. And now, of course, I have whole new genre to dive into: Lisa Jewel, Jojo Moyes, Marian Keyes … and I can’t wait. Although, I might just squeeze in a quick Stephen King first.
We’re going for a walk on Wimbledon Common this weekend. We’ll send our daughters hunting for conkers while me and Mrs Jones sit on a bench and discuss what I’m going to write next. I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to be yet, but you can bet your boots, someone is falling in love.