I’m very pleased to welcome Jon Teckman to the blog today. Jon’s debut novel Ordinary Joe was published by The Borough Press in July this year and has had great reviews. You can read more about it in his answers below and you can order a copy here: Ordinary Joe
Thanks for agree to be my Author in the Spotlight today Jon. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?
I am, I hate to admit, 52 years old. I was born in Northampton, went to university at Warwick, lived in London for almost 20 years and now live in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire with my wife, Anne, and sons Joseph and Matthew. I joined the Civil Service straight from university but then moved to the British Film Institute as Deputy Director before being promoted to Chief Executive in 1999. And that . . .
What inspired you to start writing?
. . . ultimately inspired me to start writing. I’d had a go at a few other ideas for books throughout the years – writing had always been a hobby for me but not an obsession – but then, working on the fringes of the film industry – and rubbing shoulders with all kinds of interesting film types – gave me the inspiration to write Ordinary Joe. Even then it might never have been more than another failed attempt had Anne not bought me for our tenth wedding anniversary a place on an Arvon Foundation writing course. It was while I was on that course that I started to write Ordinary Joe, shared the opening passages with the rest of the group and their incredibly positive reaction really motivated me to carry on with it.
Tell me about your journey to publication?
How long have you got?! The Arvon course was in August 2007 and it wasn’t until August 2014 that I heard the magical words “I want to publish your novel”. Between those dates, it took me about fifteen months to complete my first draft and then I suffered the usual rejections from agents, re-working the novel all the time in response to their comments. I then applied for a place on the first ever CurtisBrown Creative Novel writing course but was rejected. But I persevered, applied a couple more times and was eventually accepted onto their first six-month course (the others had been three months’ duration). At the end of the course, I submitted Ordinary Joe to Jonny Geller, one of Curtis Brown’s principal agents, and he liked it but not enough to offer to represent me. I was about to give up on the whole dream when a friend told me that The Borough Press (the literary imprint of HarperCollins UK) were inviting unagented authors to submit their work. Even though Ordinary Joe isn’t really a literary novel, I sent it to them and a few months later was selected as one of only two submissions from more than 400 to be offered a publishing deal. (The other is Andrea Bennett’s brilliant “Galina Petrovna’s Three-Legged Dog Story”.)
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
Ordinary Joe is about a middle-aged, balding, slightly overweight North London Jewish accountant named Joe West who wakes up one morning to find himself in bed with Hollywood superstar, Olivia Finch. Joe deeply regrets what he has done and is desperate to make sure that his wife, Natasha, doesn’t find out. Fortunately for Joe, Olivia thinks the person she slept with is Joseph Bennett, his horrible, bullying boss, and starts hassling him instead. As long as neither she nor anybody else realises the truth, Joe can get away with his terrible misdemeanour . . .
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I do. After I’d finished the final edits on Ordinary Joe, I took some time away from novel-writing to work on a screenplay for the film adaptation (the movie rights have been acquired by Trademark Films) but I am now working on novel #2. It is a very different story based around the trials and tribulations of a young man desperate to find love on his summer holiday in Devon while everyone around him prepares to celebrate Charles and Di’s wedding.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read so far this year? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I’ve read some fantastic novels this year largely as a result of having joined The PrimeWriters (a group of authors who have been published for the first time over the age of 40 – www.theprimewriters.com) and reading their work. But rather than select one of those and annoy all the others, I’ll annoy all of them equally by choosing a novel written by an author who is not part of the group – Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okijie. I met Irenosen at an event in London and we swapped novels and I think I might have got the better of the deal! Butterfly Fish is a beautiful book about three generations of a Nigerian family and, indeed, their ancestors from further back in time. Definitely not something I would have got round to reading had I not met Irenosen.
What are you reading just now?
The Martian by Andy Weir. I saw the film and found it strangely lacking in any emotional impact – they just didn’t build up enough of a reason for us to care about this guy stranded a gazillion miles from civilisation – but the book is much better, the central character much more empathetic.
Tell me about your reading habits: book or kindle, bed or bath, morning or evening?
I do own a Kindle but I prefer to read real books. A downside of meeting a lot of other authors is that I seem to end up buying their novels in hardback which becomes an expensive habit! I love reading in bed and in the bath and tend to read most at night just before I go to sleep or when I’m on long train/plane journeys.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I am pretty active on Twitter (@jontwothreefour) commenting, as well as on writing and books, on my passions of sport, politics and film. I have also created a Facebook page for Ordinary Joe at
I really welcome new followers – social media is a great way to connect with readers and other writers and share information about events and any new publications that might be in the offing.
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I love this question, even though it is so difficult to answer. I think many of the best male characters in literature are deeply flawed which makes them interesting but not necessarily role models I’d want to emulate. My favourite book is Catch-22 but I definitely wouldn’t want to be Heller’s hero Yossarian spending the war trapped in the bomb bay of a US military aircraft. Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is a very strong character but probably a bit too righteous for me reasonably to aspire to. So, on balance, I will opt for Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He is rich, bright, witty, surrounded by chocolate (and Oompah Loompahs!) and he gets to be nasty to some really horrible children. What’s not to like?