What is the story behind this story?
True story. Honestly! A long time ago, in a land far far away, there was a man called Liam Livings who…Actually, sorry about that. So, basically, I’d been to UK Meet at least once, and I’d written a blog post HERE about the benefit for authors going to those sort of events. Basically, writing can be quite lonely, you don’t know what you don’t know, and meeting authors and readers face to face is great fun and gives you the opportunity to talk writing and books in a heroically geeky and deep way no one else would cope with. On one of the comments to this post someone mentioned the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) and said they had local chapter meetings authors could attend.
I joined the RNA – money very well spent, they require that you’ve written a novel of at least 30,000 words with a romantic element within it, and that you’ve not paid for the book to be published, so it must be ‘traditional publishing model’. http://www.romanticnovelistsassociation.org/join/full_and_associate_membership
They’ve since changed their membership criteria to include independent publishing, but way back in 2013 they hadn’t. The details of independent publishing and RNA membership will be on their website from September 2015.
I went to the RNA’s London and south east chapter meeting and had a whale of a time (see HERE). Everyone was wonderfully welcoming, I made some great friends, and learned so much at the workshop. I’ve continued attending as often as I can, and have recently started taking Clare London with me. It’s always such fun watching some people’s face when Clare and I say we write gay romance. Gay as in two men? I usually scrabble about and say it’s not erotica, but it does have some sex in it, which sometimes gets a few nodded heads. Clare and I are gradually trying to convert them to gay romance, one chapter meeting at a time 😉
[Clare interjects: 🙂 ]
Anyway, but more of that’s not for now. So at this first meeting I got talking to Jean Fullerton who used to chair these London chapter meetings, and it turned out we live a hop skip, a nail bar and a hairdressers away from one another in Essex, and she had just started setting up a local Essex writers group, Waltham Abbey Writers (WAW). This was separate to the RNA arrangements in Chelmsford and was for writers of all ages, abilities, experience and genres, and did I want to come along.
I took the same approach I’d taken up to that point and still do, when it comes to writing questions. I said yes. My only proviso is anything involving horses and line dancing, but that’s not for now either…
Jean Fullerton gave me the details of where WAW met and one Monday evening a while ago, I drove to the village hall about 15 mins from my house.
I walked into the village hall and cautiously poked my head around the door of the largest room. ‘Is this the writers group?’ I asked, taking in a room full of mostly pretty athletic looking men of various ages, mostly in track suit bottoms and T shirts. And I don’t mind telling you right here, right now, I did feel something stirring inside me. Oi oi, saveloy, this lot of blokes look pretty fit, I’ll have a right laugh talking plot and character with them.
This thought was quickly dashed on the hard rocks of reality when one of the men walked towards me, wiped his nose on the back of his hand – again, nice track suit bottoms that seemed to hang nicely around the groin area, and some pretty spiffing trainers too – and he said, ‘Na mate, that’s next door I fink.’ (Before anyone accused me of being snobbish about people from Essex, I’ll just say 1) that was what he said, and there’s nothing wrong with an Essex accent any more than a Yorkshire, Bristol, Scottish accent 2) Mum and Dad were born and grew up in Essex and I think it’s a wonderful place to live with mostly lovely people 3) TOWIE has an awful lot to answer for when it comes to people’s perception of Essex 4) I have cousins, aunties and uncles who grew up and still live in Essex and I won’t have a word said against it and finally 5) I live in Essex and I welcome it in all its slightly brash, east end overspill, beautiful coast line, concrete new towns, chocolate box villages, forest on the edge of London ways. I welcome all of it with open arms. – coughs – Back to the story now…
I profusely apologised to this man and wished the ground would open up and swallow me, while backing slowly out of the room. It was at this point I caught the writing on a black board propped at the back of the room, behind a table covered in tea and coffee making facilities. In white chalk it read: Cocaine Anonymous, followed by a number of points listed below. I didn’t have chance to read the points, turns out they were the 12 steps, which I researched later online. All I could think of was how I wasn’t going to get to see the athletic, weather worn men in the sometimes too tight track suit bottoms ever again.
I was very sad at this thought.
In all honestly, I had a quick debate with myself about jumping in my car and driving home.
I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t. I crossed the foyer of the village hall, past a board of notices flapping in my windy, disappointed wake, knocked on a door and walked into a much smaller room filled with a group of women, a trestle table covered in bread pudding and mugs of tea, coffee and orange squash. ‘Is this the writers group?’ I asked quietly.
Jean looked up from her ipad, smiled and said of course it was, and make myself at home, help myself to tea and coffee and there’s bread pudding if I wanted it too.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful introduction to a local writers group. There was a wide variety of experience from Jean who’s had 6 books published by a mainstream publisher and has an agent, me, who’d had no books published, but 4 contracted to be published by small independent gay romance / gay fiction publishers, to those who had written short stories for weekly magazines, and those who had always promised themselves they would write, but had never got round to it. Tea was drunk, bread pudding was eaten, those who wanted read extracts of their writing and we critiqued it in a constructive way. One of the ground rules of the group, and we keep to this to the day, now I’m helping Jean and Victoria run it, is we don’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to, and we’re there to provide support and guidance for everyone to write how they wish – be that publication, or writing for themselves.
I returned home, still if I’m honest with myself, feeling quite sad that the writers group didn’t consist of the athletic weather worn men in the sometimes too tight track suits, and that evening and once I’d mourned the loss of track suits, the men and all that it entailed, I told the BF about my escapades with the men in the track suit bottoms and T shirts, and walking into the wrong room. He listened intently and while in bed together a bit later that evening, he said, ‘That’s hilarious. You should write that as a story. That’s the start of a story. And then this could happen, and how about if that happened, and then what about if this happened. And you could have a character who does this, and how about including someone who does that…’
‘Stop, I need to get my notebook,’ I shouted. I think one of the cats jumped off our bed then. I returned to bed with my notebook and over the next twenty minutes we talked about what could happen in the story, and what the characters could be, and his links with a magazine publishing company were useful too, and of course we agreed it had to have a happy ending. Cos who doesn’t like a happy ending?
I frantically scribbled it all down in my note book, and a few months later I spent a month writing it. And the story as it’s published, is pretty much exactly as we talked about that evening in bed together, both mourning the fact I wouldn’t get to see the men in the track suit bottoms ever again.
What was your wrong room experience or the best mistake you’ve ever made?
THE BOOK: Wrong Room, Right Guy by Liam Livings
Simon’s the wrong man in the wrong place; trying to teach English to kids who couldn’t care less, he’d really rather be a writer – but it’s only when his best friend bullies him into it that he takes the plunge and joins his local creative writing group. Even then things don’t quite work out the way he planned; blundering into the wrong room at the Village Hall he encounters a group of recovering cocaine addicts and he wants to know more … which is the start, for Simon, of a double life and a whole new secret identity, not to mention an intriguing relationship …
About Liam Livings
Liam Livings lives where east London ends and becomes Essex. He shares his house with his boyfriend and cat. He enjoys baking, cooking, classic cars and socialising with friends. He escapes from real life with a guilty pleasure book, cries at a sad, funny and camp film – and he’s been known to watch an awful lot of Gilmore Girls in the name of writing ‘research’.
He has written since he was a teenager, started writing with the hope of publication in 2011. His writing focuses on friendships, British humour, romance with plenty of sparkle.
You can connect with Liam