Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Alex Marsh to my blog. Thanks for joining me, Alex.
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
Hello! I’m Alex Marsh. I live in a small village near the North Norfolk coast, with my family and eight chickens; my wife travels a lot, so you’ll generally find me juggling writing, my other job (which is also writing), school runs, cooking dinners, etc.
When we first came here – around fifteen years ago – I was in a bit of an enforced career break, so I started a blog which became a big success, then it became a book: ‘Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll’, which was published by HarperCollins.
My new book, ‘The Resurrection of Frederic Debreu,’ follows Ted, newly-retired but still a big kid at heart, and his stoical wife Daisy.
Ted’s dream is to spend a ‘gap year’ living the good life in the French countryside. It’s a final fling of youth before they settle down together in a respectable bungalow for the rest of their days. But, of course, things don’t go to plan. Ted finds himself at the mercy of events over which he has very little control, and the village of Mailliot le Bois becomes as much a prison as it is a paradise.
This is a good time to say ‘thank you’ for your review – I’m genuinely chuffed that you enjoyed it.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I tend to think that ideas just appear; sitting down and thinking ‘must have an idea!’ is hopeless. ‘Debreu’ came to me out of the blue when I heard some French chanson; there’s a richness and atmosphere about that type of music that seemed to fit the sort of book I wanted to write – a book that gives you a big hug, whilst also having depth. And there’s also a hint of the disreputable, which I like…
Here’s Georges Brassens singing on YouTube, for some background music for the rest of the article… https://youtu.be/lQRgym8IDGM
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
There’s a character who has a knack of bringing every conversation, however irrelevant, back to their own achievements – I think we’ve all met one of those…
How do you pick your character’s names?
Setting something in a different country is a challenge in terms of getting the little social details right; I have a friend who has lived in France for many, many years; she gave me a huge amount of help on names and place-names. (‘No – so and so isn’t right; it’s slightly too old, or too middle-class, etc.) And then I became friendly with Damien Cabanis, who owns the most unbelievably fantastic and chilled out wine shop in Norwich – Les Garrigues. I’d ask him daily questions about regional specifics and idiosyncrasies.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I lie in the bath. Honestly. I do a lot of writing like that, just in my head; not just ‘big picture’ plotting, but writing dialogue, and getting to know the characters, and looking at things from different angles until they work. I’m always telling my kids to spend a bit of time thinking about their homework before they grab a pencil and start writing. But they ignore me, because that’s what kids do.
Aside from that, I have an office in my garden – or I take my laptop up to a café on the coast, if I feel I need some human company.
Do you have a favourite author?
It changes every day!
Of books of a similar genre to ‘Debreu’, the one which I’ve most enjoyed recently has been Matt Haig’s ‘The Humans.’ I sent him a slightly bashful email afterwards to say that I thought it was great. Not expecting a reply or anything, but because very occasionally I’ve had nice emails pop up out of the blue, and I don’t think people realise how much things like that can mean to an author – especially if they’re having a bad day.
Were you a big reader as a child?
MASSIVELY MASSIVE. The public library every Saturday afternoon to pick up my full quota; then returning them the following week to get more. Reading, to me, was just – amazing.
When did you start to write?
I was very young – I used to write stories at home. Then school magazines and the like, and, because I was the geekiest of geeks as a teenager, I had a column in a short-lived computer magazine. I picked writing up again when I started the blog, and started to get emails from all over the world, most of which went along the lines of: ‘oh, your poor, poor wife…’
What are you working on right now?
I’m mulling over what happens to the occupants of Mailliot le Bois! Without any spoilers, there’s a lot more to find out about them…
When can we look forward to a new release?
That depends on how ‘The Resurrection…’ goes! It’s very early days, but I’ve been utterly bowled over by the response to it so far, so…
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Visit my website: privatesecretdiary.com (there’s an email sign up for news posts); find me on Twitter at @jonnyb. Please do say hello!
I very recently read and reviewed The Resurrection Of Frederic Debreu. If you haven’t already and would like to, you can read my review here The Resurrection of Frederic Debreu by Alex Marsh
Publisher: RedDoor Publishing (5th May 2016)
Who wants a respectable retirement anyway?
Not Ted Prescott, genial visitor to Mailliot le Bois, here on an impulsive mission to seek out his past whilst heroically diminishing the sleepy French town’s stocks of red wine.
But once the locals discover Ted’s authentic renditions of regional hero Frederic Debreu’s songs, life is suddenly not so straightforward for the stage-shy Derbyshire guitar-maker.
Reluctantly persuaded that he might help put their town back on the map, Ted finds himself billed as humble French farm labourer ‘Edouard Prescote’. Nonplussed as his self-conscious performances strike a chord, Ted finds himself drawn into a web of well-intentioned deceit that he finds increasingly hard to unravel.
Haunted by the loss of his missing brother, and with the hopes of an entire community riding on him, it soon becomes clear that there are other, more important things that he hasn’t mentioned to his loved ones…
Purchase your copy HERE
Added to my TBR list…..
Publisher: The Friday Project (2nd July 2010)
The story of a man who gives up the rock ‘n’ roll dream… to play bowls.
Alex Marsh wanted to be a rock star – but it didn’t work out. Instead he toiled away in the big city – only to give up his career, move to rural Norfolk, and become a househusband. Only he isn’t a very good one. Whilst his pride won’t let him admit it, he struggles with the cooking, the cleaning and the isolation. He hires a cleaner without telling his wife, his repertoire of baked potatoes exhausts quickly. He becomes hooked on daytime television and computer solitaire. He is in danger of becoming weird.
So he takes up bowls. In Sex & Bowls & Rock and Roll we follow a season in the life of the village bowls team, a group of amateur sportsmen and mild eccentrics. In doing so we see this unfashionable pastime in a whole new light, and very funny it is too. But Alex hasn’t quite given up on his dreams of rock stardom. Discovering that some of his mates down the pub are a bit handy with bass and drums he makes one final stab at being in a band, with an eagerly awaited local gig. It is a complete disaster.
Join Alex has he comes to terms with life as a domestic disappointment, attempts to learn the fine art of bowls and finally realises that supporting the Sultans Of Ping at the Pink Toothbrush in Rayleigh really was the highpoint of his musical career. Sex & Bowls & Rock and Roll is a hilarious account of the life of a genuinely modern man. Everyone will recognise themselves (or their husbands) and you will be hard pressed not to laugh out loud.
Many thanks again to Alex for joining me on my blog.
Also to Anna at RedDoor Publishing for introducing me to Alex and his work.