I was sent a copy of “Homeward Bound” by Richard Smith to review by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing. “You’ll like this book – it’s about age, ambition and rock ‘n’ roll” he said. Ben knows I like a good book and music is one of my passions too, so I was more than pleased to have a read and review. But, dear blog friends, you know that I can’t just read and review – I like to chat with the author afterwards … and the lovely Richard Smith gladly obliged! First, my review:
“Homeward Bound” made me smile from page 1 … it is a funny yet poignant novel centred around a grandfather who has a passion for music and his teenage granddaughter who moves in with him to keep an eye on him as he is getting frail, and also to give her some space from mum and dad. George (grandfather) has a massive record collection that has become his “comfort blanket” since his wife died – and as he plays his vinyls, he still tinkers along on his piano hoping to revive his musical ambitions. George’s son in law thinks he should be put in a home & sets out to find George a place. George’s daughter is the go between. George’s granddaughter wants space away from her parents and isn’t sure about her musical teenage boyfriend, who has his own idea of what music should sound like although he is fascinated by George’s collection. Then there are the homes George visits & the residents he meets, the notorious cousin, the impromptu musical recital, the seaside trip and the unexpected job offer. This novel has twists and turns, ups and downs, and plenty of musical innuendo. I loved it and it is a great light hearted read perfect for winter nights, holidays, lockdowns….
SO LET’S MEET THE AUTHOR, RICHARD SMITH…..
Hello, I’m Richard. I’m 71 years old and I have just written my first novel, “Homeward Bound”. Before that, I was a film and video TV producer, director and writer, running my own production company. I gave it up to write, but I keep having to telling people I’ve not retired! Much of my work in the early years was in government commercials, encouraging people to do things like donate blood or to give up smoking. Some of them are on YouTube – “Blood from a Stone”with Rowan Atkinson and “Smoker of the Future” are the ones people find most often. I was a bit dismayed when I went to a major summer exhibition at the British Library – called ‘Propaganda’ – and there were two of my films! And we thought we were doing good!
Later films were sponsored, public relations work. They took me all over the world; west Africa, South Africa, eastern Europe, south America, oil platforms, up the tower to Big Ben in London – at midday and I can tell you, it’s loud! – all places where you can only go if you’re invited. Highly privileged – and if it’s taught me anything it’s through the people I’ve met; that no matter who or where you are, we’re all human beings, experiencing the same happiness, pain, excitement, disappointments. Lifestyles may be different but human instinct and responses are essentially the same. Which has been a major influence on my writing.
I have two children, both girls, both married, so therefore the name of Smith will cease to exist – at least in my family! And I’m also grandparent, though both born in the last year, so no relation to the late teenager in “Homeward Bound”!
What inspired you to start writing at 71?
I think I’ve always wanted to write a novel. When you’re working full time on a commercial or documentary, to a schedule and on a budget, there’s no time for creating your own characters and stories. Although I always tried to add character to my films, what I’d always hankered after doing was writing about everyday people and characters, to tell the stories that I wanted, not invented for a corporate message.
Your book reminded me of when I was a young teenager in the late 1970s when I used to play my “punk” music to my grandad – he used to sit and listen with a “put on” interested face!! He must have hated it! Which character did you enjoy writing about the most? Which character was the hardest?
I’m not sure I found any one character more difficult than another. I enjoyed bringing them all to life, though I suppose my favourite parts are where George, the grandfather, and Tara, the granddaughter, are together. The most difficult part of it, I guess, was trying to make sure that each character reacted the way they actually would do in real life, consistent with their own personality or with the situation they were facing. That meant constantly revisiting the dialogue – would he or she really react like that? – and that sometimes took the plot in a direction I wasn’t expecting. A bit like life, I guess!
Are any aspects of writing novels that surprised you?
I think what caught me out when I started was a significant difference between writing for a film to be watched and writing to be read. When you’re doing a film you can change the scene, you can change perspective, you can change time. Flashbacks, seeing what the lead characters don’t yet know, character reactions behind the lead’s back – all common in film – are confusing in a novel. Think “Breaking Bad“ from a couple of years ago. The pre-title scenes often didn’t relate to anything that followed, or at least for most of the episode. Novels can’t work that way. Or at least, for a first-time writer!
I was also surprised about how I became so involved in what I was writing. I’d become sad and emotional when my characters were sad and emotional; I’d become touchy and irritable when there was anger in what I’d just written! I’m sure actors face this all the time, but as a writer, it was a surprise to me how involved and emotional I could get at certain points.
George’s massive record collection is apparently based on your own collection. What’s your favourite songs/albums? What was the last music concert you attended?
The idea of a large collection of records is ‘me’, but not necessarily the songs George likes. We both have eclectic tastes but I didn’t want to bog the book down with mine! I can like almost anyone. The favourite part of my shelves is around RE – yes I do have them alphabetically stored; how else would I find them? But cheek by jowl are Otis Redding, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Lou Reed, Jim Reeves, REM. Not normal bedfellows! I played an early Bread album yesterday. Most people would scoff (‘That’s easy listening? They’re rubbish!’ I hear) but in 1969 they were original and up with the best of West Coast American. My childhood heroes were from pop/rock of the early sixties – the Everly Bros and a rock’n’roller called Del Shannon. And of course, Jerry Lee Lewis – what a piano player! What links them all are melody and catchy tunes – add lyrics with emotion and the cake is iced. For me, it doesn’t all have to be ‘credible’ – music is full of guilty pleasures that are best enjoyed alone. But like George, I still enjoy new music. My frustration is I can’t go to my local shop and buy it when I hear it. I have to download and it’s just not the same.
As for most recent gig – COVID’s knocked a hole in that. I saw Amy Studt in a tiny venue – she’s had three astonishingly good albums but has somehow slipped under most people’s radar. James Taylor Quartet, Jules Holland, Thea Gilmore, Nik Kershaw, Lulu. I told you I was eclectic!
Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?
Yes, I’m working on another novel now. I’ve set it back in 1989 – so the ‘history repeats’ theme I love so much can be echoed from thirty years back. It means I need a lot of research to make sure I get my details correct. That is actually a major drawback because it’s a way of stopping me from getting on. I stumble over a detail that I need to check and by the time that’s done, I’ve lost the flow. But people keep asking me if I’m writing more and I’m determined to get it done – then all I have to do is see if anyone likes it!
Are you a bookworm? Book or Kindle?
As child I was an absolute bookworm and I would be in the library exchanging books every couple of days. Then when I needed all my limited brain power for scripts, and producing films, my few non-working hours were wasted listening to music! When I do read, it’s probably similar to what I want to write, popular, real life fiction. I always quote Simon Van Booy’s “Father’s Day “ as the one that inspired me to get “Homeward Bound “ written.
I’m a hard copy man. (Vinyl discs, not downloads; paperback not Kindle – I recognise a pattern here!) But Homeward Bound’s available via Kindle internationally. So I shouldn’t knock it!
If you can visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book where would you go and why?
Because, when I write, it’s about people and relationships, I’m not sure that the location is what inspires me. I think I’d prefer to go back in time. I’m writing about 1989 at the moment and although I was there, I don’t remember everything. To witness it first hand again would really help my characters and what they say and do. But if somebody offered me three weeks in the Bahamas to write and then I can still set my novel somewhere in England, I’d be very happy!
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I’m not good at choosing clothes. A stereotypical 71-year-old man, I fear. Anything that’s to hand, convenient and clean. My wife only last week produced a photograph of me taken on holiday ten years ago because I was still wearing the same shirt!
Favourite shops or online sites?
Most of my favourites are going to be either record shops or shops that sell records – often a charity shop. Online, I’m always browsing record guides and shop sites. If we go away somewhere, I will invariably find the record shop while my wife goes into places she prefers. Though in Reykjavik, there’s a huge record shop with, in the corner, a couch, magazines and coffee for the disinterested partner – usually wives – while the other – usually husbands – trawls through the vinyl racks!
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Nothing. I hate trailing around any sort of shops andtrying on clothes. I know that doesn’t exactly fit withbootsshoesandfashion.com but I don’t wear any jewellery and if I lived alone, my house would be George’s – piles of books and records to be sorted. Sorry!
Boots or shoes?
Wherever I am, I dispense with both as quickly as possible. I embarrass my daughters when we leave a restaurant as I have to find my shoes and put them on again before we leave. I’d walk down the road in bare feet if I wasn’t a wimp and didn’t like the stony bits sticking into me!
Links you would like to share:
Thanks for chatting with me on my blog Richard – I love your enthusiasm and I look forward to reading your next book also! I must say I’d love a trip to Reykjavik to track down that record shop ….
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Richard Smith. Thanks also to Ben Cameron.