Jonathan Harvey - All She Wants
Prolific writer of stage and screen Jonathan Harvey has penned his first novel
It's 25 years since Jonathan Harvey won the National Girobank Young Writer of the Year Award for his first play, 'The Cherry Blossom Tree'. Since then he's written a total of 20 plays, including the much-loved 'Beautiful Thing' and his recent gay political drama 'Canary'.
He penned the award-winning sitcom 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme' and collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys on the West End musical 'Closer to Heaven'. And for the past eight years he's also been a writer on 'Coronation Street', responsible for some of the soap's headline-grabbing gay storylines.
Now, at 44, he's publishing his first novel. He didn't have to look too far for inspiration. 'All She Wants' is the story of Jodie McGee, a Liverpool lass who becomes a soap star, gets trashed at an awards ceremony and makes a total show of herself. Harvey insists that she isn't based on anyone in particular. 'People have asked me if it's based on any particular soap actress,' he says. 'And it certainly isn't. Originally I was going to write about three siblings whose father died at the beginning of the book. One was a PR woman in London, one was a DJ and one was a soap star. As soon as I started writing, I realised I was far more interested in the soap star. So the dying father went out of the window and it became all about her.'
The DJ survives in the shape of Jodie's gay brother, 'Our Joey', who moves to Manchester and becomes a DJ on the local gay scene. 'There's a lot of me in Joey,' Harvey says. 'Originally I was going to make him a school-teacher, which is the job I had before becoming a writer. But then I decided it was a bit boring. Making him a DJ was more fun. In his world, he's as famous in his own way as she is.'
The story is told from Jodie's perspective. 'I wrote it in the first person because it was less intimidating for me as a writer,' Harvey says. 'I was never very good at English when I was at school. I'm good at dialogue, but prose can be quite daunting. Writing in the first person is closer to the way I write normally. It's more like an extended dramatic monologue.'
Harvey's ear for dialogue is matched by his flair for comedy. 'All She Wants' is a hugely enjoyable read. It's also a whopping 500 pages long. He says it took him a year to write. How did he find the time? 'I'm addicted to writing,' he says. 'Even when I go on holiday, I have the iPad out. I don't have children or other demands on my time. Writing the book was never a chore. I fitted it in between writing my 15 episodes of “Corrie” and my various other bits and bobs.'
The other 'bits and bobs' include an episode of 'Rev' in which Tom Hollander's vicar develops a crush on a male parishioner, and two episodes of 'Shameless', including one where the gay character, Mickey, is queer-bashed and takes revenge on the man who attacked him. 'I love Mickey,' Harvey says. 'It's fun to write a gay character who's tough and doesn't take any shit from anyone.'
He's already working on his second novel. Again, the main character is female - in this case a woman whose parents named her Karen Carpenter. 'I've always written female characters,' Harvey says. 'I think there's a natural affinity between gay men and straight women.'
But first he'll be reading from 'All She Wants' at Bloomsbury bookshop Gay's The Word. He admits to a certain amount of trepidation. As a writer, he's used to having other people speak his words for him. 'I'll just have to practice,' he says, adopting his best school teacher voice. 'And remember to take my time. And enunciate!'
All She Wants' is published by Pan McMillan at £7.99. Jonathan Harvey reads at Polari on Sep 24