What can I say about Jonathan Hill (that won’t result in getting sued for libel)? A sickeningly talented and ridiculously prolific writer who is high on my list of competing authors to assassinate.
Actually I’m a big fan of Jonathan’s work, especially his Maureen series. This is despite the fact that his hilarious creation still hasn’t appeared in the science fiction space opera epic that I know will be the best thing he’s ever written, if only he’d bloody write it.
Jonathan has a new story out for the festive period, and so in the spirit of Christmas, I got him drunk (by simply pointing at a bottle of red) and asked him some questions.
1. Have you finished ‘Maureen on the Moon’ yet?
Ah, now how did I know that this was going to come up? David has been asking me this question since almost before Maureen came into existence. In short, no. I’ve written ‘Maureen under the Moon’ and ‘Maureen in the Moon’, but not the title you so obsess over.
[Note: Jonathan got this question wrong. The correct answer is ‘Yes’.]
2. Your most recent release is ‘A Christmas Outing’. What was the original motivation for writing it?
I usually release something around Christmastime and, with the exception of last year’s dark ‘The Anniversary’, that something is usually light-hearted. Despite exploring some dark subjects in my books, I’ve always enjoyed writing comedy and ‘A Christmas Outing’ was a chance for me to present readers with a gay-themed story that is fun and (hopefully) funny and somewhat distanced from the hard-hitting drama of, say, ‘FAG’ or ‘Not Just a Boy’.
3. There’s a lot of wonderful humour in ‘A Christmas Outing’, but I think the funniest characters are David’s parents. How have you managed to distill that universal ‘mum and dad-ness’ which I suspect every reader will recognise?
Thank you for saying so. That’s a good question and I’m glad you think that they’re portrayed well. My concern was that they’d be seen as being over the top and unrealistic. Of course, they are comedy characters and fictional, but it’s encouraging to hear that readers recognise mum and dad traits in them.
I guess that dialogue is key in the relationship between David’s parents. That constant weary sniping is present in so many relationships and doesn’t mean the couple isn’t close. Lots of friendships are founded on such banter, and capturing that in dialogue is a good start to creating the mum and dad relationship.
And being observational. If you open your eyes and let life wash over you, you’d be surprised at just how much you pick up on.
4. Much of your recent work has been in gay literary fiction. What would you say are the qualities about that genre that appeal to you?
Again, excellent question and yet infuriatingly tricky to compose a satisfactory answer! I guess it’s an area rich with possibilities. There’s much emotion to explore around this genre as well as all the themes that link in with it – to name a few, coming of age, prejudice, acceptance, repression. And of course, you can drop a gay character into any situation and genre and make that your own. Gay-horror, gay-psychological drama, gay-comedy etc… In that sense there is arguably even more scope in exploring gay characters’ lives through fiction compared to heterosexual characters.
Having said that, I’m still not sure how I feel about the gay literary fiction label. Yes, it may flag up what the book is going to be (at least partly) about, but the real challenge in writing gay literary fiction is to make it accessible to all readers. When you can, and when you read amazing positive feedback from straight readers as well as gay readers, that feels a real achievement.
5. Do you think an author has to be gay himself or herself in order to write about gay themes? Is that something readers expect?
To deal with the latter question first, I would hope that in this day and age, readers would be more open as to the orientation of an author. Not that that matters of course. A well-written book is a well-written book. But yes, I would expect that the majority of books that explore gay themes are written by gay authors, simply because other authors aren’t drawn to write gay storylines, and that’s possibly for a variety of reasons, most probably legitimate. After all, would you write about something you don’t have experience of in detail?
Does an author have to be gay to write about gay themes? No, of course not. I’ve read some cracking gay literary fiction written by people from all walks of life. Having that ‘experience’ isn’t essential. If one wants to write about the persecution of gay people, for example, much emotion overlaps with that which arises from the persecution of any minority group. It certainly helps to be gay, though. Writing sensitively about coming out, for example, is, I would imagine, pretty tough for a heterosexual author, simply because the journey and attached emotions are unique and hard to imagine.
6. Are there any genres you haven’t tackled yet that you hope to one day?
Flipping heck, you’re making me think with these questions! I’m sure there are. I’d like to write more thriller or horror stuff at some point. I’m difficult because I can never pin down one genre. I love writing comedy. I love writing psychological drama. At the moment, I’m well into the gay literary fiction genre. I think genres are possibly like seasons for me. They change gradually from one to the next and I’m always certain to return to previous ones.
7. What are your writing plans for 2017?
Well, Mr Nosey Parker, if that is indeed your name. (It’s not? Oh.) I have an unpublished novel on my hard drive which I need to sort into some decent readable state. As for when that will happen, I don’t know… I’m very much led by my readers and their thoughts. As ‘A Christmas Outing’ has proved successful, it is not a big jump for me to explore these characters further while they’re fresh in my mind…
8. Have you finished ‘Maureen on the Moon’ yet?
I’ll refer you to Question 1 and from there you might as well read through my answers again. And again. And again… It’ll be a dream for my obsessive fans, of which I have… well, myself. And… erm…
[Note: again, Jonathan failed to answer this with the correct response, which is ‘Yes and it’ll be published in a few minutes’.]
Want more Jonathan? Really? Well, you can get as much as you can handle from his website at www.jhillwriter.com, which includes details of his recent novella Not Just A Boy.
For a great seasonal read, buy A Christmas Outing from Amazon for only 99p.
You can also read my reviews of some of his other highly recommended books: FAG, Pride, A Letter for Maureen and 100 One Hundred Word Tales.