Author interview: M. Jonathan Lee

Over the summer I was very lucky to be contacted by the fabulous M. Jonathan Lee asking whether I would like to review his book The Radio. I was very glad I accepted as I loved the book and you can read my review here.

Jonathan has been kind enough to agree to be part of (or subject to, I’m not sure which!) my first author interview here at Sheli Reads.

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1. Hi Jonathan, welcome to Sheli Reads. Firstly, I have to ask what inspired you to write The Radio?

The Radio had been in my mind for literally a decade. I wanted to write a story about someone who was downtrodden who finds a release in escaping from his day to day life by immersing himself in the radio. I also wanted the character to have a back-story that made him have an overwhelming need to escape every day life.

2. It takes real talent to get the right balance between humour and tragedy in a book and you have certainly managed it. How did you manage to think up the hilarious scenes in the book?

Thank you. I think that a lot of things in life bring humour even in the saddest moments. The Radio is semi-autobiographical and a lot of the humour has been a coping mechanism. The comedy scenes simply come from an amusing thought which may have popped into my mind and then I exaggerate and expand it to the nth degree!

3. Who is your favourite character in the book?

It would have to be George. Although I’m some thirty years younger, we do share a few traits. I am also extremely fond of Mollie. She is a close second to George and will develop in the second and third books in the trilogy.

4. Do you know any real life people like Auntie Lesley?

Ha! Absolutely right I do. Lesley’s character is a mix of a number of people who I know pretty well, but obviously can’t name here! I do remember one reviewer saying that she was just too unbelievable to be taken seriously. That is so untrue, that reviewer should move to my area…

5. What can we expect from you next?

The Radio ends with a twist, and is part of a trilogy. At the moment however, I am writing The Page, a thriller and another with a twist. The story goes…
Following a tragic car accident, Michael Sewell is alone and lost for the first time. The loss of his wife, Margaret after thirty years of marriage has left a hole far greater than Michael could have imagined.

Persuaded to go on holiday alone for the first time since this accident, by his daughter Jane, a page blown from a book crosses the pool and sticks to his chest.

The words from the page resonate with Michael, describing in detail the recent events in his own life.

Now, Michael must delve into his past and face his future, taking him and his family on a horrifying and tragic journey toward the truth.

6. What is your first book related memory?

That is a superb question and not one I’ve been asked before. My earliest memories involve a character called Bobby Brewster. These were short stories about a boy who bizarre things happened to; such as his wallpaper coming to life or an old vinyl record that he played which spoke to him. I think I was around 5 when I read them. They started my obsession with stories with a twist which carried on to my favourite – the master, Roald Dahl.

7. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Pretty much, yeah. When I realised by ten that footballer (too small) and rock star (no musical talent) were out of the question, I started writing. I self published my first magazine aged 11 and sold over 800 copies over 6 editions.

8. Which writers inspire you most?

Interesting question. I’m not sure that it is specifically writers, more the stories. There are so many fantastic stories to tell and so many ways to tell them. It’s the imagination of the writer that appeals to me. I do love Stephen King, Mark Haddon, Iain Banks, A M Homes, Nick Hornby and of course, Roald Dahl to name a few.

9. What book do you wish you could have written?

The Life of Pi, perhaps my all time favourite book.

10. When I’m working I like to have a cup of tea, and sometimes a packet of crisps to keep me going. What food or drink do you enjoy when writing?

I’m not a big eater generally so there would be no food. Just can after can of full-fat Coca Cola.

11. And last but not least, if you were an animal, what would you be?

Hmm. Another good question, I’m not a huge animal fan, but absolutely love my bed so you can pick anything at all that hibernates.

Thank you Jonathan for letting me interview you and for being such a good sport!

You can find out more about Jonathan and his writing here.

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The Radio

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A comedy so black that you’d have to eat a lot of carrots to know whether George’s adventures are actually visible. The Radio centres around the decline of the lovable, yet hapless George Poppleton, a middle-aged, henpecked father and husband who stumbles across an old transistor radio in his loft. His obsession with listening to the radio drives him on an unexpected journey, fuelled by the painful memories of the suicide of his only son many years before. Whilst his only daughter, Sam, and wife, Sheila, plan perhaps the most ill-fated wedding ever conceived, the radio transports George further and further away from reality. When a garlic baguette is used as a lethal weapon and the hogs finally take a stand and turn on the farmer who is about to roast them, nothing is likely to go as smoothly as the family may have hoped. The accidental return of Sam’s ex-fiance, David, coupled with the endlessly drunk Auntie Lesley ensures that an almighty farce is just around the corner. The Radio ends with an unimaginable twist, when the family realise that things are not at all how they seemed. It is a story of what it means to be a family, the perception of loving and being loved, and what it means to be sane. It will appeal to anyone who enjoys family-based modern contemporary fiction with both poignancy and humour. Jonathan has been inspired by a number of novels, including Alex Garland’s The Beach, and his writing is comparable to Mark Haddon, Nick Hornby and Joseph Connolly.

My review: I was expecting good things from this book when I started it, but never expected it to be as good as it was!

We meet George who is a loveable father figure who is just a little eccentric, and his wife Shelia and daughter Sam. They are a fairly typical family with their fair share of dysfunctional attributes! George, the downtrodden husband finds an old radio that he starts tinkering around with while his wife and daughter go out and have fun while he looks after his grand daughter. The tinkering becomes a bit more than that when he and the radio become inseparable and it becomes the most important thing in his life.

Some parts of the book had me laughing out loud, most had me chuckling, but some bits were desperately sad. The book was fabulously written and it was a real pleasure to read. It’s easy going style and good pace kept me gripped and I finished the whole thing in a day. I’d love to read more about George and his family, and a little birdie had told me that there is more to come.

A fantastic book which is comparable to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Lost and Found. You should all go and buy it now!!

I was sent a copy of The Radio by the author in exchange for an honest review

My rating: A very well deserved 5 stars!