A chat with Spencer Brown.

A chat with Spencer Brown.

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Books and Sweets

Spencer, we’re so excited to chat with you today about your second book The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper that was released on November 12th. We all devoured it here at Books and Sweets! We loved it not only because of how funny and well written it was, but also because we could all relate to many of the incidents that happened to the main character, Tom Cooper. Without revealing too much, how much of it is based on your own experience of the first lockdown?

Obviously Tom’s life is not my life… I’m lucky enough to still be married, I have one more child than him, and I’m in slightly better shape. Slightly better shape. But I think it’s fair to say the book may have found a little ‘inspiration’ in my own lockdown experience. I had a child who lost a tooth, I found some vermin in a welly, I walked past an old man who was swinging a stick in a massive arc around him to try to ward off children… It was actually really great to be able to channel all these things into the novel as I was going through them. Fictionalising things that were happening to me probably allowed me to remove myself from the madness a bit, and meant I actually kept a bit of my sanity in a situation that all of us were finding so difficult. Often, I was making myself laugh by writing it, seeing the absurdity in the way everyone was behaving (including myself), so hopefully readers will get that same feeling of escape when they read it!

The reviews for the book are all incredible – and well deserved! Were you expecting it to be the case or were you concerned that some readers might not be ready to appreciate the comic and light-hearted tone of the novel as the pandemic is still not currently under control?

Thanks! I’ve been blown away by all the reviews. I wasn’t particularly concerned people wouldn’t be ready for it, but I think that’s more because I’m generally optimistic rather than because I’d thought it through. I’ve spent years as a stand-up comedian, and (particularly in the company of other stand-up comedians) we don’t seem to have the same boundaries that other people have. As a comic, you have to train your mind to always be looking for the joke, so you sometimes forget that other people don’t think like that. That said, I think the book never makes light of the pandemic itself, more of the way that we were (and still are) reacting to it. I think the way the lockdown brought out various human foibles made it a great subject for comedy, but there’s obviously nothing amusing about people getting seriously ill, so it was never really going to be something I made light of. It was also important to me that the book had some serious sections amidst the comedy too, as it just seemed dishonest not to show that side of it. Hopefully, I managed to find a good balance between making people laugh most of the time, but also acknowledging the other side of what was going on.

We don’t want to reveal too much but there is this moment in the book where Tom Cooper does not have any wifi anymore and is forced to start reading a book that he wanted to read but never found any time as there was always something more appealing to do. For a moment there, he really enjoys this feeling of being cut from the rest of the world and especially all the distractions we are constantly exposed to. This scene really struck us as a feeling that we probably all experienced during the first lockdown. That made us wonder if, despite everything, there were some positive lessons to learn from this pandemic. What do you think?

I think there were probably a lot of positive lessons to be learnt from the pandemic, but I’m pretty sure almost none of us learnt them. The first lockdown was a strange mix of being forced to ‘smell the roses’ and being drawn deeper into the technology that permeates our lives. Gaps were filled by screens in a way that they never could have been in the past. The idea of what a lockdown would have been like 20 or 30 years ago kept coming into my head; of how back then it really might have been an opportunity for quite profound realisations about the way we’d been living. The lockdown as it was felt so now. The fact that the first time we ever had to stay in our homes was the first time we were able to actually carry on living our lives in some way… shopping, working, getting an endless stream of entertainment …makes me wonder if the lockdown would even have been adhered to without the technology, or even implemented…

The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper is the second novel in the Tom Cooper series after The Rebuilding of Tom Cooper. How did you come up with this series idea?

When I wrote the first novel, I wanted to write a comedy about what it was like to be a man in our current time, because no one seemed to be doing that. There’s always loads of funny stuff about women’s lives from Bridget Jones to Gill Sims, but very few people seem to be doing genuinely funny books about masculinity. I think I also wanted to show a male character who wasn’t ‘toxic’. Tom has a bit of anger and resentment in the first book when his wife leaves him, but it’s not fundamentally who he is, and deep down I think he’s one of the good guys. I’m very aware it’s not what the media world seems to want to present anymore, but I think it’s actually pretty common in the real world (at least the one that I live in). I think it’s really important to show more positive depictions of masculinity and there’s a dishonesty in the ubiquity of ‘bad men’ in stories. The book was an attempt to counteract that with a more positive version of maleness, where the flaws of the character came from the individual rather from the taint of their gender. Oh, and I wanted to write something that was really, really funny. That was kind of important too.

Is there going to be another novel?

There almost is one! It’s not another Tom Cooper book, but I’m planning to come back to him soon. It’s actually been a really productive year for me, as I’ve pretty much finished two books. Perhaps that was the positive side of the pandemic for me? Normally, I spend a lot of my time travelling to do comedy or acting stuff, but with the world grinding to a halt, I’ve had a lot more time to write, which suited me very nicely. It’s been fun writing a non-Tom Cooper comedy for a change. It’s very different, with a far less likable main character, but I’m cautiously hopeful that people will like it. It’s definitely more on the edge, but I think it’s very funny, so hopefully other people will too.

Spencer, you are an author, a comedian, an actor, a director, a father and more! How do you manage to wear so many hats? It must be exhausting!

Many heads.

And finally, as you may know, Books and Sweets is a bookstore with a twist. You won’t find any author’s name or book titles on any of our books but four little clues. I’m sure you know where we are going with this… If you had to describe The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper in four little clues, what would they be?

Hmm… OK… Hand washing, toilet paper, laughing, confinement…

That was rubbish. It sounds like someone getting hysterical because they’re trapped in a bathroom… I give up. Is it OK if I leave the clues to you? If I was good at communicating things in less than 70,000 words I probably wouldn’t be writing novels.

Thank you, Spencer. We can’t wait to read your next novel!

The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper by Spencer Brown was released on November 12 in paperback, published by Marotte Books, rrp £7.99. Get your signed and dedicated copy here.

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A chat with Spencer Brown.

Spencer, we’re so excited to chat with you today about your second book The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper that was released on November 12th. We all