Dan Hilles is a pretty regular kind of guy – regular job, regular bunch of mates, regular male aversion to shopping. But following his break-up with long-term girlfriend, Stacey, he finds himself single again. He’s been out of the game for a while and is a little out of practice. Soon, the very irregular and increasingly worrying issue in Dan’s life is the extended drought he finds himself suffering. And we’re not talking the climate change, scorched earth, God I’m parched variety.
You’ve got to hand it to Dan though – it certainly isn’t from a lack of trying. With stalwart mates Ollie, Jack and Rob on hand to lend their collective pearls of male wisdom and arrange the odd road trip, you’d think Dan’s days of languishing in a sexual wilderness would be numbered. Even best friends can’t help prevent the kind of surreal holes Dan just can’t seem to help digging himself into. And with each failed attempt, his self-esteem plummets to the point where he wonders if ‘little Dan’ will ever work again.
Good job he has Kelly, his reliable and sympathetic colleague, to confide in. As a woman, she can perhaps shed some female light on why he’s failing so miserably with the opposite sex, balancing out the testosterone-fuelled ‘advice’ from the lads. Surely Dan can’t go wrong with Kelly teaching him the various intricacies of a woman’s mind.
About the author: Stand-up comedian Steven Scaffardi published his debut novel The Drought in September 2011 to fantastic praise. The Drought is Scaffardi’s foray into the world of lad-lit.
I met Steven Scaffardi via Goodreads when he messaged me about a promo on his book. We instantly got along and I have agreed to read his debut novel and write a review. In exchange, he accepted an interview with me. I was ecstatic! The interview went like this:
Monica: Thank you for giving us the honor to chat with you. May you please tell us something about yourself.
Steven: I am an indie author from London, and I have also done a bit of stand-up comedy. Other than that, I am a pretty normal guy in my 30s, which basically means I am slowly turning into my dad…!
Monica: What inspired you to write this book?
Steven: I love comedy, and I am a big fan of TV shows like The Inbetweeners and films like American Pie and The Hangover. I have never personally found a book that caters for this market. My other inspiration comes from chick lit novels and rom-com movies – whenever I read or watch them I always think “But a guy wouldn’t really do that!” So I decided to write a comedy about relationships from the man’s point of view.
Monica: Is being a writer your dream profession?
Steven: I would love to be a comedy writer – that would be a dream job. I have already written a book, and obviously I write jokes and sketches for my stand-up, but I would love to get into screenwriting too. Lots of people have said they would love to see The Drought turned into a film, so who knows!
Monica: I am a new writer and blogger and I am interested to know about author’s writing environment. Do you prefer writing in pen and paper or in computer?
Steven: Definitely on the computer! I think it would take too long by hand and my hand would end up aching too much from all the writing! I write a lot of ideas down with a pen and paper, and then play around with those ideas, but then I have to type them all up on to my computer again anyway! I also use my phone to make notes too.
Monica: When you want to take a breather from writing, what do you usually do?
Steven: I find that going for a run always clears the head, and I have actually thought of some of my best ideas when out jogging. I just plug in my iPod and listen to some music and that helps me put a soundtrack to my ideas, which is something I would encourage any writer to try because it really works!
Monica: We have agreed and accepted that all writers are also readers. What are the books currently in your nightstand?
Steven: I read lots of different types of books. At the moment I am reading quite a heavy book about the conditions inside a Bali prison! But after that I’ll want to read something light-hearted or fun. I read a series of books this year called The Book With No Name which was brilliant fun, especially if you like Quentin Tarrantino movies.
Monica: Who are your literary influences?
Steven: I would say lad lit authors like Mike Gayle, Danny Wallace, and Nick Hornby influence me because they also write man books! I’d love to achieve half the success of those guys, but I am a long way off that at the moment.
Monica: If you could be a literary character who would you be and why?
Steve: Michael Corleone from The Godfather. My favourite character of all time, although The Bourbon Kid from The Book With No Name is a pretty cool guy too!
Monica: Any current/future projects?
Steven: I am currently writing the follow-up to The Drought. At the moment the working title is The One That Got Away, although I am now toying with the idea of calling it The Flood! It follows on from where the last book left off, and I am also planning a third book to complete the series.
Monica: What can you advice to those aspiring writers?
Steven: Try and write every day, whether it is writing a novel, blogging, or just putting down ideas. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. Always believe in yourself. Another indie author (Nick Spalding) once told me that the most important thing you can do as a writer is talk to as many readers as possible, and he wasn’t wrong! Really simple, but great advice, form a very good writer!
Prior to this novel, I haven’t heard about the existence of lad-lit. I have read stories which were written by men, but not the counterpart of chic lit. It made me curious as to how something can be classified as such, so after I finished the book I was reading, I didn’t waste time and start checking what the fuss was about.
The story started at the end – well, that’s what the chapter said anyway. This was refreshing as most of the novels I have read recently didn’t use this technique. Right away, the story unfolded and one can easily guess why the novel was titled like that. The title and theme were introduced in the first chapter, and I actually like it. I have had experiences reading other books which until now I couldn’t decipher why they were titled like that.
It was narrated in first person, and it made the connection between the character and the reader (me) stronger. In this kind of story, first person point-of-view is recommended and I am glad the author chose to use that.
The main character, Daniel Hilles, was portrayed as a typical English man – or just a man. I felt a bit awkward at first when I have read Dan’s thoughts and actions, but I realized that this is how real men are. Well, mostly. Football and video games, drinking and planning to get laid. There were languages I never imagined I could muster and bold acts I would never wish to see. Still, it’s just my sensitivities. The author wrote the novel in such a way to introduce man’s true thoughts, feelings, and actions that I was appalled to note that if this is how real men are, then I hardly know them at all.
Then there were Dan’s friends. The author wasn’t satisfied to tell a story of a single man, but he included his boisterous and crazy friends as well. I wasn’t surprised though. In any chic lit, the star always have her side kicks with her, so why not in a lad-lit? The characters of Dan’s friends were shown as what real men friends are – supportive in almost everything and never lacking of suggestions no matter how absurd they are.
The characters were realistic. They weren’t depicted as perfect and flawless personalities and I like that. There were instances were they were characterized negatively, and it made them more believable, like they are just normal people.
But what I liked best in the novel was the way Dan was complaining and expressing his heart out about us, women, and our tendencies. It was an eye-opener for me to read this novel. I found myself nodding in almost all of his complaints about our womanly actions. I don’t know how to help him with his problems with women because I also don’t know how we are like that, but I feel for him. I have realized that it is difficult to be a man.
I don’t want to give you spoilers, but I would like to share you some of Dan’s thoughts and questions about women:
On shopping with a girlfriend:
- Whose bright idea was it to put the changing rooms bang in the middle of the lingerie department? Groups of men are forced to awkwardly stand around, trying their best not to look like pervs. The problem is, the more you try to look like you are not hanging around sniffing women’s underwear, the more paranoid you become that everyone thinks that is exactly what you are doing.
- “Which one do you prefer?” Hmm, let me think. I don’t care! Just pick that one, pick any of them! Whichever one you choose will be met by the same response: “Really? I prefer this one.” If you have already made up your mind, don’t ask us.
- “Why do they always expect you to know what’s wrong with them? If you ask them and they say nothing, and then don’t expect us to press any further on the matter.”
- “Why do girls insist on chatting continuously when you’re watching the footy, but as soon as the adverts come on they shut up?”
- “Men are not mind readers. If something is wrong then you should just come out and tell us. It is not fair to presume we don’t care because of out lack of mind-reading abilities… Come out and ask what you want. Subtle hints don’t work. Strong hints don’t work. Obvious hints don’t work. Just say it!”
Men, do you agree? Another thing I liked most about this book is the funny way the author narrated Dan’s life. It was utterly hilarious. I was trying hard not to laugh while I read this in a coffee shop while waiting for my friend, and I ended up coughing instead.
All in all, the novel was pretty find and I like it. I would have given it five stars if the situations Dan got into were more believable. If I could retitle this, it would be Lemony Snickket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Dan got into a lot of trouble in ending his drought, and in some points I stopped and asked myself if it was really possible to happen in a single person.
That’s the only problem I had with this book and it didn’t affect the way I like it. I would definitely recommend this to everyone, especially to those women who wanted to understand men.
*This review is also posted on Goodreads.
Now, on the good news. Steven is so kind as to gift my readers an early Christmas treat. Until December 13, Steven is offering The Drought for free in Smashwords to everyone as long as you are living in the same planet we are residing! You may download an e-copy of his debut novel in any format you wish. Just go to this Smashword link and type the promo code: KW38E
There you go. Now, how awesome is that? You may read this hilarious dating novel for free! If you liked it, please feel free to write a review, too.