Read Online - Viva Brighton

l i t e r at u r e
l i t e r at u r e
Jo Bloom
SJ Watson
Fascism in the East End
Reveals his pre-sleep rituals
In 2009, Steve Watson was ac-
male or female.
cepted into the first Writing A
In the past, you mentioned
Novel course at the Faber Academy
that reading great books
in London. Two years later, the
inspires you to strive to be
resulting crime novel, Before I Go
a better writer. What is the
to Sleep, reached number seven on
most inspiring book you have
the US bestseller list – the highest
ever read? It changes, almost
position for a debut novel by a Brit-
daily. But in terms of the impact
ish author since JK Rowling. Since
a book has had on my life, I’d say
then, the book has been translated
Margaret Atwood’s The Hand-
into 42 languages and made into
maid’s Tale. It was after reading
a movie starring Nicole Kidman
it that I decided I didn’t want to
and Colin Firth. Watson’s highly
waste any more time in a job that
anticipated new novel, Second Life,
wasn’t making me happy. I felt it
is released on 12th February.
was time to start taking my own
You studied physics at the
writing seriously.
University of Birmingham and worked as an
So far, you have written psychological thrillers.
audiologist with hearing-impaired children
Do you ever think about writing a humorous
for the NHS in London. When did you real-
novel? I’d never rule it out. But my sense of hu-
ize you wanted to be a writer instead? I’ve
mour is pretty dark. It might end up being a book
always wanted to be a writer, for as long as I can
that only I find funny.
remember, and I’ve always written for my own
What do you do before you go to sleep? It
amusement and satisfaction. My career was a
depends. I brush my teeth. I might read a book. If
practical, sensible decision, but in the back of my
I’m away from home I’ll usually text my partner.
mind I always carried around the idea that one day
But I don’t have rituals. I don’t chant, or meditate.
I would start writing seriously and see if I could
Perhaps I should…
make a go of it.
And lastly, London or Brighton? I love them
Did you decide to use SJ Watson instead of
both and hope I’ll never have to choose! But I’ve
Steve so that people wouldn’t mistake you
ended up living in London so, while I have very
for the Birmingham footballer, or do you just
good friends in Brighton and I love to visit, I guess
think initials have more gravitas? I had no idea
that means my heart’s really there.
there was a Birmingham footballer called Steve
Black Mustard
Watson! I’m not really a huge follower of football,
SJ Watson will be reading from Second Life at the
to be honest. It was really because I felt SJ Watson
Ropetackle Art Centre, Little High Street, Shore-
sounded more ‘writerly’. And also because I liked
ham, on 18th February. Tickets from
the idea of people not being sure whether I was
Set in London’s East End in 1962, Ridley Road is a
The attention to period detail in the novel is im-
fictional love story woven in with real events – the
peccable. “I wanted everything to feel authentic,”
Jewish community’s street-level resistance to re-
says Bloom, whose mother is a hairdresser… and
surgent Fascism. The idea for the novel was born
whose cousin is the famous stylist Daniel Herche-
when Jo Bloom heard her father talking about
son. “The hair, the clothes, the food.” (FYI, the
the old days in the East End (where he grew up),
characters mostly eat egg and chips). Historical
mentioning the infamous ‘62 Group’. “I had no
research took her to the Hackney Archives and
idea about Fascism in 60s London. I knew I had to
to Pathé reels, but the richest resource she found
write about it.”
closer to home. “My parents courted in Soho
Bloom has run in jeans and wellies through mon-
coffee bars in the 60s, whilst my grandparents had
soon rains to Lark on Lowther, a bookish café near
a fish shop on Cable Street. So we took a road
Preston Park, to talk about her debut novel. She
trip around the old haunts and I taped my parents
sits steaming, drinking tea. “I was brought up in a
talking about it all.”
synagogue, but I could never have done the whole
Has she ever moved cities for a man? “No,” says
North London Jewish thing. I am the second of
Jo. Work (not-for-profit agencies, journalism, PR)
three sisters, the rebel. My sisters have embraced
took her to Prague, New York and South London,
the culture. I couldn’t keep up with the look, for a
and she moved to Brighton when she was 30,
start! Nor the lunches. I’m anti-social. Most days I
“for a balcony on the seafront”. Now she has a
stay home writing in my pyjamas.”
husband, a four-year-old son and a two-book deal.
Ridley Road’s heroine is, on the other hand, care-
Is there any further to go? “I’d like to see Vivien
fully dressed. Vivien Epstein is a young hairdresser
on the big screen.” BM
who moves from Manchester to London to look
Ridley Road by Jo Bloom is published by Weidenfeld
for a man with whom she has had a brief romance.
& Nicholson.
b oo k e n d s
On Friday 27th Feb the refurbished
Guide to Kashgar) about the works of
Exeter Street Hall opens for the second
art that have inspired or influenced
in a new monthly series of literary
their three novels - from paintings to
events. At Kindling a Story (how visual
sculptures to 17th-century missionary
art sparked three novels) Worthing-
maps. Kindling a story is a free event,
based writer Niyati Keni will read
so come early, grab a drink at the bar,
extracts from her debut novel Esperanza
kick back and enjoy. Readings start at
Street, and talk on stage with Vanessa
7pm. Bar opens at 6:30. BM
Gebbie (author of The Coward’s Tale)
Exeter Street Hall, 16-17 Exeter Street,
and Suzanne Joinson (The Lady Cyclist’s
Brighton, BN1 5PG