Peter Jones – Author & Public Speaker

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Where do you get your ideas from?

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One of the questions an author is sometimes asked is “where do you get your ideas from?” My answer is usually “anywhere,” which is, I admit, a bit glib. The answer should really be “it depends which book you’re talking about.”

I came up with the idea for The Truth About This Charming Man many years ago when I was part of a small theatre company that ran Murder Mystery events for discerning clients. One evening a fellow actor walked into the dressing room and told us that he was off to Australia for a week. ‘Very nice’ we said, but he didn’t share our enthusiasm. Jeremy was flying half way around the world to claim a body.

It turns out that in Australia, a body can’t be released until it’s claimed by a blood relative. It didn’t seem to matter that Jeremy had never actually met his Great Uncle, the Aussie Authorities just needed him to fly out and place his signature on a piece of paper. A task which was not only costly, but extremely inconvenient for our Jez.

Which was when I had an idea: Did it really need to be Jez that flew out to Aus? Couldn’t one of us take on the role of Jez, and fly out on his behalf? Would anyone notice? Would anyone… care?

More than that, perhaps Jez was the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps there was a whole slew of potential clients in need of the services of professional actors. After all, haven’t you ever needed to be in more than one place at the same time? Haven’t you ever wanted to send someone to a boring social event or meeting in your stead? Haven’t you ever been tempted to hire someone to play your boyfriend for the evening in order to keep your colleagues, family, and everyone else, from asking why you’re always single?

Those are the sort of thoughts that make me want to sit down, and write a novel…

And if you’re a fan of Nick Hornby, or Mike Gayle, Rom Coms or Heist movies, or theatre, or just a bloody good read, then The Truth About This Charming Man could be right up your street.

Read the opening chapter for free…

Still need more convincing (to part with less than a quid)? How about a sneaky look at the first chapter?

Read the rest of the opening chapter, for free, here.

Charming, fabulous, witty and easy to read book,
cannot wait for the sequal!

says amazon reader Lynn Wedge

 

Reading this in an email? If there’s a gap above that’s where a video would normally appear. Jump over to youtube to watch it.

 


TTATCM sidebarHot news! 

The Truth About This Charming Man is 99 pennies for the month of May 2017. Download the book for your smart phone, tablet, or kindle, today.

Visit BUYTHEBOOK.TODAY to buy the book… today!

(The FREE kindle reading app is available for everything. Seriously; EVERYTHING.)

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The Truth About… Elizabeth M Hurst

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liz hurst

All this month, my second novel – THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CHARMING MAN – is just 99p, as part of Amazon’s ongoing Summer Promo. Grab your copy here

…but not before I use the opportunity to shine a bright light into the eyes of an unsuspecting reader, and uncover the truth!

Today we’re grilling genre blending fiction author… Elizabeth M Hurst. Or Liz Hurst. Take your pick. 

Let’s get straight into it.

Liz, tell us one fact – one truth – that most people don’t know about you.

I have six tattoos and two piercings, none of which can be seen when I dress normally.

Saucy! If that doesn’t keep my blog-visitors reading, nothing will! So anyway, in my novel, all Will’s ever wanted in life is to be an actor. What is, or was, your greatest ambition?

I have a deep-seated desire to visit another planet. This probably won’t be possible in my lifetime, but I do feel we need to keep exploring space and maybe, in the not too distant future, we will start exploring more.

Will makes a living pretending to be people he isn’t – have you ever pretended to be someone or something you’re not? Why?

This is really difficult actually, because I am such a lousy liar that I’m not sure I could ever get away with pretending to be someone else. For the same reason, I never play poker for money!

Reading this in an email? If there’s a gap below that’s where a video would normally appear. Jump over to youtube to watch it.

Will finds himself in a situation where he has to be two of his characters … at the same meeting! But most people have been in the situation where they’ve been expected to be in two different places at the same time, or to carry out two tasks simultaneously. Have you ever been in a similar situation? What?

I once double-booked myself on two different first dates which was… Stressful! I liked both guys and didn’t really want to cancel either, on the basis that I may well lose that opportunity for good. So, I did what any sane woman does: I went to both!

I turned up deliberately early for the first and sent a apologetic text to the second, asking if we could meet up an hour later.

Luckily, the first guy wasn’t really what I was looking for so I managed to leave early enough to make the second date. However, by the time I arrived I was somewhat flustered, and so not relaxed enough to enjoy my time with guy number two, which must have been obvious because in the end I went home alone and ended up with neither.

The moral of this story is: don’t do it!

1 pair of glasses

Without giving too much away… did you have a favourite scene (in TTATCM)? Which one?

The climax, in the restaurant, is my favourite part. In the movie version, Zorba the Greek should be playing in the background while the characters are dashing around. Hilarious!

Keira Knightley

Who would you like to see in a movie of THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CHARMING MAN?

alex as willkatie as rachel

Will = Alex Hassell (left)

Rachel = Katie Holmes (right)

Zlata = Keira Knightley (above) – I’d love to see her smoking and eating junk food!

What are you working on right now?

The second novel in the Lost Souls series is my current Work In Progress. It features some of the same characters as Siren Spirit, but there’s a new mystery to solve, another haunting and a tricky emotional crisis to overcome. I’ve done much more historical.

Find out more about Liz on her website, on facebook, & on twitter.

Have you read The Truth About This Charming Man? Fancy being interrogated? Drop me a line!


TTATCM sidebarHot news! 

The Truth About This Charming Man is part of Amazon’s Summer Promo – for the entire month of June you can download the book for your smart phone, tablet, or kindle, for a mere 99p.

Visit BUYTHEBOOK.TODAY to buy the book… today!

(The FREE kindle reading app is available for everything. Seriously; EVERYTHING.)

The Truth About… Iain Pattison

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iain

All this month, my second novel – THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CHARMING MAN – is just 99p, as part of Amazon’s Summer Promo. Grab your copy here

…but not before I use the opportunity to shine a bright light into the eyes of an unsuspecting reader, and uncover the truth!

Today we’re grilling humorist, and writer of all things quirky… Iain Pattison

Let’s get straight into it!

Iain – tell us one fact – one truth – that most people don’t know about you.

I’m terrified of clowns – I find masks of any kind creepy. However, I have absolutely no fear of heights. So if a clown came after me, I’d probably scramble up the nearest tree. Even if he didn’t suffer from acrophobia, I’d be counting on him finding it tough to climb in those oversized shoes…

All Will’s ever wanted in life is to be an actor. What is, or was, your greatest ambition?

 I’m a frustrated stand-up comedian. Sometimes when I’ve appeared at writers conferences kind souls have told me they thought I was very amusing and that I should give full time comedy a go. It’s an enticing thought but I know there’s a world of difference between injecting humour into a short story workshop and standing on a lonely Comedy Store stage at midnight facing a crowd of inebriated hecklers. For one thing drunks tend not to want to hear whether Noah’s flood ordeal counts as having a narrative arc …

Reading this in an email? If there’s a gap below that’s where a video would normally appear. Jump over to youtube to watch it.

Will makes a living pretending to be people he isn’t – have you ever pretended to be someone or something you’re not? Why?

Years ago when I was a cub reporter on my local newspaper there was a rumour going round that a national bakery chain was going to open a shop in our town, complete with cafe. Trouble was, they wouldn’t speak to any journalists to confirm the story. I rang up pretending to be from the local planning department and was put straight through to the Managing Director. Some people would call it lying – we hacks call it initiative.

Will finds himself in a situation where he has to be two of his characters … at the same meeting! But most people have been in the situation where they’ve been expected to be in two different places at the same time, or to carry out two tasks simultaneously. Have you ever been in a similar situation? What?

Also in my cub reporter days, I used to accompany the newspaper’s photographer around on a Saturday visiting various weddings in the neighbourhood. He’d take a snap, I’d get names and a few details so I could write a long caption.

One week Ken asked if I could do him a favour. He was double booked (he was a bit vague on details) and suggested that I go to one wedding on my own. He’d lend me a camera.

Reluctantly, I agreed. It was only when I turned up the church that I discovered to my horror that I wasn’t just taking a quick snap for the paper – I was actually booked as the couple’s OFFICIAL wedding photographer. Ken had been doing sneaky freelance jobs on the side and had got too greedy!

It was a fiasco of crash, bang, wallop proportions. I took pictures with people’s heads sliced off, missed the newly-weds kissing at the end of the service and mistook the best man for the groom. I don’t know who cried more – me or the bride. They demanded and got a full refund. I was so awful that I didn’t even get a bit of the cake that I failed to capture being ceremoniously cut.

99p for the next five customers

Without giving too much away… did you have a favourite scene (in TTATCM)? Which one?

I love the hilarious scenes where Will is desperately trying to teach his hopeless students to be actors – and failing at every turn. It reminds me of some of my more challenging night school classes teaching creative writing. “No, inner conflict isn’t your protagonist punching his own internal organs!”

Is it true that you once dated Helen Mirren?

No, but I’ll give a fiver to anyone willing to spread this scurrilous falsehood.

Who would you like to see in a movie of THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CHARMING MAN?

johnApart from the fact that he’s American and now too old for the role, I’d love to see John Cusack cast as the lead.. He has that warmth, Kooky lost little boy charisma and sense of barely suppressed panic that makes Will such a likeable and scatty hero.

Helen-Mirren-1As for Zlata – his sexy/barmy/histrionic East European theatrical agent? A younger Helen Mirren springs to mind – but I’m afraid she often springs to mind. Hence the restraining order…

Find out more about Iain and his quirky goings on at IainPattison.com – and take a butchers at his latest short story collections at DoubleQBooks.com

Have you read The Truth About This Charming Man? Fancy being interrogated? Drop me a line!


TTATCM sidebarHot news! 

The Truth About This Charming Man is part of Amazon’s Summer Promo – for the entire month of June you can download the book for your smart phone, tablet, or kindle, for a mere 99p.

Visit BUYTHEBOOK.TODAY to buy the book… today!

(The FREE kindle reading app is available for everything. Seriously; EVERYTHING.)

The Truth About… Shelley Wilson

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this book 99p

It’s started! All this month, THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CHARMING MAN – is just 99p, as part of Amazon’s Summer Promo.

Grab your copy here

Meanwhile, let’s use the opportunity to shine a bright light into the eyes of an unsuspecting reader, and uncover the truth!

SONY DSC

Today we’re grilling fellow self-help Author, YA fantasy novelist, blogger supremo (is that a word? Is now.) …and busy Mum of three, Shelley Wilson.

Let’s get straight into it.

Shelley, tell us one fact – one truth – that most people don’t know about you.

Ooh, I could tell you some stories but as my mum is one of your biggest fans (and will no doubt read this post) I better stick with a tame answer. I love tattoos and have two – one on my back and another on my wrist. I really want a third one but can’t decide what to have.

In the novel, all Will’s ever wanted in life is to be an actor. What is, or was, your greatest ambition?

From as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. It’s the one constant thing in my life. When I was about fifteen my mum bought me a tape cassette (yep, I’m that old) on ‘How To Write for Mills & Boon’ – I don’t think she would have encouraged me at such a young age if she’d realised how raunchy some of their books were!

Reading this in an email? If there’s a gap below that’s where a video would normally appear. Jump over to youtube to watch it.

Will makes a living pretending to be people he isn’t – have you ever pretended to be someone or something you’re not? Why?

I’ve never pretended to be someone else, although I did enjoy reading the scenes in your book when Will had to act out his scenario as ‘loving boyfriend’ and ‘flirting tutor’. It could be so much fun to pretend to be someone else – I was told I looked like Davina Mccall once so maybe I could pretend to live her glamorous lifestyle!

I do, however, pretend to be something I’m not on a regular basis – I pretend to be confident when I’m actually screaming inside. This tactic has got me through so many situations as I trick myself into believing that I’m this strong, confident woman. I believe that if you can act a certain way then you believe it to be true – maybe this is how Will prepares for his acting jobs?

Will finds himself in a situation where he has to be two of his characters … at the same meeting! But most people have been in the situation where they’ve been expected to be in two different places at the same time, or to carry out two tasks simultaneously. Have you ever been in a similar situation? What?

My life is a constant battle of having to be in two different places at the same time – that’s the everyday life of a single parent! Most of these situations involved getting my three children to various social/sporting events on opposite sides of town within minutes of each other. Most of the time I manage it, but occasionally I’ll admit defeat.

As a Gemini (on the cusp) I also have a knack for being able to carry out multiple tasks simultaneously – although I have realised that reading my kindle while stirring the Bolognese will always end in disaster!

Who would you like to see in a movie of THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CHARMING MAN?

jakeI loved Will’s character as he was sweet, funny, and slightly desperate (in a nice way) and so I immediately thought about New Girl actor, Jake Johnson.

Rachel is your typical beautiful heroine, girl next door type who could be played by any of my favourite actresses – Anne Hathaway stands out for me.

missi-pyleZlata is a tricky one because she is so unique, funny, caring and eccentric, however, I think Missi Pyle would be perfect!

Without giving too much away… did you have a favourite scene (in TTATCM)? Which one?

Ooh, there are so many scenes that I love – most of them contained Zlata (everyone’s favourite agent). One scene that sticks in my mind is the flirting workshop that Will and Zlata run. I found this highly amusing as Will, in his acting role of ‘Gary’, tries to teach a group of men how to create romance out of nothing.

Talking of ‘flirting workshops’ & ‘romance’… what is the most awkward moment you’ve ever had on a date?

I briefly joined a dating site (many years ago) and went on a couple of disastrous nights out – on one such occasion my seemingly normal date proceeded to smell my hair in the pub, leap from his stool and exclaim that we were ‘Tresemme Twins’! I cancelled my account shortly after and have enjoyed – and embraced – the single life ever since.

Find out more about Shelley Wilson at shelleywilsonauthor.com

Have you read The Truth About This Charming Man? Fancy being interrogated? Drop me a line!


TTATCM sidebarHot news! 

The Truth About This Charming Man is part of Amazon’s Summer Promo – for the entire month of June you can download the book for your smart phone, tablet, or kindle, for a mere 99p.

Visit BUYTHEBOOK.TODAY to buy the book… today!

(The FREE kindle reading app is available for everything. Seriously; EVERYTHING.)

The Truth About Great Cover Design…

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TTATCM publicity

Book covers.

I hate ’em.

No really, that’s the truth, because that age old piece of advice – never judge a book by its cover – is universally IGNORED!

Everyone judges pretty much everything by its cover, ESPECIALLY books. So it really doesn’t matter how many months I spent slaving over the words on the inside, if the cover isn’t absolutely perfect (or as close as), I’ll have pretty much wasted my time. After all, I went through goodness knows how many covers for my first novel and to this day I’m still not entirely sure we got it absolutely right (read about that here).

So it was with considerable trepidation that I approached the cover design for my latest fiction offering; The Truth About This Charming Man. And just for “fun” (yours, not mine) my agent thought you might enjoy seeing the personal torment we went through to arrive at the FABULOUS jacket above / to the right. That’s nice of her, isn’t it.

Anyway, let’s start with these three doodles…

The Truth - proof4 The Truth - proof The Truth - proof2

If you’re shaking your head in bewilderment I can’t say I blame you. Let me give you some context:

My latest novel was never intended to be a novel at all. Back at the beginning of 2015, in a desperate attempt to plug the hole in my bank account, I’d written a five part story entitled The Truth. The plan was to submit it to a well-known weekly women’s publication in the hopes that they might serialise it. This is a bit like trying to solve a financial crisis by purchasing a single lottery ticket, but still, I was determined.

The basic plot was (and still is… to some degree) about a thirty something actor who, despite never having secured a ‘proper’ role on stage or screen, has, somehow, landed three unusuallet’s call them ‘positions’… pretending to be whoever his clients need him to be. And although it still isn’t proper theatre, by and large, life is pretty good for our hero… until the day he needs to play two of those people. At the same meeting.

It’s an idea that Kate and I originally came up with many years ago – although typically, when I actually came to write it, it morphed into something very different, and in my humble opinion, far better, than what we’d originally envisaged.

In fact, so pleased was I with my second piece of full length fiction that I resolved to self-publish it as a novella should the magazine in question decide not to take the story. Hence the doodles above. These are *some* of my attempts at what I thought might be the cover… and I hated them. I still do. In my head I had this idea about our hero falling between sinister versions of the two famous actor masks. I realised too that the design had to be at least sympathetic to my first novel, but I just couldn’t get it to work; close friends I shared these doodles with said it made the book look like a murder mystery. Arrrgghhh!

FORTUNATELY, around March of last year, destiny stepped in.

I’d just landed myself a new agent, who in turn had secured a publicity deal with amazon, which led to my first novel being re-vamped and re-published. But before I’d even signed my contract, my agent was understandably keen to know what else could be in the pipeline. So I showed her The Truth, and… she loved it.

Though she didn’t love the title.

Or the fact it was a novella.

“Go away,” she said, “and turn this into a proper, full-length novel… with a better title.”

Nine months later and I had finished The Truth About This Charming Man.

Which brings us onto this…

THE TRUTH kindle proof

 

I was still basking in the glory of somehow completing an entire novel in the tenth of the time it had taken me to write the first one, when this cover was designed. Maybe I wasn’t being objective but at the time I loved the masks. I loved the way they’re all angry or sad with the exception of the one he’s wearing. I loved the spot light. I loved everything about it. I was in love!

So pleased was I – and so confident that both amazon and my agent would love it too – I grabbed my wallet and went right ahead and had the finished artwork made up.

Oops.

My agent did like it, sort of, but there were some problems.

Firstly, apparently books that are obviously about actors or acting are unpopular with publishers (as are books to do with writers, or writing). So anything with actor masks on it was a strict no-no.

Secondly, my market, apparently, is women’s contemporary romantic fiction. Regardless of whether my books are heavy on the romance or not 90% of my readers fit that demographic, and therefore it’s those ladies that have to look at the cover and go “Ooooo…”

I was sent back to the drawing board, with strict instructions to come back with ‘at least three’ ideas that we could pick from.

Several days later – with the dread that this entire process might take as long as it did last time hanging over my head – this design popped out:

TTATCM man in heart sketch

I liked it!

I felt we’d finally cracked the font. I liked the colour. The strap-line felt right.

I wasn’t sure whether we’d get away with the mask on the man…  more than that though, I was even more worried it still wouldn’t appeal to the women’s contemporary romantic fiction market.

A fear that was addressed by the following…

TTATCM bench sketch copy

Bear in mind this is a sketch, so it’s a bit rough round the edges. Those lines on the bench wouldn’t be there in a finished version.

I hate it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. It’s more or less a scene from the book, and I like the London skyline, but it’s so… chick-lit. There’s nothing wrong with chick-lit of course, but slap a cover like this on my book and I could envisage two things happening:

  1. I’d lose every single one of my male readers (even though there are probably about 6, and I know them all by name).
  2. There would be more than a few female readers who were hoping for a plot that’s a good deal more romantic than the one I’ve actually come up with.

Put simply, I wasn’t convinced it was a  good fit, even if I knew, in my heart of hearts, that this was probably the cover amazon and my agent would go for.

There hardly seemed any point in having a third idea – so I suggested a simple typographical solution, using the font and background colour from the first idea, maybe the border from the second idea. Just something we could throw into the mix so we could say, hand on heart, that we’d delivered three covers. The book equivalent of a guy in a red jersey beaming down to an unexplored planet with Captain Kirk.

What I got was this…

TTATCM typographical solution sketch

This is another sketch. Those glasses, I was assured, wouldn’t have the words shutterstock across them. But I wasn’t listening. What I was thinking was…

Woah!

I knew pretty much instantly that this was it. There was a kind of stirring. In my loins. Despite the fact that this design was turned out in the time it took me to send an email, go downstairs, make a cup of tea, and come back up again – I just knew.

And I wasn’t alone. I sent all three covers to several friends, and most chose the design above over the other two. Especially those friends who hadn’t seen any other design, or had no idea what the book was about.

My favourite bit of feedback was this:

“I like the glasses. It makes me think of ‘deception’ – but also about those comedy glasses you could buy with a big nose and bushy eyebrows attached.”

Perfect!

Interestingly, those that didn’t choose this design, chose the couple on the bench. But no one liked the guy in the mask.

So, naughty though it may be, I casually forgot about the guy in the mask. I know, I know – I was tasked with submitting three ideas, but I wanted my favourite to have at least a 50/50 chance of winning even though I was 100% certain that the chick-lit cover would beat it to a pulp!

And I’m delighted to say I was wrong.

My agent circulated the two covers (the ones on offer) round her agency and my fave won hands down! The only objection being that it might not be *quite* romantic enough… and was it possible to ‘fix’ that? Which is why we came up with the finished version below by adding a little bit of a glow and a few love hearts (including the dot on the i in the word ‘charming’).

Personally I prefer the un-romanticised version, but hey – it’s not that much of a compromise. I’m still proud to be associated with this design.

TTATCM kindle

But… maybe we’ve got it wrong?

Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.


TTATCM sidebar

Hot news; my second novel The Truth About This Charming Man is available right now, in paperback and for your phone, tablet, computer or kindle device!

Read the opening chapter, right now, right here.

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

The opening chapter to: The Truth About This Charming Man

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IMG_0618Act I

Scene One

Zlata Ruzencova must be the worst theatrical agent in London. In five years she has only ever managed to secure me two acting jobs. A track record that’s even less impressive when you realise that:

  1. A) I’m the only actor she actually has ‘on her books’, and
  2. B) that first role was playing a part she’d devised!

Still, she did find me Nathia. And though working for Nathia can be something of a challenge (the role being somewhat unusual) I have had quite a run. And it does pay well. I should probably be more grateful. But it’s hard to be grateful when you’re sitting in the back of a cab fuming over the disappearance of your watch.

“Zlata – have you got my watch? Zlata?”

“Hello. Zlata is not here at the moments. She is very busy person. Please do leave nice message after the noise. Beeeeep.”

“Zlata – quit messing about. Zlata. Zlata!” But she’s hung up.

Nathia’s smiling when she opens the door. A big, warm, welcoming smile that promises an evening of laughter and cocktails. It’s fake, of course – she’s just rehearsing. In our four years together I’ve learnt more from Nathia than I ever learnt at drama school.

The smile falters when she sees that it’s me. “You’re late,” she says with enough venom to poison a small army. She turns and stomps back into her apartment, and I notice she’s already in full costume: slim-fit high-waist sleek-black trousers, semi-translucent shirt, killer heels – the usual Nathia attire. I glance at the ornate wall clock, which seems to glare back from inside its black wooden case. Even the pendulum is swinging back and forth in an impatient manner.

“We’ve got plenty of time,” I shout from the hallway as I hang up my jacket and turn off my mobile phone. “They’re not due for another forty minutes, and you know what they’re like; Rachel’s probably still herding Michael out the door.”

But Nathia doesn’t say anything, and as I enter her palatial kitchen she’s chopping carrots in a way that suggests parts of my anatomy could be next.

Tanya’s here. Of course. She doesn’t say anything either. Just leans against the fridge, watching the master chef at work whilst occasionally sipping beer from a bottle. She’s wearing a ripped T-shirt that seems slightly incongruent for a woman who looks every one of her forty-six years. When the slogan on the front catches my eye I fail spectacularly to hide a frown. Who’d have thought it was possible to get that many expletives into one sentence? Isn’t language a wonderful thing.

She doesn’t like me very much, Tanya. I’m an obstacle. I stand between her and what she wants – which, in broad terms, is an end to what she sees as a ‘farce’. She turns slowly to look in my direction and I give her my biggest broadest smile, but she turns away with a shake of her head, and I’m slightly disappointed when all those piercings fail to jangle.

“Look,” I say, “sorry about cutting it a bit fine. I lost track of time. Literally, actually. You remember Zlata – my agent? Well, she’s been doing an evening class in – would you believe – watch stealing! You know, right off your wrist? I mean, who the hell thought running a class like that would be a good idea? Anyway, it turns out my agent is the star pupil!” I proffer my naked wrist as evidence. Neither woman seems the slightest bit interested.

“Are you planning on standing there all night?” asks Nathia without looking up. “Only I’d quite like you to change for dinner? If that would be all right with you?”

“Sure,” I say. I know better than to question her authority, but I do so anyway. “We don’t need to catch up first? Nothing that I need to know?”

“Like what?” she asks after a moment. I shrug.

“I dunno. The usual: am I still working for Amnesty International? Has my Dad had his knee operation? Have I started writing that book I’m always going on about? That sort of thing.”

“Nothing’s changed,” says Nathia, and I swear I see Tanya wince slightly. “Just go and get ready.”

“Okay,” I say, and turn to leave.

“And Edwin,” adds Nathia, “wear the blue shirt tonight.

* * * *

My name isn’t Edwin. It’s William. Will to my friends. Though it could just as easily be Gary, or Roger, or Stephan – just tell me who you’d like me to be and watch me morph into someone else. It’s not lying. Lying is an untruth. This is acting. It’s telling a story, and stories are a good thing: they teach us. They help us to make sense of the world. They allow us to stay safe – in that way they’re better than the truth.

And sometimes – in order to tell the story as best we can – actors need to forget about the person behind the mask, let go of the person we would normally be and instead allow the character we’ve taken on to become as real as possible. Nobody knows this better than Nathia Brockenhurst. It’s how we came to meet, four years ago, in a dingy little south London pub.

“What’s this?” I asked, taking the folder from the scratched, beer-stained table and leafing through the half dozen pages. It wasn’t a script. That much was obvious.

“Non disclosure agreement,” said Nathia. I had only the vaguest notion of what that was, something that must have been evident from the look on my face. “It’s a legal document,” continued Nathia. “It states that anything we discuss is strictly confidential and must go no further or there will be… ramifications.”

“Er, okay,” I said. “Is that… usual?” Other than periodically working for Zlata and giving private drama lessons to spoilt brats, my glittering theatrical career had consisted mainly of waiting tables, pulling pints, or flagging people down on the street and persuading them to part with their direct debit details. If you’d told me that successful actors signed legal documents and secured roles in seedy backstreet pubs, I’d have probably believed you.

“Sign it,” said Nathia, producing an expensive looking pen from her handbag. “Then we can talk.” I did as I was told, and once Nathia had taken back the signed document and given me a copy, she took a deep breath, and fixed me with a look of solemnity. “I’m gay,” she said.

“Right,” I said taking a moment to consider how this might have any bearing on the so-called ‘interesting job offer’ that Zlata had told me we were here to discuss. “Okay.”

“And that’s a problem,” she continued.

“It is?” Nathia shuffled in her seat, glanced around the tired bar to see if the landlord or his other patrons might be listening, but she had nothing to worry about. Everyone else was either mesmerised by the large plasma television, throwing darts in the general direction of a dart board, or trying very hard to remain upright. Nathia put her arms on the table between us and leant forward.

“The people I work for… well, let’s just say that they’re somewhat traditional.” I nodded for her to continue, though I had no idea where she was going with this. “Sure,” she said, “it’s the twenty-first century, and they can cope with me being a woman in a man’s world – just – but homosexuality is a step too far.”

“That’s…” I said, running a hand through my hair, feeling it slide through my fingers, “…surprising.” Until now I’d always thought theatre had something of a reputation for attracting your more liberal types. I’d never once heard it described as a ‘man’s world’. Or homophobic. “Who do you work for again?”

“A small firm of venture capitalists, William. That’s all you need to know for now.”

“Venture capitalists?”

“Yes.”

“But I thought… My agent said–”

“Are you going to let me finish?” snapped Nathia.

“Of course,” I said. “Sorry.”

“Anyway,” she continued, “even though my employer and his clients expect me to spend all of my daylight hours – and a fair proportion of my night time ones – doing their evil bidding, occasionally they need to know that I’m still human. That despite my ruthless business instincts, on the inside at least, I’m just an adorable little pussycat. And a heterosexual one at that.” She paused for a moment to take a sip from her orange juice; I picked up my beer and did the same. “There are functions,” she continued, “and fundraisers, and parties, and all manner of ‘after work socials’, and whilst it’s not compulsory to turn up to these events with a partner in tow, the absence of someone I can rather quaintly refer to as ‘my boyfriend’ is becoming a problem.”

“Right,” I said, trying and failing to keep a frown from forming. “Well – can’t you just invent someone?” I reached for my pint.

“Oh, believe me, I’ve tried,” said Nathia. “Within hours of inventing a fictitious love-interest, my boss’s wife called me up, and invited ‘Bertram’ and me to dinner.”

“Bertram?!” I said, very nearly spraying her with a mouthful of beer.

“It’s the first name I could think of! Anyway,” she said, glaring at me, “needless to say I couldn’t accept the invite. Instead I had to invent a plausible sounding explanation as to why Bertram and I wouldn’t be available, and then a week or so later an even more elaborate story to explain why ‘he’ wasn’t on the scene anymore!”

“I take it you’re not very good at coming up with stories?”

“On the contrary,” said Nathia, “I’m a master! Having introduced the possibility of a Bertram I’m now beating off advances left right and centre from any man with a drink in his hand who now sees me as your regular good time girl! After all, why else would I be foot loose and fancy free? Quite frankly, William, I’ve had enough!” She sat back in her chair, arms folded tightly across her chest, and fixed me with a look so intense I found myself trying not to breathe. “You look confused,” she said after a moment.

“Sorry, no. I mean yes. A bit. Look – I understand that you’re, well, that you have a bit of dilemma, with how much you can tell your colleagues, about ‘things’. I get that. It’s just… my agent said you had a job! An acting job! That’s what I do – I’m an actor!”

“I know,” said Nathia.

“So?” I said. “Do you have a job?”

Nathia sighed irritably. “Bertram!” she said.

“Sorry?”

“I need you to play the part of Bertram.” The words bounced around in my head whilst my brain made sense of them.

“Your made-up boyfriend?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“You need me to be Bertram?”

“That’s what I said.”

“But–”

Nathia raised a hand to silence me, and with the other reached into her bag to pull out a second, much larger document than the first. It hit the table with a distinctive thud, before she pushed it towards me.

“You would be required,” she said, adopting the tone of someone who’s spent far too many hours in corporate boardrooms, “to play the part of Bertram, my doting boyfriend, at various social functions – the schedule of which will be mutually agreed between ourselves.” I turned the first page and began leafing through the document. “In addition,” continued Nathia, “I will require you to come to my office, say once a month, to ‘take me out for lunch’, and to make the occasional phone call to my PA for suitably boyfriend-sounding reasons that we can work out later. I will also provide you with a mobile phone that you will be required to answer, as Bertram, during office hours. In return I am prepared to pay you a monthly fee which I trust you’ll find extremely generous, as well as reimburse you for all reasonable expenses, such as travel, phone calls, food and bar bills, and any clothes that you need to purchase in order to fulfil your ‘Bertram’ duties.” She paused for a moment to take in what I was currently wearing. “For instance,” she said, “I’m not sure Bertram would wear a coat that so obviously came from an army surplus store.” I ignored her remark and continued to thumb through the contract.

“So?” she asked. “Any questions? Comments?” I scratched the stubble on my chin, then raised my eyes.

“I’m still not sure about the name Bertram,” I said.

* * * *

For legal reasons I can’t tell you what was in that contract. Neither can I tell you my fee. I can tell you that at the end of month one I stood to earn more than I’d earned in my entire previous acting career. I picked up the pen and signed on the dotted line.

From that moment on, things got considerably easier for Ms Brockenhurst and myself. She had a boyfriend she could mention, receive flowers from, blame for all manner of things, and if necessary, point to. More than that, she now had somewhere she could conceivably be whilst actually being somewhere else. She was free to discover the real Nathia Brockenhurst, to be whoever she wanted, see whoever she wanted – people like Tanya. And all this behind closed doors, safe in the knowledge that someone else was contractually obliged to cover for her.

As for me – I could finally start paying back some of my more desperate debts. Enter stage left: Edwin Clarkson.

Much thought went into that name, and we decided early on that Nathia would always address me as Edwin to reduce the possibility of blurting out my real name.

Over the years Edwin has been introduced to most of Nathia’s work colleagues – the ones that matter anyway – at various work functions or get-togethers, including regular dinner dates with Michael and Rachel Richmond, her boss and his young wife.

Once a month I follow the river round to Nathia’s luxury apartment in Chelsea, don my Edwin costume, and spend a pleasant enough evening sinking bottles of Merlot whilst I entertain Michael and Rachel with torrid tales of Edwin’s life working for human rights organisations – all painstakingly researched on Google, earlier that afternoon.

The door bell sounds. My cue that the evening of duplicity has begun. I open my designated drawer, take out a pair of thick framed glasses and after a final mirror check, leave the bedroom to meet my audience.

* * * *

Michael roars with laughter, at the hilarity of his own wit, and slaps his palms on the table so hard I fear Nathia’s antique mahogany furniture may have finally met its match. He picks up his glass, finds it empty, and then attempts to reach across the table for the bottle.

“Oh, Michael – allow me,” I say, grabbing the bottle of port and refilling his glass. I throw him a smile, and not for the first time I study his face: he looks like he’s been chiselled out of granite. And whilst he wears expensive shirts, in pastel colours, with floral ties, they do nothing to soften features that are almost jagged.

In many ways Michael Richmond is a man out of time. A century or two ago he’d have a bushy moustache, impressive sideburns, and a belly the size of a small country. He’d spend his evenings smoking expensive cigars and talking about his time in Africa. Roll back the centuries still further and I can imagine him dressed in animal furs, sporting a heavy copper helmet, and wielding a blade high above his head before he conquers another village, and takes his pick of the wenches available. But instead Michael goes to the gym. He watches his weight. He pops statins. And on evenings such as this, he shares stories of boring corporate deals negotiated across expensive but dull conference room tables. Is it any wonder that he drinks too much, laughs too loudly, and always looks as if he might explode at any given moment? That granite exterior is holding a lifetime of frustration in place.

I hand him his port and glance across the table at Rachel, who’s watching me in that way she does.

Rachel’s altogether more interesting. On the surface she’s a working class girl, born and bred in the East End to a British father and Jordanian mother, destined to live a simple, honest existence. That is, until Michael booked a table at the bar and brasserie where she worked, and stole her away from a life of waitressing. But behind that shy smile, those beautiful soft cappuccino eyes, and her tall, lean, slightly Arabian veneer, is someone else. And sometimes, when she’s asked me an innocent sounding question, she stays quiet after I’ve given my answer, like she’s waiting for me to say more, waiting for me to give myself away. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t give me something of a buzz.

That’s not how Nathia sees it, of course. She thinks Rachel’s developed some sort of girly crush. One that might lead to all manner of complications further down the line if it’s not nipped in the bud. Which is ridiculous, but explains why she wanted me to wear the plain blue shirt tonight. Rachel prefers the striped one.

“Anyway,” slurs Michael, though I can’t for the life of me remember what he was talking about, “Nathia said we should check the place out, so check the place out we did. Didn’t we? Precious?”

“Yes,” says Rachel. “We did.”

“Fuck me Edwin,” continues Michael with a shake of his head. “What a fucking dive. Ghastly fucking people, eating ghastly fucking food. The owner… what was his name again? Oh for fuck’s sake… foreign chap. Wasn’t even a proper name. Just a collection of fucking sounds…”

“Jarad,” says Rachel.

“Yesss! That was it! Jar head! You’ve never met a more nervous man in your entire fucking life,” says Michael, waving his glass around so much it’s a wonder the walls aren’t splashed with port. “Whilst his business partner – the so-called brains of the operation – couldn’t even be fucking bothered to turn up! Left this mouse of a man to blunder through probably the most important meeting of his fucking life. Fucking idiot!” Michael shakes his head at the memory, before pouring half the glass down his throat, and suppressing a belch. “I mean doesn’t that seem a little fucking odd to you, Edwin? I have the power to completely transform their shabby, two-bit, here-today-gone-tomorrow, two-man enterprise into whatever they fucking want it to be. I’m fucking Santa Claus! I’m their own personal fucking Jesus! No wait – I’m fucking God! I’m granting them a fucking audience with fucking God! And yet one of them can’t make the fucking meeting – with God – because…” he makes air quotes with his fingers, “they’re ‘busy’! I tell you Edwin, there’s something fishy about the whole enterprise. And I fucking hate fish!” The belch he’s been trying to contain finally makes it into the open, and it lasts a full three or four seconds before Michael waves his hand about as some sort of apology. I look down into my lap and try and hide a smirk.

“He liked you though, didn’t he? Precious? That fucking… ‘Jar-head’ fellow. Couldn’t keep his fucking eyes off you.”

“I can’t say I noticed,” says Rachel with a smile. A false one, but convincing enough to the untrained eye. She takes a breath, and puts a hand on her husband’s. “Sometimes, darling, I wish you’d remember that these are people’s dreams that you’re playing with.”

“Oh fucking poppycock! Dreams? It’s business! There’s no place for dreamers in business! Don’t you agree, Edwin?”

“Well…” I bluster, accompanied with some appropriately vague hand gestures. I know better than to express an actual opinion. This way Michael’s imagination is filling in the gaps with whatever he’d like me to say.

“If anyone wants me to consider investing my money – or my clients’ money – then I need more than fucking dreams. I need to see potential! Real potential! That’s why Nathia suggested we invest in the fucking place! Because of their reputation for ‘outstanding cuisine’. And having had many a fine meal in these humble surroundings, lovingly prepared by her own fair hands–”

“You’re very welcome,” says Nathia, raising her wine glass.

“–I thought the girl knew a thing or two about food! But fuck me! Just how fucking wrong can you be?” Michael slaps both palms flat on the table and blasts us with another belly laugh.

“Well,” says Nathia with a sigh, “clearly I let my initial enthusiasm run away with me. I apologise.” Michael wafts away her apology.

“No need,” he says with the faintest of slurs. “But the last thing this country needs is another fucking chain of ghastly restaurants serving fucking foreign muck, to the fucking ghastly masses.” And with that he picks up his port glass again and drains the contents. I look across at Rachel. Her hands are in her lap, and the smile – false or otherwise – is gone. And not for the first time I have this piercing stab of regret that she’s so obviously trapped inside a marriage that makes her unhappy. If things were different, if we’d met under different circumstances, ones where I’m not contractually obliged to be someone else, I think we could be good friends. Maybe more than friends. Michael belches yet again.

“Nathia darling,” he says, “we need more port.”

“I think, Michael,” says Rachel, placing her hand on her husband’s for the second time that evening, “that we should make a move.”

“Already?” he slurs.

“Yes. Already,” she says, her voice wobbling slightly. She gets up from the table, and flashes me and Nathia a polite smile. “Excuse me a moment,” she says, and leaves the room. Nathia and I exchange looks, then she too gets up from the table and follows Rachel.

“Edwin,” says Michael, his voice considerably lower than its usual bellow, “whilst the girls are out of the room, have you ever thought about getting into the investment business?”

“Me?” I blink. “Really? I’m not sure I have the constitution for it.”

“Fucking nonsense!” says Michael. “You’re a sharp cookie. Anyone can see that. And the thing is, a rather interesting investment opportunity came across my desk the other day which I think might be just up your street; Vanadium Global.”

“Sounds very grand,” I say.

“Doesn’t it,” says Michael with a nod. “Ironically though, they’re too small at the moment for Steele & Richmond to climb into bed with. Which is a real fucking shame, because they’re going places. Anyone with half a fucking brain can see that. Which is why I thought of you, Edwin. It might be a good way to get your feet wet.”

I wrinkle my nose. “I don’t know, Michael,” I say. “I’m not really the–”

“Michael,” says Rachel. She’s standing in the doorway, her jacket draped over her arm. Michael gives a resigned sniff and eases himself out of his chair.

“Pop into my office next time you’re in the neighbourhood,” he says with a wink, “and we’ll discuss it further.”

“I thought I told you to wear the blue shirt,” says Nathia as we close the door on our guests.

“Did you?” I say, glancing down to look at my chest as if I’m expecting to see something other than stripes.

“You know I did,” she adds before walking back into the dining room.

I hate this bit. The obligatory deconstruction of the entire evening; what I said, to whom, and whether any of it might have, in some obscure way, undermined the elaborate fabric of fiction we’ve been weaving these past four years. All whilst we gather up dirty dishes and spent glasses and cart them through to the kitchen. If I actually worked in theatre I’d probably be in a cab right now. I take off my Edwin glasses and put them in my pocket.

“I don’t really like the blue shirt,” I say as I enter the dining room.

“Doesn’t matter,” says Nathia as she gathers up cutlery.

“I’m not sure it’s Edwin. It’s a little too conservative. In the political sense I mean. It makes me look like a… police detective… or something. Not Edwin at all.” I look at the destruction and chaos on the dining room table and let out a sigh. How can four people make such a mess? I reach for the empty bottles.

“It really doesn’t matter, William,” says Nathia, using my real name for the first time in so long it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Something isn’t right. I follow her through to the kitchen.

“Everything okay?” I ask. She turns and leans against the work surface.

“I’m tired,” she says. I nod.

“It was an extraordinarily long evening. How many bottles of Merlot did we get through? Three? Four? I think Michael finished half a bottle of port by himself.”

“No,” says Nathia with a shake of her head; she looks as if she has great invisible weights hanging from her shoulders. “I’m tired of this. This endless – farce. This isn’t me. It never was.” She lifts her eyes from the floor and gives me a long weary look.

“I was going to wait a few more weeks,” she says, opening the drawer where she normally keeps her collection of instruction manuals and warranty documents for the kitchen paraphernalia, but instead produces a white envelope. She passes it to me and resumes her stance against the work surface.

“What’s this?” I ask, though I think I can guess. Nathia takes a deep breath.

“Formal termination notice,” she says. “Effective immediately, your services are no longer required.”


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Hot news; my second novel The Truth About This Charming Man is available right now in paperback and for your smart phone, tablet, computer or kindle e-book reader!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

The Truth – a short message from author Peter Jones.

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This is a transcript of a video that I posted on social media earlier today. If you would prefer to view the video, which is only 4 minutes in length, click here now (or press the play button if you can see an image immediately below).

Hello,

Many of you know me as the self-help author turned novelist Peter Jones.

What most of you don’t know is that over the past year or so I have taken on a number of other – let’s call them positions – in order to support myself. Some of these ‘jobs’ have been somewhat unusual, and most have required me to tight-lipped about what I get up to in my non-writing hours.

But no more.

The time has come for me to tell the truth, to expose those who should know better.

Before I turned writer I was involved with a small theatre company, and during that time I developed quite a talent for characterisation & costume, impersonation and disguise.

It’s these remarkable skills that I’ve been peddling to certain individuals, often the rich and the famous, whenever they were too busy or just too idle to appear in person.

Let me take a moment to show you what i mean…

British actor Hugh Grant poses for pictures on the red carpet as he arrives to attend the European premier of his latest film

Here’s the actor Hugh Grant as he attends yet another film premier. But I think, in light of what i just told you, you can begin to get a sense that something isn’t quite right, that Hugh seems a little different somehow – and that is of course because it’s not Hugh. It’s me. A pair of black rimmed spectacles completing the costume.

james-mcavoy-filth-scotland-premiere-02

Now different day, different role, but again, I think you can probably tell, when you look closely, that it isn’t the actor James Macavoy… but yours truly.

Keira+Knightley+James+McAvoy+Atonement+TIFF+x7z_okk-R2el

Playing James again, this time trying not to be distracted by Keira Knightly’s erm… By Keira Knightly.

'X-Men: Days of Future Past' U.K. Premiere - Arrivals Featuring: James McAvoy,Michael Fassbender Where: London, United Kingdom When: 12 May 2014 Credit: Joe/WENN.com

And again, this time with a life sized hand puppet of the actor Michael Fassbender.

Rita-Ora

Me again. This time standing in for the actress and singer Rita Ora. Probably one of my most demanding roles to date. Particularly as it was such a cold day.

344545-cute-guinea-pigs-hd-wallpaper

Another role… that costume was particularly ticklish…

kylie-minogue-knickst-vor-queen-elizabeth-ii

Oh and er, yes, not quite sure how this once slipped in, but here I am again. Possibly not so clear which of these two famous people i’m standing in for but if we pan back slightly…

Queen-Elizabeth-II-greeted-Kylie-Minogue-Royal-Variety

Yes, there i am. Still trying to pass Kylie Minogue a copy of my last novel.

Needless to say, I’m not proud myself, and I hope you can forgive me for helping facilitate this deceit and for plunging to such depths. It’s a tough life being an author, but really, that’s no excuse for my behaviour.

You can help of course.

It just so happens that this week I have a new novel out!

TTATCM sidebarTHE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CHARMING MAN Is the witty tale of a struggling actor and the extraordinary lengths he goes to… for the woman he loves.

It’s out now in paperback, and for whatever device your currently using to view this blog – and it’s only a couple of quid. Just click here. Go on. Help out a struggling author.

In the meantime, please help me apologise to your friends by SHARING the video at the top of this blog post on facebook, twitter, or your social media outlet of choice. Though now that you know what I’ve been up to, you might start to see some of them in a new light.