10 questions: Julie Warren, author of Glarnies, Green Berets & Goons: The Life and Legacy of Larry Stephens

As you know, I'm currently crowdfunding my new novel East of England through Unbound Publishing. And I'm not alone! So, I've asked a few fellow writers on Unbound's current roster to give a quick overview of their writing work, and the book they're crowdfunding themselves in a ten questions format. 

Today it's the turn of Julie Warren, who's written a book about a leading light of post-WW2 British comedy, Larry Stephens:

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1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

I’m Julie Warren and my book is a biography of Larry Stephens, a man whose work influenced everyone from the Beatles to Robin Williams.

2. Why should folk read your book?

Although he’s relatively unknown (at the moment!), Stephens was one of the most influential characters of the 1950s. He died at the age of 35 but managed to pack a lot into his short life. He was a founding member and one of the main scriptwriters for the Goon Show (which made stars of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe) and wrote for the most popular television show of the 1950s, a programme that developed into the Carry On films. He wrote scripts for all the leading actors and comedians of his day, including for his best friend, Tony Hancock. During the war he served as an officer with No. 5 Commando and trained some of the very first Royal Marines Commandos. He was a talented artist, jazz pianist and songwriter. He excelled at pretty much everything... apart from staying alive!

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

It will set our comedy history records straight and will highlight No. 5 Commando’s role in WWII. Books have been published about most of the Commando Units but never about No. 5, a Unit which fought in an often-overlooked theatre of war. My book will also include a recently-rediscovered script for a Tony Hancock series which is believed to be the first in British broadcasting to have been described as a “situation comedy”.

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy?

The book is with the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. If you pledge, not only will you get a copy of the book but you’ll be able to grab yourself some unique rewards too!

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

I’m a morning person so that’s when I prefer to write but everyday life tends to make that impossible! I like to shut myself away in silence when I’m writing.

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is such a wonderful resource. It’s been produced every year since 1906 and contains a wealth of useful information. As well as comprehensive lists of publishers, agents, newspapers, magazines etc., it is jampacked with articles and guides from the top writers in every field you could possibly imagine.

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

Rather than pick three books, I’d like to pick three writers if I may. The first of these is Sue Townsend. Adrian Mole and I grew up together and his rejection letters from the BBC helped me to feel much better about the rejection letters I received from publishers and agents! I attended a writing course on a Greek island tutored by Sue Townsend and ended up living there so Sue influenced my life in more ways than one. The second is Bill Bryson. I love his travel books but his other works, such as At Home, are great examples of how entertaining history books can be too. Finally, Enid Blyton. As a child, I so wanted to be one of the Famous Five or to climb the Faraway Tree (I’d still like to do that now actually!) and discovered that the best way to do this was to write myself into my own stories.

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

Three books I can read over and over again and enjoy every single time are Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson; The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Rivals by Jilly Cooper.

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

Nothing very original, I’m afraid! Read lots, write lots and if you want to write for publication, develop a thick skin and never give up.

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

You need to read this in the voice of Don Lafontaine!

In a world ravaged by war, a hero rose up and helped us to laugh again. He was the first person Peter Sellers attempted to make contact with beyond the grave; the Best Man at Tony Hancock’s first wedding and he supplied one-liners for Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers. During the Second World War he served with the Commandos in the jungles of Burma. Finally, his story can be told. Larry Stephens: coming soon to a cinema near you!

Social media contacts:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VathenaUK (me) and https://twitter.com/lsggbg (Larry)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/larrystephenswriter/

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/goons/

Previous publications: Contributing author to Essex Belongs To Us: Writing about the Real Essex

Thanks very much to Julie for answering my questions. I've pledged to support this book being a life-ling Goons fan, and hopefully, you'll consider pledging to this project too!