‘Are we nearly there yet?’ was Radio 2’s Book of the Year for 2012. On Twitter Ben Hatch (photo left) describes himself as: Dad, lover of bumbling & cheese. Sticky up hair. Following the review below LitPig chats with Ben and learns some exciting news about Ben's next book and a film deal...
If you like Bill Bryson then you will love Ben Hatch. ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ recounts a family’s 8,000-mile car journey around Britain. This is the modern equivalent of the Odyssey, but takes place on land in a Vauxhall Astra and Ben takes his own Penelope (wife Dinah) with their two children (both under four) along for the adventure. Ben and Dinah were commissioned by Frommers to write a guidebook about family travel in Britain and this book tells of what went on behind the scene of researching the guide.
To say this book is funny is an understatement. Many stories made me laugh out loud, particularly the wonderful conversations between Ben and Dinah, or with daughter Phoebe. Hatch demonstrates great skill in interweaving his own memories of growing up in Britain along with remembering life with his father. During the roadtrip Ben’s dad was seriously ill and this illness becomes a big part of the journey he undertakes. The memories of his dad are poignant, passionate and painful, an honest and genuine account of a difficult relationship.
Ben Hatch is an accomplished storyteller, but do not underestimate the skill of a writer who can make you laugh and sob in equal measure. I openly cried on reading several sections of this book. This gets a FIVE pig rating. Highly recommended for your Christmas book list.
Ben Hatch gave a very popular talk at West Sussex Writers (Worthing). You can follow him on Twitter (@BenHatch) – he is very funny.
LitPig chats with Ben…
Q: When did you get the idea to write 'Are we nearly there yet?' Was this planned when you set off on the trip, or did the idea come later?
Ben: I am far too stupid to have come up with the idea myself. I was originally only writing the guidebook. It was my editor at Frommers, the publisher of this guidebook who suggested it. He'd had to fire me from writing any more guidebooks because I kept sneaking too many personal stories into the review entries. He did this with a heavy heart as he really liked what I was writing. I'm very grateful to him because he put me in touch with Summersdale who specialise in travel narratives and it was through talking to them that the idea developed.
Q: Twitter has played a big part in your promotion of the book. What impact Twitter has made on sales? And do you have any Twitter Top Tips to share?
Ben: Twitter has been enormously important. Without it the book would have flopped badly. I missed my window on publicity because the book was embargoed to the Express who were going to do a feature on it. Except the London riots happened the week it was supposed to run. It got pulled and I was left and dry. The PR staff at Summersdale had moved onto other books so it was down to me. Basically I started tweeting all the reviews I got. I had some great ones from John Cleese, Terry Wogam, Danny Wallace, Richard Briers Jenny Colgan, Lisa Jewell, Mike Gayle and others and it started from there. That got a little buzz going, then it was reviewed in the Daily Mail and just took off.
Top twitter tip - don't be too self-conscious. Be proud of your work and tell people about it. Obviously don't only tweet about your book though. That gets boring. And treat tweeter folk as you'd treat friends you see in day to day life. Reply to people, for instance. What's strange is what started off as marketing idea for me has changed into something completely different. In fact I probably spend more time talking to tweeter followers then I do talking to my real life friends now.
Q: Will there be another Hatch family road trip? Are you working on another book or project right now - can you tell us about it?
Yes, We have completed a massive 10,000 mile road-trip round France. I am currently writing that up. It will called Road to Rouen and is due for release in May next year
Q: When Hollywood take up the movie option for 'Are we nearly there yet?' who would you like to see playing Dinah and, of course, yourself?
Well it's Island Pictures who've in fact bought the film rights to Are We Nearly There Yet? They are developing the book with movie director Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee, Waking Ned, What to Expect When You're Expecting and Everybody's Fine) and they have mentioned all sorts of names though obviously it would have to someone crushingly handsome but who also happened to like cheese. I tease my wife that they're lining Sue Pollard up to play her.