Wednesday 4 July 2012

Guest Blog: Romance and the Male Author By Simon Lipson

Thank you for asking me to be a guest blogger. I hope my wafflings are of some interest to you and your followers.

My first book, Losing It, was a somewhat po-faced and scary psychological thriller. Not much call for belly-laughs.  I think the book worked pretty well within the limitations of its genre, but I thought if I was ever inclined to write another book, I’d focus on what I’m (supposed to be) good at; comedy. I’ve been a stand-up and impressionist for 20 years, and written hundreds of sketches and scripts for live performance, radio and TV, so the funny stuff should come easily, I thought. But I also wanted to make the book about real people, real relationships, real families. And real romance. Which was when things got a bit more complex.

The early drafts were full of irrelevant quips and riffs that had no bearing on the story or the characters. It’s quite difficult to delete sure-fire laughs, but I’ve read too many books by people striving too hard and sacrificing forward propulsion to self-indulge, instead, at the altar of comedy, so I became quite fierce with myself. If the funny bit it didn’t sit comfortably with the scene or the character, out it came. Reviews to date have suggested that it’s still ‘laugh out loud funny’ but that the characters are rounded and the story plausible, so the early signs that I’ve struck the right balance are promising.

The trickier bit for me was pitching the romance element from a man’s perspective with authenticity. Now I like a good romcom as much as the next bloke (we all do, honestly; we just don’t like to admit it). High Fidelity, Starter For Ten and Charlotte Street are all written by men and feature a male protagonist. They all succeed in dealing with love from the male perspective but when it comes to writing about matters of the heart, women authors are rather more abundant. And I would venture to suggest that most of their books feature a female protagonist. So dipping my toe into what might be a less appreciated genre – manlit? - felt like a leap into the unknown.

Manlit. What a ridiculous term. Readers have described Song In The Wrong Key variously as ‘romcom, ‘women’s fiction’, ‘chicklit’ and ‘commercial fiction’ and, in the end, it hardly matters. My view is that love and romance are not exclusive to either gender. We all fall in love and we all enjoy courtship. Well most of us anyway. Why should a woman reader be any less entranced by a male protagonist’s romantic adventures (which, after all, involve his feelings towards a woman) than a male reader in those of a female protagonist’s? Maybe we could all benefit from some insights into the opposite sex’s romantic modus operandi!  

Surely the key is to write the best book you can, not worry about how others may classify it and leave the readers to decide if they like it. I have endeavoured to write a book for everyone. There’s nothing exclusive about my subject matter. It’s a story about a family man – hopefully a funny one – which deals with relationships, kids, career dilemmas and the quest for redemption, themes I hope we can all identify with.

Nevertheless, I recognise that I’m one of a small minority of writers spinning tales about the love lives of male protagonists. And, as a first timer in this area, I needed to work out how to talk about feelings, something we men are notoriously useless at. Men dissemble for a living. If my wife asks me if I love her, I tend to snort and bluster something like: ‘Yeah, course I do. God almighty. Where’s the remote?’ whereas she can emote without blinking an eye! But, actually, once I got down to writing the heartfelt stuff, it didn’t bother me at all. Mike Kenton is a version of me, and narrating the story through him allowed me express what was going on in his head. Men think and feel the same emotions as women. Honestly. They just don’t say them out loud unless, like me, they’re talking to their kids. When they’re very young. And asleep. 

Michael Kenton is a middle-aged man living in middle-class comfort with wife Lisa and daughters Millie and Katia. Drifting complacently towards retirement, Mike's world is turned upside-down when he is thrown unexpectedly onto the career scrapheap. 

While Lisa's career sky-rockets, Mike slobs around in his track suit playing guitar, rekindling his teenage love affair with pop music. Knowing Lisa wouldn't approve, he plots a secret 'comeback' at a grimy Crouch End bistro where music executive Ben, desperate and out of time, asks if he can enter one of Mike's songs into the Eurovision Song Contest. With nothing to lose, Mike focuses on Eurovision but quickly finds himself staring down the barrel of low level fame. His crumbling marriage now page five news, he must choose between his musical dream and mending his broken family, a task complicated by the re-appearance of ex-love of his life Faye. 

A laugh-out-loud comedy about love, family, friendship and Euro- tack by acclaimed stand-up and comedy writer Simon Lipson. 


Simon Lipson was born in London and took a law degree at the LSE. After a spell as a lawyer, he co-founded legal recruitment company Lipson Lloyd-Jones in 1987. In 1993, Simon took his first tentative steps onto the comedy circuit and has since become an in-demand stand-up and impressionist across the UK, as well as a regular TV and radio performer/writer. His broadcasting credits include Week Ending, Dead Ringers, Loose Ends and Fordham & Lipson (co-wrote and performed own 4 part sketch series) on Radio 4; Interesting...Very Interesting and Simon Lipson's Xmas Box on Radio 5 and And This Is Them on Radio 2. He is also an experienced voice artiste who has voiced hundreds of advertisements as well as cartoons and documentaries. His first novel, Losing It, a thriller, was published by Matador in 2008. Simon is a columnist for Gridlock Magazine ( His next novel, Standing Up, will be published by Lane & Hart in Autumn 2012. 

Twitter: @SimonLipson

Buy links – paperback and Kindle:

My show, The Accidental Impressionist, is on at the Camden Fringe 20 – 23 August @ 8pm. Everyone welcome! Details and tickets here:   

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