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Tuesday 18 August 2015

A quickie with Jonathan Harvey

Jonathan Harvey - prolific and terrific!
Us diehard Coronation Street fans know we’re in for a treat when certain names appear at the beginning of an episode. When it says 'Written By' ... Julie Jones, Damon Rochefort or, of course, Jonathan Harvey, you can sit back and relax knowing the next half an hour is going to be an absolute belter!
It was with this weight of expectation that I began reading Jonathan Harvey’s new book, ‘The Secrets We Keep’, and I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. It’s funny and sad with twists and turns that keep you totally engrossed until the very end. It's about how 'doing the right thing' is open to interpretation and how history repeats itself from generation to generation. That's what I think anyway!

I caught up for a quick chat with the award-winning writer and all-round lovely fella to ask a few questions about his new book.

LV: Congratulations on the book.

JH: Thank you very much.

LV: Each chapter is written in one of four distinctive voices; which character did you enjoying writing the most?

JH: I enjoyed writing all of them. As I’d get to the end of one chapter I’d think, oh great, I’ve Cally to get to next, or Owen … kind of like … a multifaceted personality (laughs). Once I got into Danny’s story, the bloke who’s gone missing, I really enjoyed writing that, but, to be honest with you, it was nice to then come back to the other people. It’s just like writing a play I suppose; you’ve got more than one character and you don’t really have a favourite. So no, I enjoyed all of them I suppose.

LV: It’s very dark, Danny’s journey, isn’t it?

JH: It’s very dark, yes.

LV: In the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book you said Kathy Burke was encouraging you to go darker and deeper. Was that in respect to Danny and his story or was it just in general?

JH: Just in general really – she wasn’t guiding me somewhere. I suppose my first novel was more comedic than the rest of them, probably, but it was just about having the confidence to tell a story and not think you’ve got to make jokes all the time – it’s more about that really.

LV: What’s been your proudest achievement as a writer?

JH: I suppose my happiest memory would probably be at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996 when Beautiful Thing was in competition and having a free suit from Paul Smith and walking up the red carpet feeling a bit glamorous. It’s the things like that I remember. It’s more of a joyous thing when you’re with a load of other people.

LV: Beautiful Thing has really endured hasn’t it? Why do you think it still resonates with people so much?

JH: Oh I don’t know. I’m not very good at judging all that. People related to something in it. Even if you’re not gay – it was like, you know, first sharing a bed with someone you fancy and all that so … it’s hard to say. I’m not good at judging my own work so the fact that it still resonates amazes me … So I’m not really the best person to ask!

LV: Have you got another novel in the pipeline yet?

JH: I’ve got about two thirds of the way through my next one, yes.

LV: Oh my god! You’re quite prolific really aren’t you?

JH: …Yes! (Laughs)

LV: Are you always going to be doing Corrie or is writing novels something you want to do full-time?

JH: My ideal world would be just writing my novels and writing Coronation Street – they’re my two favourites.

LV: And are you doing something with Tracy Ullman?

JH: Yes. I’m doing the new Tracy Ullman show.

LV: Excellent! I saw Kathy Burke tweeting about it – she let the cat of the bag but I didn’t know if it was general knowledge yet.

JH: I can’t say what I’m actually doing but yes, I’ll be writing a few characters for her.

LV: That’ll be something to look forward to. So what advice have you got for aspiring writers?

JH: Write! That’s the only advice you can give. If you want to write, find the time. Look at Sue Townsend, who wrote Adrian Mole when she had a million kids and a full time job. She stayed up till three in the morning every night writing Adrian Mole. If you want to write, just put the hours in and write - that would be my advice.

LV: My last question is, will we ever see Fat Brenda or do you want her to remain an enigma?

JH: (Laughs) I don’t think we’re allowed to say she’s fat any more.

LV: I noticed that actually, the last reference to her was just Brenda!

JH: Even though I created her I’m not allowed to mention her. (Laughs)

And with that, Mr Harvey was away to write six novels, two award-winning plays, two episodes of Coronation Street and a comedy… all before lunchtime! It makes you sick really doesn’t it - he'd be easier to dislike if he wasn't so damn nice.

‘The Secrets We Keep’ is out now on PanMacmillan. You can even meet him in person when he does a book signing and Q&A session at Waterstones in Liverpool on the 27th August. Details here

Follow me on Twitter here @LittleVienna 

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Anonymous said...

I'd add Chris Fewtrell and Simon Crowther to the list of Corrie writers whose episodes are typically superior and "get" the essance of the Street. The former is exquisite at bringing comedy in subtly to the drama, without ham-fisting in a comedy story for the sake of comedy.

Glenda Young said...


Tvor said...

thanks for this! I really enjoyed the book and all of his others as well. Yep, you always know you're in for a treat when the writer of an episode is Jonathan Harvey!

Clare said...

He's my favourite writer. As you said when you see written by Jonathan Harvey you just know it's going to be a good ep.


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