Interview by Jennifer Dale - March 2015
Ben Hatch is a bit of a big deal. You may not know this because he hides his accomplishments behind self-deprecating witty comments and an unassuming manner. But Ben has actually published three bestselling books and written for nearly all the major British newspapers you’ve heard of. Sure, he may admit to spiking his hair up so as to distract people from the balding process which is gradually setting in on his crown. But isn’t it distracting enough that one of his books Are We Nearly There Yet? A 8,000 Miles Round Britain In A Vauxhall Astra not only won Radio 2’s Book of the Year 2013 but is also under development as a film by Island Pictures? If that is not enough, his new book (reinvented from the original: The Lawnmower Celebrity) The P45 Diaries: How to Get Sacked From Every Job In Britain, was made Radio 4’s Book of the Year and is currently being developed as a BBC sitcom.
Ben believes that to be a writer, you must love to read. He believes that reading can show anyone that anything they have ever felt, they have never been alone in feeling. As such, it is within the pages of a book you realise that you are not alone. When he is not writing, Ben will often play Monopoly with his children, Charlie, 7, and Phoebe, 10 who live with him and his wife, Dinah, in Brighton.
“I don't really think it's possible to be a writer unless you enjoy reading. It would be a bit like being a 1000 metre runner who didn't like exercise. Reading is what makes you fall in love with writing. It also opens up whole worlds. It's the greatest form of both escape and comfort. Reading makes you realise whatever it is you've ever felt, you are not alone.”
Ben says of reading:
“My favourite childhood book was The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. I read it recently to my son and was pleased to see he was just as enthralled as I'd been.”
“I love The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger so much that whenever I see it on anybody's shelf or in a bookshop, it feels like I have been reunited with something I personally own. I instantly like anyone who loves the book. I know if they "get it" we'll be friends and if they don't, then we won't.”
Many of the books Ben has written adopt a personal perspective. His novel, The International Goosebury is both a side-splitting and melancholy account of his round the world backpacking trip and Are We Nearly There Yet? was triggered by the memory of Ben’s father, Sir David Hatch, who had died during that road trip. The book he is most recently promoting, The P45 Diaries, is no exception.
The author explains:
“The inspiration for my first book, The P45 Diaries was an old diary I kept when I was in my early twenties. Reading it years later my sympathy wasn't with myself, it was for everybody else I encountered. For my dad, when I almost got his car blown up in a controlled explosion. For my mother when I announced I had become a private detective. For every employer I let down and was fired by. I was so incredibly selfish it was like I almost rejoiced in it. It made me think this old version of me put in different situations, would make a great character in a novel. I was so awful and dislikable, I thought that to make myself more believable, and I had to add a sad back story to justify my behaviour.”
He not only draws on his immediate personal life to write, as he admits of his book Road to Rouen:
“The title of my last book Road to Rouen was the idea of a Twitter follower of mine, and another follower suggested I go somewhere in France that inspired a whole chapter.”
Ever the joker, Ben continues to describe his approach to writing professionally:
“My writing process consists of receiving a deadline, doing everything but writing until it is almost upon me, then working like crazy to finish the book in time.”
This personal theme to Ben’s writing looks to continue with his upcoming book, No Place Like Rome:
“I am due to hand in No Place Like Rome towards the end of the year. It's going to be about friendship.”
So there you have it, talk effusively about Catcher in the Rye and this ex-local journalist, bank clerk, lawnmower salesman, postman, insurance broker and private detective will be putty in your hands. Follow him on Twitter for amusing updates on his unusual life with his three-legged budgie, aptly named Tripod, and find this family man’s books on Amazon.