Author Interview: Tom James

Tell us something about your book.

It’s part love letter to being child-free, but it’s largely concerned with my belief that society is child-obsessed. That parents come first in the social strata, that somehow popping a child out (or even less in the male’s case) elevates you to a position of wisdom. It questions some of the morals and ethics around people’s choices and beliefs when it comes to parenthood, children, and so on. From the belief that they’re all special (which by definition they can’t be) to the moral ambiguity of the surrogacy. Despite all that, it is also intended to make the reader laugh, to say things about kids and parents that nearly all parents and non-parents have thought at some point. And to say it. 

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

I’ve had reviews from parents and child-free, with different perspectives, but both enjoying it. I would say someone who comes with an open mind, a sense of humour, and who has ever had the thought, this party would be better without kids…

Share the best critique/review of your book.

Yours is one of my favourites, so thank you.

I particularly like this one though: “This witty and erudite book grabs you fast and never let’s go of with its assailing, lyrical punches and jabs. If you’re in doubt, chapter one quotes Aristotle and mentions papooses.

YCAB is not so much about the kids, but those virtue signalling parents who somehow think they have the best little Algernons and Agnethas. Far from being a book that sensible parents should avoid; it should be one they wave in the face of such needy behaviour on a tram in Sheffield probably. I for one will be leaving copies at baby hula, dad’s club, and every school drop off probably. Well done, Tom James, parenting done right has a new and extremely well read champion.”

What inspired you to write it?

It was a few things, a culmination. I’m child-free, a godparent, and all my friends have kids. I live in a part of the world that is one of those ‘nappy valleys’ and full of Mums who lunch. So I am surrounded by material. I think it was bubbling underneath for a while, but it was a single incident that inspired me to finally put pen to paper, when my ex-girlfriend and I were regularly asked when we would have kids, when we suggested it wasn’t something we wanted to do, we were met with disbelief. I realised how that assumption plays out, and particularly how it is disproportionately so for women. And how the sense of entitlement etc. exists in society now. So I thought I’d look into this…and there was no going back!

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

That selfish people become parents too.   

Share an excerpt from your book.

(How about a short one about parents taking over pubs and bars)

‘You’re ruining pubs like you ruined football and the cinema, colonising it like the most boring invading army in history, armed with iPhones and Kleenex.’

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

Good lord, no. Publishing it very pro-parent, plus I veer into some ‘difficult’ subjects.

How many times were you rejected?

So many. Quite a few nice ones, but still…

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

Yes, but I think I was prepared for that. You have to be.

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

It’s a short book, but even then, first draft took about 6-9 months. Editing was tortuous. I rarely stopped. I had a bunch of help too, thank God.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

They are terrible. I try and keep time aside, but I write in spurts, and I do all the wrong things. I am no role model. I always recommend people read On Writing by Stephen King, and trust that all the cliches are true. To write even when you don’t feel like it or it’s crap. I write smaller pieces on Medium if to test my thinking and my prose too, that’s been useful. Allowed me to take breathers but keep writing.

Who was your first literary crush?

If you mean character, possibly a heterosexual crush for the terrible cad Flashman in the George MacDonald Fraser books. As for author, I somewhat worship Dave Eggers, and Lionel Shriver, and I’m pretty sure I would have just been mouth agape if I met Christopher Hitchens. 

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

I think so, well, a journalist. Which is what I was by trade for some time.

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

The Hobbit.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

I think A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius did. A few times.

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

At that age? I suspect Silk Spectre from Watchmen.

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

I definitely sing in the shower. I do not sing to my plants, though I started chatting to a bird in my garden the other day, so I suspect my neighbours think I’m mental now. Hooray!

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

Yeah. I do a mean vegan penne with (vegan) sausage meat, white wine sauce, herbs, and so on.

Do you have a pet?

I have two cats (Spook and Shiner) who are rescues and are the main reason I moved out of London (so I could give them a garden). I would have dogs, tapirs, and anything else if I had more room and time.

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

I’m an incurable romantic I think. I drove 200 miles one day to spend an hour with my girlfriend at the time who was feeling a bit low, and then drove back home the same day. Don’t know if that’s romantic or deranged…

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

I’ve been given some really thoughtful gifts and gestures, but one birthday I was taken to a zoo to spend time laying with and feeding some tapirs (they’re my favourite animal). It was beautiful.

Do you believe in love?

Absolutely. Life’s so much less without it.

Here’s me on social and what have you:






The book

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