Happy launch day to Margaret K Johnson today, author of many of my favourite books and now the brilliant Taming Tom Jones! I had the pleasure of reading this in its editorial stages and, as ever, Johnson’s writing captured me from the very beginning, delivering me very happily to a great ending. Grab a coffee, read what’s it all about and what true life events inspired her to write it and then go grab a copy from Amazon. Over to you, Margaret…
I wanted to explore several different themes with Taming Tom Jones. I suppose the one that runs through the whole novel is The truth isn’t always what you think it is. As a writer, I always have a sentence like that to refer to – it helps me to plan, and I can hang everything onto it. The book is also about a woman – Jen – who too easily lets other people take control of her, gaining in confidence to determine her own future.
At the beginning of Taming Tom Jones, Jen discovers she’s pregnant. She’s thrilled about it, since she’s always wanted children, but she’s also pretty scared, because she knows her partner Michael doesn’t want more children than his teenage son, Kyle. He’s a great father, but that’s enough for him. Fearful as she is, Jen has every intention of telling Michael the news – of course she has; he’s the father, for goodness sake! He has every right to know, whatever might happen after he’s found out. So Jen decides to cook a nice meal for him, to put him in a good mood and waits nervously for him to come home from work. But a motorcyclist roars up to the house instead. She goes to see who it is, never imagining it is Michael; that he has traded his sensible, essential car in for the bike.
“Come for a ride with me,” Michael suggests. “Let me show you what she can do.”
I’ve unpacked the shopping, and now I’ve started on tea. Michael’s filling the kitchen doorway – a tall, broad-shouldered man with the same cheeky, teenage grin as his son. The familiar contours of his body are concealed beneath creased and creaky black leather, and his face lit by the thrill of his recklessness. Without warning, a huge rush of emotion washes over me, and I have to turn away, busying myself with the stir-fry I’m cooking.
“No.” My voice comes out funny, as if I’m trying to hide something. Which I am. “Not today.
I’m a bit scared of motorbikes.”
“You’re mad at me,” he says.
I add bean sprouts to the sizzling wok. “You’re the one who has to travel all over the place for your job. The one who has to transport paintings to exhibitions all the time.” I stir vigorously; too vigorously – bean sprouts scatter onto the hob and beyond. Somehow the activity provides me with enough control to look at him again.
Michael’s cheeky grin has been replaced by an expression I’ve become all too familiar with lately; a blend of exasperation and disappointment that gives me the impression I don’t quite come up to scratch. As I watch, he shrugs. “I’ll hire a van when I need to,” he tells me dismissively. “It’s not a problem.” Then he sighs and makes an effort to produce a persuasive smile. “Come for a spin with me, Jen,” he asks softly, reaching out to caress my neck just below my ear the way I like it. “Please.”
Not unsurprisingly, Jen thinks Michael’s going through a mid-life crisis. This, I’m sure you’ll agree, is extremely inconvenient, considering what she’s just found out. The term mid-life crisis conjures up an image of someone desperately trying to cling on to their youth – changing their image, and perhaps dressing in a way that is too young for them, buying a sports car and even jettisoning their long-term partner for someone much younger. A mid-life crisis is about a dissatisfaction with what someone has achieved so far in their life, and a sudden awareness of mortality, and if you’re the partner of someone going through one it can be very hard not to take it personally. Believe me, I know, because I’ve been on the receiving end of it! With my partner, it began with him jettisoning his well-paid job in education to start up a business – I supported him in that. But then he moved on to jettisoning me, which was quite a different matter. I heard afterwards that he’d started to sport dreadlocks, which must have been fairly difficult, given that his hair was thinning rapidly when we split up. (Miaow).
Broken-hearted, I moved away to start a new life. But Jen doesn’t do that. She decides she very much wants their relationship to survive, and so she takes drastic action. Keeping the news about her pregnancy a secret for now, she embarks on an investigation of his exes. Michael is also something of a serial monogamist you see, and has never stayed in a relationship for longer than four years. Jen’s idea is that, if she can find out why his previous relationships went wrong, she might be able to stop the same thing happening to her. Because of her pregnancy, the clock is ticking, and you’ll have to read the book to see if she’s successful. But don’t forget that theme: The Truth isn’t always what you think it is.
In the run up to the online launch party for Taming Tom Jones, I’ve discovered a fun quiz to determine whether you – or someone you know – is going through a midlife crisis. Here’s a link for you to try it. http://www.gotoquiz.com/midlife_crisis_quiz
If you’d like to join the online launch party, it starts today at 1.30pm, and it would be lovely to see you there! Here’s your invitation. https://www.facebook.com/events/914730098613670/
Blurb, Taming Tom Jones
Jen’s partner Michael has never been in a relationship for more than four years, so with their fourth anniversary coming up, she’s getting understandably nervous. Especially as she’s just discovered she’s pregnant, and she knows Michael doesn’t want any more children other than Kyle, his teenage son.
She means to tell Michael about the baby right away, but then he comes home on a brand new motorbike, having traded in his sensible car, and the moment is lost. Is Michael having an early mid-life crisis?
Jen decides to do some detective work about Michael’s exes in an effort to save their relationship, and embarks on a journey that will take her as far afield as North Norfolk and Cuba. But she has no idea of the can of worms she’s about to open.
Why do all Michael’s relationships break up? And what’s the big secret he’s hiding?
Author Bio Margaret K Johnson began writing after finishing at Art College to support her career as an artist. Writing quickly replaced painting as her major passion, and these days her canvasses lay neglected in her studio. She is the author of women’s fiction, stage plays and many original fiction readers in various genres for people learning to speak English. Margaret also teaches fiction writing and has an MA in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich, UK with her partner and their bouncy son and dog.