In this blog I’m going to talk about my favourite secondary character in the book. The main character is Harry Spencer and the book is written as his diary. The novel’s about Harry and his wife Emily trying to survive their first year of parenthood. I love Harry as a character, but after him my favourite character to write is definitely his friend Steve.
Steve is married to Fiona and they have four kids (all with names beginning with J – referred to as the Js) and they live next door to Harry and his family. Steve and Fiona are uber parents. They take everything to the extreme and their whole world is about their kids, and Steve in many ways epitomises them. He is larger than life, plays multiple musical instruments (annoyingly so for Harry), often puts on plays for the kids, or puppet shows, writes songs, and eventually starts being a children’s performer. Steve often makes Harry feel like a bad dad because Steve is ‘on’ all the time and Harry doesn’t feel like he can keep up, although as his wife Emily reminds him, who can?
Steve was such fun to write because unlike Harry, who often sees the world through slightly jaded eyes, Steve is a complete optimist and sees the best in everything and everyone. He loves to entertain and eventually realises a life-long dream and I think he’s a character that a lot of people will be drawn to. Writing Steve, I was always on the edge of going too far with him. Like all the characters in the book, I wanted him to be real and like someone you might know, but to the very point of being ridiculous - I hope I kept him on the right side of crazy. Of all the books I’ve written, ‘This Family Life’ is the one that I think has the best and funniest characters and Steve is definitely at the top of the tree. Below is an extract and to set the scene, Harry and his wife Emily are having some problems in the bedroom and they try to have sex for the first time in a long time, but instead they end up listening to Steve have sex with his wife Fiona.
Sunday 28 April 9.15 a.m.
Home. Eating a ‘healthy’ fry-up. William breastfeeding. Emily nibbling on a banana. Cloudy.
Last night Emily and I tried to have sex. We had a bath, lit some candles, and I even gave her a sensual massage before we started to get into some pretty heavy petting. But then it happened. Steve and Fiona were going at it and it sounded like they were doing some sort of role play. I heard Fiona ask Steve if he had the large package she needed. There was some rustling around and then Steve said in a dodgy French accent, ‘You wanted the extra-large baguette, mademoiselle?’ Fiona moaned and said she was starving and hadn’t had a ‘solid stick’ for ages. The last thing we heard before we turned the television on was Fiona saying, ‘C’est magnifique!’
‘You have to talk to him,’ said Emily.
‘Why do I have to talk to him? Why can’t you talk to her?’
‘Do you want to ever have sex again?’
‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’
I popped over and had a chat with Steve.
‘What’s up, old boy?’ said Steve shining his trumpet - this isn’t a euphemism, he was actually shining his trumpet.
‘Oh yes, she’s a beauty.’
‘You know, I’m sure I heard you playing it last night - in your bedroom.’
‘No, no, I don’t think so,’ said Steve.
‘Yes, I definitely heard it through the bedroom wall. Those walls are so thin. I definitely heard you playing your trumpet last night,’ I said looking at Steve and hoping for a flicker of recognition. ‘In the bedroom.’
‘No, like I said, I wasn’t playing it last night. This old lady hasn’t been played for quite a while, have you, have you?’ said Steve, oblivious to what I was saying and talking to the trumpet like it was a dog.
‘Steve, we heard you and Fiona having sex last night,’ I said bluntly and Steve stopped shining his trumpet. ‘I’m sorry, but we did and it isn’t the first time.’
‘Did you hear everything?’
‘Even the bit where I pretended to be the lost baguette salesman and Fiona was the charming village girl who needed a fresh stick?’
‘Oh,’ said Steve.
‘And it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, but it’s sort of hurting our sex life. Every time we try and do it, all we can hear is you and Fiona banging against the wall.’
‘Harry, say no more,’ said Steve. ‘We’ll move bedrooms.’
‘You don’t have to do that. Just move the bed or -’
‘I insist. You shouldn’t have to hear that and to be honest, I’m a little embarrassed.’
‘The role playing, the characters, it’s all Fiona, she loves it. I do this one thing where I’m Michael Caine - she makes me do the voice and everything.’
‘Do you mind doing the voice?’
‘No, not at all, it’s a bit of fun and it gets Fiona quite, you know, horny,’ said Steve.
‘Right, well, thanks,’ I said.
‘We’ll move today,’ said Steve. ‘It’s Sunday and Fiona likes to do -’
‘I’ll be off then, see you later,’ I said, not really interested in what happens on Sundays. I did, however, get an idea what might perk up our sex life.
And if you enjoyed the extract...
Things that might happen during your first year of parenthood:
1. You’ll get covered in a ‘nuclear’ poo.
2. You’ll be convinced your son is talking with a Japanese accent.
3. You’ll worry that when your son waves, it looks like a Nazi salute.
Of course, this might just be Harry Spencer.
Taking up where This Thirtysomething Life left off, Harry Spencer and is wife Emily are back and trying to survive their first year of parenthood. It has its ups and downs (and a few bits in the middle), but along the way they begin to understand the true meaning of family and what it takes to be a parent.
Featuring a hilarious cast of extras including Harry’s father-in-law Derek, who has a unique problem with Scotch, Steve and Fiona, the parents from children’s entertainment hell, and a yoga instructor with a prominent camel-toe, This Family Life is the ultimate comedy for anyone who is a parent, has a parent, or is thinking about becoming one.
Thanks ever so much Jon for coming on my blog! If you haven’t read one of Jon’s books, then do, you’re in for a treat. I read This Thirtysomething Life in one day on holiday in Maderia last year, getting funny looks as I chuckled out loud at the pool. 'This Family Life' is available now on Amazon and it's only 99p at the moment! To find out more about Jon, head to his website!