Gay Times September 12 - Issue 410
Explains to GT why the time is right for him to publish his first book, and why he’s not turning his back on gay plays just yet.
More from Gay Times September 12 - Issue 410
There’s many a gay man who might feel a small debt of gratitude to Jonathan Harvey – his writing has influenced a generation after all.
Beautiful Thing – originally a play and then later a film – is still one of the best ‘modern gay stories’ ever told. Quite a few of us that have handed over the DVD (or a video, back in the day) to a ‘confused’ friend and simply said: “Watch this.”
And then there are those of us who grew up watching Kathy Burke and James Dreyfus in his sitcom, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme – either disliking it intently as all involved will tell you, or being thankful that gay people were on prime time BBC television.
In more recent years another of his sitcoms, Beautiful People, based on Simon Doonan’s book, seems to have been met with utter love by modern day gay culture, yet dropped by the BBC.
He’s even on your telly most nights without you probably realising, having been a writer on Coronation Street for eight years.
So yes, I include myself as a gay man with a small debt of gratitude for all of the above – not to mention him being responsible for Frances Barber camping it up in the Pet Shop Boys musical Closer To Heaven.
And as a self-confessed fan – not that he’s the kind of writer to take praise as I discover when we meet at London’s Barbican – I genuinely couldn’t put his debut novel, All She Wants, down. So somewhat greedily I want to know why it’s taken so long for him to become a published author…
“I think I probably just needed to wait until I was a bit older till I had a go really,” he shrugs. “And till I had enough life experience I suppose…to make a show of myself.”
Do people need life experience to write a book?
“I don’t want to pretend I’m the best writer in the world, but I think I found my voice as a writer and I’ve got a confidence about what I can do. What actually was quite interesting about this was that I feel 18 again. I know I don’t look it,” he laughs a deep laugh. “I had my first play on when I was 18. Suddenly a whole new world opened up to me. I didn’t understand it but I loved it, and I loved doing it. And it’s a bit like that with the novel in that I’ve been allowed this chance to write this book, and I’ve done it. I haven’t enjoyed doing anything as much as this in ages.
“The older I am, I’ve read lots of books, and I’ve read books where I think ‘I could do as good as this’, or ‘I could do better than this’.” He leans in and puts on a funny voice. “Naming no names!”
It’s the tale of Jodie, the girl-next-door done good, becoming one of Britain’s best-loved soap stars. But despite having spent nearly a decade on Britain’s biggest soap opera, he still insists that the book isn’t based on his own experiences.
“To be honest it’s completely invented. It’s completely informed by my experiences in Coronation Street – otherwise I wouldn’t know how a soap opera works. The larger than life characters are completely invented really and camp, tongue-in-cheek versions of stock stereotypes I suppose – Jodie particularly, isn’t based on anyone. More me than anyone else. Nobody I know has been that pissed at an award ceremony and done a Hitler salute to the producer and got fired the next day. On the whole the actors in Coronation Street are quite nice!”
Without wanting to spoil enjoyment of the book, there is a gay element to the story. Was that something he felt he needed to do?
“It’s not that I need to, it’s just that I want to,” he states. “That’s what feels right to me. I knew I wanted to write about a heterosexual woman in a soap opera and it made sense to me that she’d have a gay brother. I just thought that was quite interesting. That’s me though. It’s not trying to be politically correct or anything.”
To read the full article, pick up the latest copy of GT out in all good retailers, online and downloadable on your iPhone or iPad.
Words: Darren Scott
Image: Leonard Thomas