When Rob's girlfriend asks him to leave London and live with her in Manchester, not only will it mean moving cities, it'll also mean leaving behind his best mate in the entire world. Believing that love conquers all and convinced of his ability to make new friends, Rob takes the plunge. Six months in, and yet to find so much as a regular drinking buddy, Rob realises that sometimes making friends in your thirties can be the hardest thing to do. With drastic action needed, his girlfriend puts an ad in the classifieds for him. Three excruciatingly embarrassing "bloke dates" later, Rob begins to truly despair. Until his luck changes...
There's just one problem. Apart from knowing less than nothing about music trivia, football, and the vital statistics of supermodels, Rob's new friend has one huge flaw...She's a girl.
You can tell when a story hits the mark because no one can go near it for years. And that's exactly what happened with the question of friendship between the sexes after When Harry Met Sally came out. Over the years since I first saw it however I kept thinking to myself how there actually was more to say on the subject. First, most people do have friends of the opposite sex and do it quite successfully. Second, WHMS doesn't address the real problem with having friends of the opposite sex when one or other of you is actually in a relationship.
I started with the idea of a guy making friends with a girl while he's already in a relationship. That to me was really putting the cat amongst the pigeons. Then I needed a cast-iron reason for them to be friends. This took longer but then one day when I was talking to a friend the answer came to me. My friend was considering moving cities with his partner and I couldn't get my head around the idea of leaving one life behind and starting another, especially when you're in your thirties. To me it was my worst nightmare and that's when I realised I had the perfect set-up for the story
It just made sense that if a cool graphic designer were going to leave London for another city, Manchester would probably be it. Plus, I know the city well from my university days and still have quite a few friends there.
Brand New Friend is set mainly in the suburb of Chorlton which you're not exactly complimentary about. Why is this?
First I think I should point that I absolutely love Chorlton. It's a fantastic place to live and if I were going to live in Manchester I'd be living there, regularly visiting the Horse and Jockey and lunching in The Lead Station. At the same time as loving Chorlton it's hard not to poke fun at it simply because it is so idyllic. I'm actually considering setting a couple more novels in Chorlton and turning them into a trilogy called the Chorlton Chronicles.
Obviously I'm generalising but I have to say I think the answer is yes. The thing is male friendships tend to evolve very slowly. It takes us ages to bond properly and it's a process that under normal circumstances can't actually be speeded up. Also we like to make friends in an informal fashion so that it doesn't actually look like we're trying. This is, I think, the reason why men long ago invented public houses.
Yes, but not like the ones in the book. I've been in situations where I've got on so well with someone that we've arranged to meet up on a different occasion. Although both times they turned out fine at the time I have to admit I did feel a little nervous. I kept wondering about what would happen if we ran out of conversation or if we changed our minds and didn't like each other. I'm pretty sure all men don't think like this. Maybe it's just me.
No she isn't. When I was thinking about who Jo would be I was trying to answer the question "What kind of woman would be best friends with a guy who has got a girlfriend?" She was pretty much the answer I was looking for. Jo and Rob are perfectly suited as friends because what they both want from their friendship is to be at ease.
I'm afraid I've never seen "Dirty Dancing" although it's one of those films that seems so familiar I almost feel like I must have watched it at some point. It is however on my to do list. As for "Scarface" though I can remember kids at school quoting huge chunks of it in the playground I never saw it until a few years ago. Everything about it was so positively ridiculous I couldn't take it seriously at all.
Okay, I'll admit I like "Everything in its right place" but I just can't stand their desperate craving for credibility. It's music for chin strokers and it feels as though they were going out of their way to shed the fans that had made them the band that they were. I've actually got nothing against being obtuse (you should see the contents of my iPod) but put it this way: If OK computer and The Bends hadn't been hits would they really feel such a desperate need to become the Aphex Twin or would they be more concerned with good tunes so that they could do stuff like pay the bills? Discuss.
All the way through Brand New Friend there's a strong feeling that Rob will end up with Jo. Why doesn't this happen?
Because I wanted Brand New Friend to be about the difficulties of friendship and having them get together would have detracted from that. Plus, I'm not sure that it would've worked between them anyway. Rob would have had to hurt Ashley in order to be with Jo and I think that would've affected their relationship in the long run.
No, not at all. I think the conclusion of Brand New Friend is specific to Rob and Jo and their situation. But if there is a conclusion that should be taken from Brand New Friend it's that it's difficult to know what you're feeling when you haven't got the vocabulary to discuss it. It's all a bit 1984 and Thought Police-ish...or maybe not.
First off it's Inuits not Eskimos and secondly, the answer is no. It's one of those urban myths that apparently originated in the '80s. It's all a bit complicated and you'd be better off reading this for an explanation. Still, it's a nice idea though.
One minor character in the Brand New Friend was originally going to be a real person because I thought that would be quite a funny thing to do. I had to take their name out of the book in the end however "for legal reasons."