Today author Matt Howard explains the inspiration for his new novel The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow.
My inspiration for The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow was the prospect of what might happen if a want-to-be writer (Monica), who is crazy verbose, gets allocated to an editor who despises excess. An extra layer being that the writer not only hoards words. In fact, her life is cluttered by baggage – both physical and spiritual. The editor (Xavier) however has minimalised his life to such an extent he has barely any possessions and few friends either. The contrast of these two characters – Monica and Xavier – intrigued me and as I prepared the way for them to meet I was struck by the way they were in fact quite similar. Similar in their extremes. I was wondering if they might (eventually) see this as well.
I think the story reads quite cinematically in the sense each chapter works as a scene and the chapters prior to Monica and Xavier meeting establish these unique beings’ lives. I hope the reader zips along – looking forward to the inevitable clash when Monica and Xavier’s worlds collide.
Into this, I decided to add two other main characters – Monica’s sister Diane, and their recently ‘inherited’ step-brother, Jamie. The Sparrow family, like most families, is odd and hard to fathom from an outsiders’ perspective. And again Xavier is challenged. This family – each member seemingly his exact opposite, yet in different ways. Monica, we know, loves ‘stuff’, Diane is harsh and brittle – saying things Xavier would never dare. And Jamie, apparently, is lazy and gormless. Xavier barely notices him.
Each of the four struggle, which I guess can be said of most anyone. They have their reasons for why they are seemingly isolated and yet slowly bonds form and despite themselves they appreciate how much they in fact share. And once in cahoots then things really start to happen.
I would say that each of these main characters extends a particulate trait I either have or would like to have. Of course, artistic license allows the writer to push hard and take these traits and foibles and dial them up a few notches. And so it is that Xavier’s streamlining of his world is extreme, as is Monica’s desire to surround herself within the safety of her possessions. Black sheep abound in this novel, so much so that you’d believe them more common than we are told.
Cast adrift by loss, Monica Sparrow is marooned in her semi in Neasden, the so-called ‘loneliest village in London’, her home stuffed with nothing she needs. Is it time for her to finally get her house in order? Can she isolate what really matters, and clear the junk? And while it’s too late for her family to be as they were, can Monica fashion an entirely new one, from the unlikeliest set of contenders?
Monica’s once beloved sister, Diane, already a right piece of work and looking to take it up a notch, seems lost to Monica forever. But a few unexpected diversions see her careering in a most unanticipated direction.
Xavier, a master of minimalism, discards people as easily as any other clutter. An editor at a prestigious publishing house, he’s lumbered with Monica – a wannabe writer spectacularly different from any he’s previously encountered.
Having lived virtually family-free into adulthood, Jamie suddenly acquires Monica and Diane as elder sisters, and a job, a proper one. Used to living on the margins and unfamiliar with group dynamics, this proverbial black sheep might just become the most improbable anchor.
Four isolated people. Thrown together by family and circumstance. A humorous and heartwarming story of second chances and new beginnings.
Format: ISBN: 978-1-925760-17-0 Trade paperback 288pp $29.99
(Transit Lounge, 1 March 2019)
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Booklover Tip: Goodreads reviewers have compared this novel to the worldwide bestseller Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
About the Author, Matt Howard
Matt Howard has lived in Sydney, London, Melbourne, and Reykjavik. He has written four novels, each set in a different city. The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow is the London one. His earlier novels are Street Furniture (Wakefield Press), Taking Off (Allen & Unwin) and Ethan Grout (Pier 9).