*This is my stop on the blog tour for the novel Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl. Enjoy!!*
About the Book:
Eleven-year-old schoolboy, Roy Nuttersley has been dealt a pretty raw deal. While hideous parents show him precious little in the way of love and affection, school bullies make his life a misery. So Roy takes comfort in looking after the birds in his suburban garden, and in return the birds hatch a series of ambitious schemes to protect their new friend.
As with the best-laid plans, however, these get blown completely off course - and as a result the lives of both Roy and his arch tormentor, Harry Hodges are turned upside down. While Harry has a close encounter with God, Roy embarks on a voyage of discovery that draws in and impacts on everyone around him, including the local police, his headmaster and the national media. Where will it all end, and will life ever be quite the same for Roy Nuttersley?
About the Author:
Who is Alex Pearl?
It's a question I often ask myself. Well, basically I'm a short-sighted bloke aged 50, which I suppose is pretty old really. And for 27 years I have worked at various advertising agencies and marketing companies as something called a copywriter. This means I have to sit in an office and write the words that appear in adverts, leaflets and letters. It's a funny old job. Sometimes it can be fun when, for instance, you have to make a TV or radio commercial. But this doesn't happen very often. At other times it can be rather dull and frustrating when a client rejects your work that you created and insists that you do something far less interesting.
Outside work I'm a husband and a dad, and I live in North West London with my wife and two children. We don't have any animals in our house but we do see lots of birds in our garden. And yes, we do have a bird table, but only the one, and this is usually attacked by the squirrels before any bird can get to it.
Outline your novel for us and tell us what makes it unique
The story revolves around an ungainly 11-year-old schoolboy named Roy Nuttersley. Roy suffers the most ghastly parents who constantly bicker and barely notice the existence of their introverted son. School life is barely more tolerant, as Roy seems to have no friends at all and attracts the attention of Harry Hodges, the school bully and his sidekicks. Roy’s only solace comes from looking after the birds in his suburban garden. And in return, the birds attempt to help out their friend. But as with all the best-laid plans, these backfire hopelessly and turn the lives of both Roy Nuttersley and his arch tormentor, Harry Hodges upside down - but in a surprisingly good way.
I think this is the only story ever written in the English language to feature a bird poohing squadron of Canada geese. So I guess that makes it unique.
What made you decide to write Sleeping with the Blackbirds’?
I wanted to write a story for my kids that they’d find entertaining while also showing them that we’re all shaped by our own back stories. I also wanted to write in a slightly old fashioned, whimsical style that employed colourful language.
Can you share your experience of publishing ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’? who is the team behind it?
I employed the services of PenPress to publish the book in 2011. But I wasn’t happy with the cover design so gave this to John Mac, the photographer and Lyndon Povey, the typographer to conceive. They produced a first class cover that went on to pick up a gong at the 2013 Authors DB Book Cover Awards. PenPress did a decent job on the production of the book but nothing in terms of marketing. And their press release and editing services left a lot to be desired. I parted company with PenPress in 2014 and republished it in paperback through CreateSpace, and then employed Red Button publishing to reformat the book for Kindle and Kobo. Red Button are very professional and did a very good job for a very modest fee.
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
I’d love to write an adult novel and have a germ of an idea for a story that combines two genres: crime and the supernatural.
What are your favorite books and authors?
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald
Atonement by Ian Mcewan
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I am a painfully slow reader and have the world’s worst sense of direction. Thank heavens for satnav.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love cinema, classical music, good food and a little light gardening. My idea of luxury is spending time with my wife and kids and chilling out in the garden with the Sunday papers.
Do you like to multitask while you write? Why/Why not?
I’m not really the multitasking sort. When I write, I usually write solidly in silence.
What is the best feedback you've ever got?
The best feedback I received was from George Layton, the author, actor and screenwriter. I left the manuscript with George and he very kindly read it on the train to Manchester the next day. He really liked it and said that he couldn’t have written it himself. In the next breath he offered to write a byline for the cover. More importantly, he also made a very useful suggestion. He quite rightly pointed out that Roy’s parents needed a very clear reason for behaving as they did. Without wanting to spoil the story for those who haven’t yet read it, all I can say is that it took a perceptive writer like George to spot this fault in the narrative. And once he raised this, I could see straight away that he was absolutely right. It was something I needed to address, which, of course, I did. In fact, as a result, I managed to create one of my favourite scenes in the book in which the couple’s motive is dramatically and inadvertently revealed. So I have much to thank George Layton for, other than his incredible kindness and generosity, of course.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Don’t let harsh criticism or rejection from literary agents put you off or get you down. Remember that all the great writers in this world have been rejected at one time or another. Even J K Rowling had Harry Potter turned down by agents before Bloomsbury rose to the bait. Above all, enjoy your writing, because if you don’t, nobody else will.
Is there anything else you wish to share with us?
Always draw on real experiences and real people. Be inspired by the world around you. It makes for the best kind of writing. There are several real people and experiences woven into the narrative of Sleeping with the Blackbirds. The old gardener who features in Roy’s essay is based entirely on my parents’ old gardener. I’m not going to say another word. To find out more, you’ll just have to read the book.
*Thanks to Emily at Confessions of a Bookaholic for organising this tour, I hope you enjoyed!!*