Thursday 6 March 2014

Twenty Questions with... Karin Dixon and Gary Twynam

I am actually rather excited about today's guest, you see it's my first time interviewing a writing duo! Yes, I have not one but two people foolish enough to chomping at the bit to take part in today's round of #TwentyQuestions although I think I'm going to need a bigger hotseat.

Without further ado, please welcome today's guests, Karin Dixon and Gary Twynam, the writing duo behind Farewell Trip released in December by Carina UK.

ACT ONE – all about you…

Karin: goodness, condensing two lives into one answer, that's a tall order (mine's a g&t, since you're asking). Well, I guess the salient points are:

We've both been married for ages, just not to each other.
Gary Twynam and Karin Dixon

We're both 51.

I have three children and Gary has none.

I'm a bit chick

He's a bit lit.

And (this is important), we both like Neil Diamond.

1) Have you always been a writer or is it something you fell into?

Karin: Ha – well, that’s easy. We’re not full time writers and have mostly spent our lives in more or less gainful employment. Gary is a self-employed training consultant, though he does seem to get side-tracked rather a lot. He’s been writing for years – poetry, short stories, a book about gambling. He hasn’t admitted to writing any novels, well not to me anyway.

I used to work in Public Health, but am retiring through ill health. Like the hero of our book, I’ve got terminal cancer. Weird, huh? We had no idea until the book was finished. I have a bit more time to write now, as well as watching loads of old cowboy movies. There is something so very wonderful about men in leather chaps quick drawing and spinning their revolvers, before thudding them back into the holsters with emphasis, all the while holding the gaze of the Baddy without blinking.

2) Do you have a particular writing style or ritual?

Gary: I still write most of my stuff out longhand first. I think it's the poet in me. I'm very particular about notebooks and pens as well. I like narrow squared paper for prose and A4 moleskine for poetry. Pens have to be signo uni-ball 0.7s, otherwise I use properly sharpened pencils. I also prefer to be away from any internet access in front of a window with a view. Otherwise, I'm not fussed.

Karin: Laptop. Anywhere.

3) Is there a book or an author that has influenced you in your writing?

Gary: TS Eliot was responsible for me giving up writing in my twenties, unable to cope with being so inferior. We joke about him in our novel. The idea for Farewell Trip was definitely inspired by David Nicholls's One Day. That said, Karin never read it, despite constant badgering.

Karin: I watched the film! Honestly, you do go on.

Anyway, influences? Much to Gazza’s dismay, I am very fond of Saint Nora Roberts (although I did find her last few novels disappointing and am even more disappointed to have to say so). Like we said up there↑↑, I’m a little bit chick and he’s a little bit lit. A lot lit actually, you should see his study – lined with about a billion books and they’re ‘proper’ books, not like my collections of Nora, Suzanne Brockmann and Lee Childs.

4) Is there one piece of writing (or life?) advice that has stuck with you, or that you would like to share?

Gary: Serious gamblers have a mantra that's useful for writers I think. When you're winning you're never as good as you think you are and when you're losing you’re never as bad as you think you are.

Karin: God, I hate you sometimes, always ready with le mot juste. 

Me? I suppose I am quite fond of saying keep on keeping on, seems to fit so many situations.

5) Can you tell us three things about yourself that we probably don’t already know?

Gary: I always order the house wine in restaurants, I'll only play Monopoly if I can be the ship, and I can't drive.

Karin: Is there a ship in Monopoly? I always go for the boot myself.

I spent one Christmas Eve in Canada entertaining 6 fire fighters by swearing in my English accent, my son beat me at Scrabble for the first time this year (curses), my favourite treat is a Chelsea Bun from the divine bakery near me, Mark's Bread

6) What five luxury items or gadgets would you hate to be without?

Gary: One for Karin.

Karin: Cheeky monkey.
Let me think.
1) My Burmese cat, Beau. He keeps my feet warm in the most freezing of weather. Plus, he thinks he's really really clever, as you can see.

2) ….. I just asked my husband and he told me “Nothing. You want for nothing – you have me” That might actually be true as I can’t think of anything else.

ACT TWO – all about your new release…

“That was the first time in my life I was happy…the happiest I ever would be. And I never told you.”
There’s always one moment in life that passes without you saying what you really wanted – needed – to. For Ruth that day came after the death of her beloved husband Trip.
She and Trip had fitted together perfectly, right from the very start, and their marriage was filled with love, happiness and travel. Determined to leave nothing unspoken, Trip has left ten letters, taking Ruth on one last adventure - scattering his ashes in ten locations that have meaning for them both. 
The letters take her on a journey across the world, but also back through her marriage, and the life she thought they had shared.
They had been so happy. Hadn’t they? 
At once heart-breaking and uplifting…prepare to smile through your tears. Farewell Trip is a must read.
Praise for Karin Dixon and Gary Twynam
‘A lovely, warm and affectionate read that I devoured in one sitting’ – Bleach House Library

7) Congratulations on your recent release of Farewell Trip, what was your inspiration for writing Trip and Ruth's story?

Gary: We wanted to write a novel that went beyond the usual ending “They lived happily ever after”. It occurred to us that neither of us had read a book about long-term marriage. One that took a long hard look at what it takes to make a happy relationship in today’s world.

8) Did the story flow from your finger tips or did some scenes take a bit of cajoling?

Karin: Gary wrote the first chapter but felt he couldn’t get Ruth’s voice right. One night he suggested I had a go at writing her part. So that’s roughly what we did – the story was organic. Gary had an idea as to what the letters would be about, (how they met, faith, children, sex, work, etc.) but they were written in order, and each subsequent one was shaped from Ruth’s reaction to the previous one. This means there are bits in it that were as much a surprise to us as they are to the readers.

9) I see Farewell Trip is your debut, how long did it take for the initial spark of the story to make it onto the page and then onto the publisher’s desk?

Karin: Gary has thrown his hands up in horror at having to work that out and left it to me. Hmph.

The book took about 18 months till we considered it finished, but we didn’t write constantly, it was in fits and starts, long gaps in between the chapters when life got in the way. Then we did the whole trying to get an agent thing, without success and with lots of disappointments. For reasons known only to themselves, two of our lovely friends took on the mantle of champions for Farewell Trip and through them, we got a contact with Carina UK. Having sent off the first three chapters, we turned our eyes to other matters, expecting any reply to take months. A couple of weeks later, we got the call!

10) Do you have a favourite paragraph or sentence from your story that you would like to tantalise us with?

Karin: I like this bit. Ruth having a rant about a well known bridge in Paris 
I'd forgotten the padlocks though. They weren't here when we first came. How could they have slipped my mind? There are hundreds of them, thousands. What a blight. Thousands of bloody padlocks ruining a perfectly nice bridge. Love-locks. What a load of crock.How many couples have come here to do this? To leave a pathetic token of their 'love'.
And what are they all hoping to prove by this gesture? That they'll be together forever and ever? That their love will last as long as the lock? Great metaphor, a bit of metal rusting away on a bridge to nowhere. How many of the couples who came here ten years ago, five years ago, even two years ago, are still together?
Well, it won't help them. You don't make your love last forever by making silly little vows and painting hearts on a sodding padlock. You don't do it by snogging in public on a Parisian bridge. You do it by getting on with life. You do it by living together, by sharing everything, by putting up and shutting up.
And here's a picture of those very locks...

11) Over to you, what can you tell us about Farewell Trip to make us rush out and buy it?

Gary: I like this review on
"The writing is crisp, the humour is classy, the voices are clear and the story is compelling. If you liked 'One Day' or 'PS, I Love You' or 'Love Story' or 'Dangerous Liaisons' you will like this."
Karin: Well, I just want to say it's totally brilliant and more people should read it! Luckily, they don't need to rush out anywhere because they can just get online. I do like this bit of a review though:
"Something that could have been awkward and overly sentimental actually had that bit of grit that keeps you reading. Good strong and realistic dialogue between Ruth and Trip, even if one of them was dead!"
12) What can we expect from you next? Is there something you are working on right now?

Karin: We’re working on a light-hearted “crime” series based in Bristol, with alternating chapters, Gary writing the part of the hero and me, the heroine. It’s a lot of fun to write and will involve car chases and a gangster or two.

Gary has also written a book about relocating from London to Shropshire, and one of my novels that I wrote as part of NaNoWriMo has been optioned by Carina.

QUICK FIRE ROUND – it’s pop quiz time…

13) Plotter or pantser?

Gary: Boxer shorts.
Karin: Matching vest and pants

14) Digital books or print books?

Gary: Print. (Oops, sorry Carina)
Karin: Me too, every time.

15) Tea or coffee?

Gary: Coffee
Karin: Tea

16) Extrovert or introvert?

Gary: Depends on the personality test. I'd say extrovert.
Karin: Extrovert

17) Facebook or Twitter?

Gary: Facebook
Karin: Yep, me too.

18) Christmas or birthday?

Gary: Neither
Karin: I am surprised to find that I feel much the same. I do like presents, but they're better unattached to a specific occasion.

19) Morning person or night owl?

Gary: Something of the night.
Karin: Lunchtime, please.

20) Sweet or savoury?

Gary: Red wine.
Karin: Both, of course. Plus the red wine.

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you so much for taking part, Karin and Gary, it has been an absolute blast! I wish you every success with Farewell Trip and cannot wait to see what you come out with next.

To discover even more about today's writing duo, and to keep up with their latest projects and shenanigans, you can visit them at:

Facebook     Gary Twynam

Buy it now…

Add to Goodreads
ISBN: 9781472074256
Released: 17th December 2013

Amazon UK / US
Nook UK / US (B&N)


(An excerpt from Trip's second letter to Ruth)

I remember the first time I said “I love you”. You've spent most of your life trying to erase it from your memory. Our final year at Lampeter; our moment in the spotlight as the director and star of Fiddler on the Roof, which even now seems a startlingly original version. What with the Russian Jews becoming teepee-dwelling hippies in Wales. And all the male parts being played by women and vice versa. And you were great in the Topol role. I loved “If I Were a Rich Girl”. All those lyrical changes we had to make. You were brilliant at all that. And managed to offend just about everyone.

We poured ourselves into that for weeks, didn't we? All for one glorious night, capped by a wonderfully improvised climax. When the Fiddler fell off the Roof.

Once we were sure I hadn't broken any bones and the curtain had come down on us, literally, we were the only ones left. You were tending to me.

“You know" I said, "if we ever make another musical together...”

“Promise me, we won't.”

“Well, if we ever do, there's gonna be a few changes.”

“Like what?”

“No sheep, for starters.” We laughed. Well, I laughed. You had tears in your eyes. ”You know, Ruthie, it really wasn't that bad. No-one walked out. They laughed all the way through. In the wrong places, admittedly. But you were great. Really. I was so proud”

And then I said it. First time ever. To anyone.

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