Liam Livings - Best Friends Perfect Book Release and Interview

Welcome to my blog Liam! Here are some questions posed by my Facebook friends...

What are the major themes of your work?

Friendship – how you have different friends for different reasons in your life; the importance of friendship in our lives. Reinvention – I seem to have quite a few characters who change through the course of the story to become a different person.

Romance – finding that perfect someone, sometimes when you’re already with someone who’s not so perfect after all. Depression/melancholy – I’m a massive Abba fan, and they really knew how to do melancholy: blue eye shadow; throwing a dice wistfully; asking your ex-wife to sing about how you’ve found another woman. I also go through dark periods (Dark and Light inside of us), as most of us do, and I try to cover that in my writing too. Camp – is that a theme?

Let me put it to you like this; I enjoy the sound a high heel makes on a marble floor. I like a bit of swish and sparkle, and my writing has it too.

What genre do you write in?

All my stories contain a romantic element. I draw heavily from my experience as a gay man, and from experiences of other gay men I am friends with. I write contemporary as I can’t be bothered to research. I tend to use humour all the time in real life, and so my writing is pretty full of it too. I suppose if you had to put it in a box, how about: contemporary gay humour romance fiction - if that’s a thing.

What genre of books do you like to read?

I try to read widely and deliberately outside my favourite genre, which is popular women’s fiction or chick lit as it’s sometimes called. I enjoy a good autobiography – and a bad one if it’s bad enough. I’ve read some crime / thrillers too. I read man lit, books by Tony Parsons and Mike Gayle. I enjoy a good John Grisham too.

Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?

Absolutely not. I don’t read much gay or mm fiction. My life’s gay enough as it is, and I wasn’t looking for any more *gay*! I like to deliberately read outside my genre. I think it’s great when someone tells you to read a book you wouldn’t normally read and it’s amazing. I read  The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, which is YA, and it was amazing. After that I read Wonder by RJ Palacio which made me cry. I also love to dive into a good saga, period, like Jean Fullerton’s  Call Nurse Millie series, or Penny Vincenzi’s An Absolute Scandal

In your opinion, what are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

To see and interact with other writers in real life. I attend the Romantic Novelist’s Association London Chapter meetings, a (auntie flash fiction written at my writers group) local writers group, and this year I’m attending UK Meet 2014 in Bristol, and the  RNA’s conference in July. I am an extrovert, and sitting alone in my study, with tea and my laptop for company feels a bit small after a while. I love talking to other writers, having proper geeky writerly chats about plot, characters, planning or not planning, or just the latest way to reach the nirvana of word counts in an hour.

How much research do you put into your writing?

I write contemporary so I don’t do much research in that sense. In one of my WIPs, And Then That Happened, one of the characters has a long term condition, which I researched by talking to a friend who is living with this long term condition. For another WIP, The Wrong Room, I spoke to some friends who are teachers to make sure the main character’s job was realistic, as well as some online research into Cocaine Anonymous.

If you could collaborate with another author who would it be?

I have a long list, as I don’t want to single one out: Marian Keyes, Mike Gayle, Tony Parsons, Jennifer Saunders, Kathy Lette.

How do you feel about being interviewed?

Being interviewed is fine, I’ve met you in person and you were lovely. I wasn’t expecting any nasty questions, like Jeremy Paxman. Overall my feeling on Best Friends Perfect Book One being published – borderline terrified/excited, a bit like myself; borderline shy/wild.

Best Friends Perfect Book One is published 4 June by Wilde City Press.

Best Friends Perfect

Coming out, Kieran added Jo and Kev, two gay men, to his best friends Hannah and Grace for a perfect group of best friends…or so he thought.


Chapter One


We were like Thelma and Louise—Kieran and Jo. His real name was Jonathan, but he didn’t like anyone calling him that, and would only answer to ‘Jo’, specifically spelt that way. Jonathan Davis. We did everything together, we were best friends. We weren’t boyfriends, more like girlfriends, or maybe brothers, if we were feeling a bit less camp.
It’s amazing what you can get over: death, betrayal, loneliness. No matter what life throws at you to change your plans, to stop you as you try to make your perfect life, somehow you pick yourself up and continue. I survived all those things, because I’m here, happy in my life now.
Only it isn’t what I thought my life would be; when I was eighteen, taking my first steps into the whole new world of being gay, my idea of  perfect wasn’t anything like what I have now.
Back then, I thought I had it all worked out. I’d find my perfect Boyfriend––capital B; my perfect new gay friends Jo and Kev would join my two other best friends, Hannah and Grace, to complete my perfect life. How wrong was I?
Instead, life came along, and it wasn’t nearly that simple. Only now, that part of my life is an ancient memory, along with the music, combat trousers and sleeveless tops. Now I’m ready to tell you my story.

August 1998

I met Jo at a gay youth group. I discovered my local youth group in Salisbury, a small country town in Wiltshire. It alleges it’s a city since it has a cathedral, but really, it’s just a big town. The doctor at the family planning clinic gave me a leaflet that described the group and a number to call to discuss it with a ‘youth worker.’ This was a whole new concept to me, that you could have people who were employed to work with young people, particularly gay young people. I left the clinic clutching the leaflet in my hand. Shall I call the number now, or shall I buy the new Steps single?
I walked around the car park for a while, watching everyone else go about their days, pushing supermarket trolleys full of shopping, sitting on benches to grab a twenty minute lunch-break from their office jobs. I thought they all knew what the leaflet was about, they could all see my guilty secret and would report me to the sex police or something like that. It’s him, he doesn’t know what he’s about.
As it happened, I bought One For Sorrow by Steps and called the number from a phone box just off the market square.
“Hello, this is Out! I’m Bruce, how can I help?”
“I was wondering, you see, I was given the leaflet from the clinic and, well…”
“Would you like to make an appointment to see me? I can go through what we do at the group, and you can see if it’s something you’re interested in.”
“Yes, I…that would be good."
“OK I’ve got an appointment in about an hour, is that any good? If not, I can do next Thursday at four o’clock.”
The silence just hung there. My mind had frozen.
“Hello, are you still there?”
“Yes, can I come in an hour please?” I wanted to make the most of this new found ability to make a decision about something, which I’d managed to not think about or act on for a long time.
“Do you know where we are?”
“Yes, I’ve got a map on the back of the leaflet.”
I put the phone down and noticed the call girl cards stuck to the window. I felt as if I’d just run a marathon and was waiting for someone to wrap me in a silver blanket and comfort me.

It turned out Bruce had the silver blanket for me. We sat in his stuffed office, piles of papers and files covered every surface. We were surrounded by AIDS awareness posters, pink triangles and rainbow flags. Up to this point, I’d never understood what all these rainbow flags and pink triangles meant. Bruce explained they used the pink triangles in prisoner of war camps to mark out gay prisoners, in a similar way to the yellow stars of David used for Jewish prisoners.
He made a cup of tea and, smiling, passed me the rainbow mug. His temples showed the beginnings of grey hair making an appearance. “So, what brings you here then, Kieran?”
“Well, I’ve been thinking about some things lately. I’ve had more time since I finished my A levels. I’m having a gap year—you know, a year off before going to uni—I’m off to Australia, you see. Don’t even get me started with those people from that GAP organisation—telling me I had to teach sport if I wanted to go to Oz with them. I said to them, do I look like someone who plays sport?”
“I’ve been to Australia––ten, fifteen years ago, when I was your age. It was amazing. I climbed Ayers Rock and stayed in Alice Springs, visited Coober Pedy, the lot”
“Did you have to teach sport while you were there?”
“No, I went with a friend. I didn’t go with an organisation.”
“Wise choice, I think that’s what I’m going to do. I said to him—this old guy from GAP, in his office in Reading— ‘so what you’re telling me is, if I can’t teach sport, I can’t go to Oz with you lot?' He nodded. 'That’s gotta be illegal, hasn’t it? Against some sort of human rights, isn’t it?' He said it was their policy and offered me some shite in the Black Forest of Germany for four months. Black Forest of Germany, I mean I’ve heard of the gateaux, but apart from that, I’m not arsed about that, it’s all sausages and beer, isn’t it? I said if that’s all you can offer me, I’m off and you can stick your fee and teaching sport up your arse. So I swept majestically out of his office. Mum drove me home in shock.” I wiped my sweaty hands on my trousers.
“It sounds like you’ve got some interesting plans for your gap year. What did you decide to do in the end?” Bruce probed a bit more into the recent drama.
“I’m going to Oz, but I’m going with Catherine, my friend from school. She’s having a year off before uni too, and her parents wouldn’t let her travel alone, and since GAP didn’t want me, we thought we’d go together. We’re going to travel all around, climb Ayers Rock, just like they do in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and they can stick their fee and sports up their arses."
“Is that why you want to go to Oz, because of the film?”
“It’s not the only reason, but it certainly helped make up my mind. I mean that Guy Pearce was great, wasn’t he? Much better than when he was in Neighbours.”
“Yes, he was. Kieran, I think Out! is going to be exactly what you need.” He smiled; his eyes sparkled and formed crow's feet.
“It’s just a feeling. When you’ve been doing this sort of work for a while, you can sort of sense these things when you meet young people. Would you like me to tell you where the group meets and what sort of things we do there?”
“Yes, why not? I mean, if I don’t like it, I don’t have to go again, do I? And it’s free, isn’t it?”
“Yes, no obligation to ever come again, and it’s completely free to you, Kieran, completely free.” He described what a typical night at Out! included, the age group of people who came, and hunched over the map and described the best way to reach the location of Out!, which apparently was in a Portakabin. Very glamorous.

I drove home that afternoon feeling sick to the pit of my stomach. I put my new CD single on repeat while I had a shower and got ready to go out.
“One for sorrow, ain’t it too, too bad…” sang Steps on the CD over and over. I’ll learn the dance moves later.
“What are you doing, Kieran?” Mum called upstairs. “I’m making dinner. Are you eating here tonight? I’m doing lasagne and chips, it’ll be nice.”
“Yes, I’ll eat, but I’m going out afterwards. I’m going round Hannah’s to watch a film,” I shouted, hoping if I lied quickly, it wouldn’t hurt as much.
It took me about an hour to choose what to wear. Eventually, I settled on my black velvet jacket, a red polo-neck jumper, dark flared jeans and black River Island boots, which I’d bought off my friend Mike from college as he said they were too noisy when he walked. I, on the other hand, loved the noise their heels made when I walked along the pavement.
I sat, tucking a tea towel in my top, then started to inhale the dinner, a mass of carbs with a tiny amount of salad on the side of the plate, covered in salad cream. Mum didn’t believe in mayonnaise or French dressing. ‘Foreign stuff,’ she called it.
“Do you want some more cheese on the lasagne?” Mum asked. “It’s a special new sort of cheese, I bought it today. Someone in the salon said if I was making lasagne, I must have this.”
“What’s it called, Mum?” A few mouthfuls remained on my plate.
“Hang on a minute, let me get it from the fridge.” She walked over to the fridge, took the new cheese off the cheese shelf, and read the label. We all waited in suspense.
“Says here its Parma something, then Regina.” She squinted to read the label.
“Parmesan? Sounds nice, Mum.” I smiled at my brother Paul as Mum got the grater from the cupboard.
My plate now cleared, I thanked Mum especially for the ‘newly discovered cheese.’
“Aren’t you staying for pudding? I got a frozen apple pie—they’re never as big as the boxes, are they?” Mum pointed to the defrosted pie on the work surface.
“I’ve got to go.” I stood up.
“It said on this big box—look how big it is—it said you could serve it with ice cream or custard, so I got both.”
Dad winked at Paul across the table.
“Not even a little bit?” Mum picked up the pie. Paul looked at me, still in his dirty blue overalls covered in grease from the garage where he was doing his apprenticeship. “And where do you think you’re going, dressed like that?”
“None of your business,” I said. “Why do you ask?”
“He’s going to Hannah’s, leave him alone.” Mum patted my shoulder. “You can have the pie later, can’t you, Kieran? He looks nice, doesn’t he, Dad?” She had a habit of calling my dad—known as Michael Donovan to everyone else—‘Dad’ which was endlessly confusing, especially when she talked about her dad, my granddad. Hours of confusing fun could be had. Being someone who rarely read—the only newspaper in the house was the weekly free paper, which she used to light the fire, and the only books she read were recipe books—she regularly mispronounced words or just used the wrong one. If Mum were at school now, she’d have undoubtedly been diagnosed with dyslexia and could have used it to explain these little mistakes. But in the sixties, you didn’t have dyslexia, you went to a Secondary Modern or became a hairdresser. Mum chose the latter. She didn’t have the dyslexia excuse, so she tried her best but didn’t always get it right. Conscious of using the wrong word, she would become nervous and talk more and so ran the gauntlet of tripping over more words. Memories of a particularly painful English lesson where she had been laughed at by the whole class—the deciding moment that led her to hairdressing college—meant we all ignored her mistakes, at most allowing ourselves a good-natured smile or a wink to each other. Sometimes, when we really couldn’t work out what she was talking about from the context or the word was so mangled out of recognition, we would then ask her what she meant, but most of the time, it was just part of how she spoke, like someone’s accent.
Now, Dad looked up at me in my carefully chosen ensemble and nodded before quickly returning to his PC Today magazine. Clothes—not one of Dad’s strong points. Dad was a man of few words, and if you wanted him to say even fewer, ask him about clothes or shopping.
“Thanks for dinner, I’m off now, bye.” I grabbed my coat from the hallway. I checked for my wallet, not that it had any money in it, but I liked to feel its comforting bulge in my trousers.
 I picked up my car keys and got in Priscilla, my red and white Citroen 2CV Dolly, parked next to Mum’s Citroen 2CV.  In typical “maybe I should…” mode, she’d bought hers exactly one month before I bought mine. I should have seen it coming. She'd taken a detailed interest in the research I’d done at Salisbury reference library—once Dad had pointed me in the right direction, research being one of his fortes, unlike clothes. After one long conversation when I’d described what the plus points were of these cars, she’d sipped her tea and said, “Write it all down for me, will you?” Next thing, she and Dad had earmarked a Saturday to go Citroen shopping, cars being the one subject where Dad could talk for hours. During the intervening month until I bought my Priscilla, every mealtime Mum extolled the virtues of the new car. “So cheap to run…the roof’s easy to roll back and it’s like a soft top…lovely soft seats…” To which I bit my tongue as it was me who’d told her each of these points in the first place.
By the time Dad came with me to buy what was to become my Priscilla, we were both Citroen 2CV experts and spent the day in his car testing each other’s knowledge. I cherished our time together like this, easily talking about cars, discussing my library research, Dad said: “It’s a good skill to have, research. I use it every day, I need to keep up to date with the latest computer changes. Useful when you go to university.” Laughing about Mum buying the car first he said: “She likes to know she’s making the right decision, and you’d done all the research for her, so of course she got the same one.”
Mum didn’t just reserve this “maybe I should” just for me. One summer, she’d asked Paul to copy all his dance music CDs: “I’ve heard your music, and I want something new to listen to on my new Walkingalongman Dad’s got me for when I do my exercises. The girls at the salon swear by this special exercise. I read the brochure they showed me, and it all made sense so I’ve got to go…”
Despite this, Priscilla was my pride and joy. To my friends, she was an ‘upside down pram’, but I didn’t care. I’d saved up for the whole previous summer. Priscilla represented freedom, independence and the ability to play endless mix tapes on my own without anyone criticising my taste in music. And at eighteen, that was very important.
Best Friends Perfect Book One is published 4 June 2014

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Wilde City Press

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