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On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, author Jason Roche talks about the first book in The Boyband Sandwich Trilogy, How To Murder A Boyband.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed author Jason Roche about his life and career, what inspires his stories, and the work that went into his new book, How To Murder A Boyband.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

Jason Roche, author of How to Murder a Boyband, which forms part of what I’ve called “The Boyband Sandwich Trilogy” with sequel Smug Dad already published by Cranthorpe Millner.  I have recently signed a new publishing agreement for the conclusion to the trilogy, How NOT to Murder a Boyband, a contemporary feminist novel with a unique female protagonist.  So the two Boyband novels serve as the two slices of bread in the sandwich, set twenty years apart in the early noughties and twenty-twenties respectively, with Smug Dad the twenty-tens meat in the middle!

In my spare time I’m prone to other forms of writing, specifically film and television screenplays and daring to dream even further having embarked upon a soupçon of independent filmmaking, the foundation of which I’m hoping book trailers, montages and family anthologies edited in DaVinci Resolve will serve as the equivalent of Fincher’s music video introductory path.

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When did you first WANT to write a book?

All throughout school I loved writing, English Creative Writing being the highlight class of my academic schedule.  Writing stories has long been my tumultuous bedfellow, a trail of experimental English essays leaving a bevy of (sometimes) smiling, head-scratching, admonishing and adulating in equal measure English teachers but perhaps signifying tangible belief and recognition at age 16 when, posed with only 30 minutes to write a school essay. I wrote a satire on Biblical beginnings (entitled “The Garden”) and, without a second read (timeframes missed in those days were deadly), it went on to win a national award – The Alan Paton Creative Writing Competition and was published including in national newspapers, leading me astray towards the completely false belief that the first draft achieves anything real!

When did you take a step to start writing?

How to Murder a Boyband started earlier than anticipated … and thankfully so!  I attempted my first full length novel in 2000 using a work laptop – clearly corporate regulations and access to technology were a bit laxer and challenging respectively.  About 6 months in whilst transferring the novel from said corporate laptop using a floppy disk (remember those!?) the unthinkable happened … it disappeared, sending a vast chunk of editing into the cyber wilderness never to be rediscovered again. 

The idea for How to Murder a Boyband had already been formulated in my head so it was a straight shoot-out between rewriting / edits the lost narrative or cracking on with Boyband – I was so excited about the new idea I jumped straight in and thankfully so because, upon reflection, I’m pretty confident that early attempt should stay hidden from public view for eternity! 

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

I completed How to Murder a Boyband in under a year, secured a literary agent off the back of it who had some large publishing deals in the pipeline and multiple requests for the full novel, wrote a screenplay version with interest from well-known filmmakers and distributors, then … 9/11 happened and the entire market seemed to go into freefall, putting the deals on hold, sending my literary agent into a quadruple bypass surgery and early retirement and my writing aspirations into backburner mode with financial survival a seemingly more responsible pursuit coupled with some locational shifts and general life upheaval at the time.  So from the entire noughties decade How to Murder a Boyband languished in a box in the loft until I started Smug Dad in 2009 and dusted off the novel to (gulp) see if it still had sea legs. 

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

How to Murder a Boyband was completed in under a year – 73,000 words so a shorter read.  Smug Dad took about a decade from 2009 – 115,000 words so longer and more involved including a backstory and spanning a longer period.  The 3rd in the Trilogy – “How NOT to Murder a Boyband” took me about 2 years with the majority written during Covid lockdowns – this is about 100,000 words pre working with my editor.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write How To Murder A Boyband?

During the early noughties in London at the peak of the hysteria, Boybands were so big and iconic that I wanted to write a story which dealt with their supposed demise and celebrity self-destruction.  Originally, I liked the idea of a satirical “How To” manual but with a captivating narrative, twists, turns, unconventional characters and potential redemption … a complete guide to the extrication of the Boyband phenomenon, iconic with celebrity-obsessed fans everywhere.

How To Murder A Boyband by Jason Roche on The Table Read
How To Murder A Boyband

I wrote the first drafts of Boyband in my twenties – that’s my apology to the world! 

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What were your biggest challenges with writing How To Murder A Boyband?

Given the comedic, outlandish nature of Boybands and celebrity in general I was attempting to make some of the retributive narrative overtly gratuitous; cartoonish almost to shock the reader and push the boundaries to show ‘normalised’ conduct when there are no ramifications … a flippant “Another day in the life of a Boyband”. 

Having read novels that shocked me to the core I remember hearing my heart pounding as a result – a powerful physical reaction to what should just be words on a page.  Those are the novels I remember and wanted to test whether I could get a reader to the point of enduring the more extreme end scenes of the novel, peering through their fingers in white-knuckle, cheek-biting, buttocks-clenching, bottom-teeth-baring horror!

After my first literary agent completed reading How to Murder a Boyband, the feedback was she couldn’t put it down for the first two-thirds and subsequently couldn’t sleep for two weeks after the final third.  To compound my fear that the novel was a tad nihilistic, perverse, shocking (movie trailers love the word visceral) and disturbing, my mother-in-law was one of the many pushy family members ‘who absolutely had to read it!’  Well … she hasn’t uttered a word of it since … the literary elephant on the bookshelf!

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

An ordinary person in an extraordinary situation – clearly looking for more than his mere existence, yet desperate enough to know that destiny must be sought through whatever means, not simply an inert passivity of killing each day until one dies.  Ingratiating himself into the Boyband is difficult for Paton and part of the fun of the narrative but once there, he is embedded and is allured and repulsed in equal measure by the unchecked Boyband behaviour where impunity is the only language. 

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

Boybands in the early noughties were so huge and seemed so comical, specific and iconic but in a façade sort of way.  I’d been involved in modelling and starred in commercials in my early twenties so had experienced the vacuous vanity of a similar industry early on.  Overlaying the darker celebrity abuse of power (remembering this is pre R Kelly and Weinstein) felt like a fictional mechanism to not only firmly establish the antagonistic nature of the Boyband but link their performing traits to the retribution whilst writing a premonitory #MeToo thriller … before any of us really knew what was going on behind closed celerity doors or what celebrity abuse of power looked like.

What is the inciting incident of How To Murder A Boyband?

At the gym watching MTV’s Top 10 Boybands of all time was the spark!  There’s a scene in How to Murder a Boyband based on this and a real turning point in the novel.

What is the main conflict of How To Murder A Boyband?

The main conflict is the protagonist Paton’s balancing of rectifying the injustices perpetuated by the Boyband against his sense of societal injustice and his own life’s normality. 

Did you plot How To Murder A Boyband in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

Certainly the main plot points are all planned in advance but I’m not averse to running with a tangent or exploring new arcs and ideas as the story progresses.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did How To Murder A Boyband need?

Editing can be that process where you sometimes second guess your original intention only to come back to it at the end.  All the iterations pre my publisher and editor reading are completed by me – a combination of rewrites, new material and fine-tooth comb grammatical editing.  I do so love and appreciate my editor’s take and stance as it opens up new possibilities on parts of the narrative that have never been considered.  So I’m always fully on board to make the novels as good as they can possibly be with the editor’s input. 

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Write in your own unique style and write about stuff you love – trying to be something you feel the market wants or something you should be will never bring the best out of your writing.  Be free and run towards taboos rather than shun them!

Can you give me a hint about any further books you are planning to write?

How NOT to Murder a Boyband concludes the trilogy and, having just signed a new publishing agreement, will be out October 2022.  This novel was so much fun to write and wraps up the two preceding books to reach where we today, not only taking account of the evolution of the Boyband but society as a whole.  Here’s a taste …

Boybands have changed.  Not in what they wear or the music they produce but in their spiritual significance to this generation.  They’ve cleaned up to the point where they are likeable; they’re relevant and their tunes are half decent.  The past naff quota has been replaced either with elderly dignity or fresh disadvantaged background dun-good sympathy: “They’re nice lads!”

So what I’m about to tell you will come across ever the more shocking, ever the more trend busting, ever the more deeeeeeep.  What is the actual formula to NOT Murder a Boyband?

I’m dating one. 

Friendships that go beyond friendship are not bound by what you believe you have in common or honesty or selflessness or spiritual connection or anything you formed on a last season social media platform (in fact all social media is now last season) but rather a common purpose and a sense of shared travail; a bind perhaps stronger than familial: conjoined twins so that there are no metaphorical ropes between you but actual skin where the only way to separate is to actually tear, cut or scythe flesh.  An image a bit too Sky Horror for this time of the morning sorry, but hey what the fuck is a girl to do when showing some real love for her sister.  Or sisters more precisely.  Seven hairless (bar one), hapless (bar three), hopeful, harmful, hedonistic (bar four), healthy (bar two), heroines.

All of whom dating a Boyband.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment?

Yes although I have strictly banned my children from ever reading the novels!

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

https://jasonroche.co.uk

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCawtsXX6JWdpXydgdcJTJqQ

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