Mr Commitment

Mr_commitment.jpgAfter twenty-eight years of shirking responsibility Duffy's finally realising that he can't extend his adolescence forever. His low-paid temping job is threatening permanency. His gradually receding hairline is depressing him greatly. And if that's not enough his long-suffering girlfriend, Mel, wants to get engaged. Trips to IKEA, dinner parties with married couples and talk of babies, however, are giving Duffy cold feet. He doesn't have many worldly goods to share - apart from the remote control for his TV, the beers in the fridge and his record collection - but can he really put his hand on his heart and say "I do'? He knows Mel's the one for him, so why is it he'd feel happier swapping "Till death us do part' for "Renewable on a four year basis'?

But the choice is: All or nothing. Now or never. Mel or no Mel.

So after a lifetime as Mr Irresponsible does Duffy have what it takes to become Mr Commitment?

Mr_commitment.jpgMr Commitiment

by Mike Gayle

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Tell us about how Mr Commitment came about.

When I was writing My Legendary Girlfriend I hadn't actually given any thought to a second book. I thought My Legendary Girlfriend was pretty much everything I had to say about anything and that there wouldn't be a need to say anything else. Then my agent started asking me about what I was going to write next and so I thought I'd better pull my finger out and get thinking.

Were you worried about suffering from "Difficult Second Album Syndrome"?

Definitely. I once spent a whole evening with a book editor coming up with a list of bands whose first albums had been terrific and whose second albums had been terrible. We then had a second list of artists whose second albums were better than the first. It was a much shorter list. My Legendary Girlfriend was considered to be a massive success even before it was published. It was hard not to be intimidated by that.

So what did you do?

In the end I decided to just get on with it. It was a completely different process to writing My Legendary Girlfriend. Suddenly I didn't have all the time in the world. Suddenly I had deadlines. But at the same time I knew I had a great idea. I wanted to take a look at the issue of commitment from a male point of view and see if there was something there to form a story from.

Mr Commitment feels a lot different in tone compared to My Legendary Girlfriend. Why is this?

Because it's a completely different type of book written at a different time in my life. I couldn't write another book like My Legendary Girlfriend any more because my life had moved on. I wanted Mr Commitment to be lighter and more accessible not because I wanted to sell more books [after all it would have made more sense to have done that from the beginning] but rather because that was the kind of book I wanted to write. At the same time as being lighter I still wanted to make sure that there was an emotional depth to it too.

Do you think you've achieved this?

I like to think so. I've read out the IKEA episode chapter dozens of times at literary events and the reaction is amazing. At the beginning of the scene there's a lot of laughter as Duffy tries to calm Mel down in soft furnishings but by the end when Mel's handing back her engagement ring people are stunned into silence. Also, there are quite a few points where you really feel for both Duffy and Mel's situation — the scene where Mel discovers that she's pregnant is one of the best scenes I've ever written.

Duffy is watching Star Trek at the beginning of the book. Are you a fan?

I like the show but I'm definitely not a Trekkie. The episode in question "The City on the Edge of Forever" is one of those episodes you feel like you've seen a million times without even trying. I loved the idea of Duffy being distracted from his loved one by a TV show that he wasn't even that interested in.

Why did you choose to make Duffy a comedian?

The thing I like about Duffy is that he's having a go and trying to do something he loves. I think too many people play it safe and spend their life wishing things could be better and I wanted to show that no matter what else you might think of Duffy, at the very least you know that he's one of life's "have a go" people. Also the thing about comedy is that often success isn't just down to being good a lot of it is down to luck, which must be incredibly frustrating for wannabe comedians. I wanted Duffy to know that he was good but to still have to face the question: "Should I give up on my dream?"

Have you ever had a row in IKEA?

No. I have however watched rows occur in public places many times. As spectator sports go I have to say it's one of the most entertaining.

Would someone like Mel really be with someone like Duffy in the real world?

I've had the question asked a few times and it never ceases to baffle me. I think the idea behind the question is that a successful young professional like Mel wouldn't be seen dead with a "loser" like Duffy. This is a patently ridiculous idea unless you're the sort of money/success obsessed young professional for whom this sort of thing is true. It's obvious why Mel is with Duffy. Do I need to spell it out?

Have you ever suffered with issues with commitment?

No. Yes. No. Maybe.

How do you feel about accusations that the characters in Mr Commitment are all stereotypes?

I don't really care. Characters in Mr Commitment do all sots of things. Some that conform to stereotype and some that don't. Anyway, the thing I really like about Mr Commitment is that I think it's actually more a book about people than men and women—people who get it wrong and their attempts to get it right. The greatest compliment I received for the book was from a female reader who said that having read Mr Commitment she could see how being a commitment-phobe (at least from Duffy's point of view) made a lot of sense.

I've heard that Will from My Legendary Girlfriend is mentioned in Mr Commitment. Is this true?

Yes. Will and Alice live in the flat below Duffy and Dan.

Tell us something we don't know about Mr Commitment?

There's a line that Charlie says in the book that is repeated towards the end: "Every man has a poem in his heart." This a paraphrase of something that was once said to me by a famous comedian a few years before I started writing My Legendary Girlfriend and it has stayed with me ever since.

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