Comic Writing: Tim Ewins and We Are Animals

Jun 4, 2021 | Reviews

It’s fair to say that being funny in a book is hard. When I came across We Are Animals by Tim Ewins, I knew I’d found a book that did it well. Not trying too hard, not forced, just a humorous tone that gets you wryly smiling at the quirks of human nature as much as it does making you laugh out loud.

The story starts with a man named Jan on a beach, who starts telling his story to a young man advertising a silent disco. From there, we are taken on a journey of love and loss, with a few insights into the animal world to help us on our way. Featuring a cow, a quail and a mosquito, we travel all over the world and meet a touching array of characters.

It really is an excellent book, and I wanted to find out how Tim managed to create wonderful comic writing and how he decided which animals got to be in the book. Read on to find out more.

You can buy this awesome book here

Your book displays a lovely sense of humanity and manages to be funny but also thoughtful and poignant. There are some difficult things discussed, but with a light touch. Did the tone of the book arrive with the idea or was it something that developed as you wrote it?

Thank you! What a lovely question! I was a stand-up before I decided to write a book, so when I started, I honestly thought that I’d be writing one-liner after one-liner for around 300 pages. Man, that would have been hard to read.

We Are Animals took me around four years to write, so the heavier subjects sort of crept up on me. I do think that you need the darker side of life for humanity to shine through. There is a lot in there which reflects my life at the time I was writing, but I’ve always written in a light-hearted tone of voice and tried to find the humour in everything. I think it makes the writing process more enjoyable.

One lovely feature of the book is that we dip in and out of the lives of various animals. How did you choose these animals and why did you want us to see the story from their perspective?

Great question! If only I had a poignant answer. I found myself delving far too deep into the research of different animals. I’d start with the location of the main characters, and then find out which animals would likely live there. Then I’d spend hours reading about each animal, picking out small and interesting facts about them and comparing them to the human characters in the book. So in answer, I was geeky about it.

I think the cow on the beach is my favourite animal in the book

There’s a strong sense of place and a longing for home in your book. We move between very different places (Goa and a British fishing village). Why did you choose these locations and why do you think the idea of home was such a big part of the book?

It’s strange, because all of the main locations in We Are Animals are the places where I have felt most at home (other than my actual home). Fishton (the British fishing village in the book) is based on Whitby and the surrounding Moors, where my wife grew up and where half my family now live. We also spent some time in Goa after travelling around India. It began to feel a little like home after spending every night on a train for the previous month.

The majority of the characters in the book have left their literal homes in search of adventure, but they all find, in the end, that home is just a place where the right people are. I think that Kalem might be the only character who remains ‘at home,’ and he comes across as the most contented one!

Underlying the action of the book is a sense that we are all more closely connected than we realise, and that fate plays a part in our lives. When plotting the book, how did you decide on the way fate would intervene in the story?

It may sound cliched, but fate plays a large part in the novel because I do believe that my wife and I were brought together by fate. It took years for us to realise we were meant to be together, but we just kept being in the same places at the same time. A similar thing happens with Manjan and Ladyjan in We Are Animals, just on a much larger scale, and all over the world. When I started writing the book, that was going to be the general premise of the whole thing, but then I found myself getting carried away with who else in the book could have their lives dictated by fate and the inadvertent actions of others. It made the whole process of writing incredibly fun (and also, it required a spreadsheet, which, for certain people, is also fun).

What advice would you give to writers early on in their career?

Enjoy writing. If you start to find that writing has become a chore, give yourself a break. Don’t set yourself deadlines if it’s going to make you bite your nails more. Motivation is important and deadlines can be good, but I know personally that writing can really get you down on a bad day. I think it’s important to remember that it should be fun. That’s why we’re all doing it, right?

Oh, but I’m not sure I’m the person to be taking advice from, I started out trying to write a 300 page book of one-liners.

Tim Ewins had an eight-year stand-up career alongside his accidental career in finance, before turning to writing fiction.

He has previously written for DNA Mumbai, had two short stories highly commended and published in Michael Terence Short Story Anthologies, and had a very brief acting stint (he’s in the film Bronson, somewhere in the background).

He lives with his wife, son and dog in Bristol. We Are Animals is his first novel.

@EwinsTim on Twitter

@Quickbooksummaries on Instagram

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