Si Page is a British author whose third novel, No Idea, was just released late last year. A true talent, Page wraps his comedy chops and zany characters up in perfectly written packages topped with bows of real meaning and depth. When reading his books, you’ll laugh and cry, but more than anything, he leaves you with something to think about. At least, that was my reaction upon finishing his 2013 hit, Missing Gretyl: You Only Love Twice.
Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Simon to learn more about the man behind the books and get an idea of what No Idea is really about!
Hi Simon. Thanks for the chat. First off, I’d like to congratulate you on the release of No Idea. I have to be honest. When I heard there’s a part of the book that takes place in Tel Aviv, my curiosity was piqued. You mention Israel, and I want to know more. What is this book about?
Hi Dana, it’s a pleasure, thank you. Before I talk about the importance of Tel Aviv in my story, I’d like to give you the bones of the novel. The title, No Idea, first came about when someone asked me what my new book was to be named. I replied, ‘no idea,’ as I genuinely had no idea for a name. But then a light switched on inside my brain: ‘That’s a perfect title, because the main character, Rob Wise, really doesn’t have any idea how to move on from his past, not to mention, where he is going in life.’
Rob is a 33 year-old writer who is unemployed, suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and hasn’t written anything (finished/published) and isn’t writing at the moment. He lives in a flat with two layabouts and a girl called Pit Bull. He’s disillusioned and finds no motivation at home. He’s also hampered by his past, the betrayal of his best friend, and his parents, who independent of each other, moved away and left Rob with his grandfather.
The title, No Idea, first came about when someone asked me what my new book was to be named. I replied, ‘no idea,’ as I genuinely had no idea for a name.
Rob’s relationships have been mostly disastrous, and especially so with the opposite sex. But something is stirring inside of Rob… and he knows he has to make a break and move away. Here he explores themes of forgiveness, love and self-sacrifice.
At the heart of the story is Mrs Popov, an elderly Russian neighbour who moved to London three years ago in search of her missing grandson, Alexei. She fears he may have fallen prey to the Russian mafia, after he fled his home country and moved to the UK to start a new life. His computer hacking skills and almost savant-like mathematical genius had made him a highly valuable asset. Rob agrees to help his neighbour look for the 21 year-old Alexei with the help of a family friend, Grace, who turns his head in more ways than one.
I can’t go into detail about Tel Aviv without giving too much of the story away, so you’ll have to read the book to find out. But I can tell you that it’s an exciting and life-changing visit for him, in more ways than one. I chose Tel Aviv because as a Christian believer I feel indebted to Israel for the rich heritage and narrative of the Old and New Testaments. I wanted to mix something of the old and new Israel into the story and introduce my character to a world that could change his own perspective. As someone who loves the Jewish people (my father is also Jewish) I wanted to paint the land in a positive light. I also hope to visit Israel in person one day soon!
Your first novel, Missing Gretyl, was both a comedy and a drama with an eclectic group of characters, Gretyl being the most insane of them all. There were surprising twists and turns, but comedy was threaded throughout the story. Is the same true for No Idea, or is this a more serious book?
While there are a number of serious themes in this book, including the role of faith, the backdrop is comedic in many respects. I enjoy writing comedy, and I find there are many opportunities to bring light and shade into my stories. As a reader, I also enjoy those humorous reflections that life can afford us and when we most need them. Life is full of drama, but without comedy, it would be far more tragic.
What inspired you to write No Idea?
I’m not sure I can answer that question so easily, as it would require me to unpick the rich tapestry that lives inside my head. But there are a number of strong influences. First, I liked the idea of writing in the first person POV. I wanted to see the world through the eyes of a character who was struggling to make sense of his life. I also wanted to show how bitterness and unforgiveness can leave us powerless to move on with our own lives. If we feel unloved, it’s hard to give any love away, and as the saying goes, ‘hurt people, hurt people,’ so I wanted to write a coming of age story that helps someone get far more than their mojo back.
At the heart of this story is a missing young man called Alexei, who was partly inspired by a family that I have been helping since 2009. Their son was only 14 years-old when he went missing in London, back in 2007. He hasn’t been seen or heard of since. I have spent 100’s of hours doing my own research into his disappearance. Sadly, there hasn’t been a trace of him, since he stepped out of Kings Cross Station, on Friday the 14th September, 2007.
Rumor has it, you’re a reverend or have been in a past life. How does religion play into your work, or does it?
Yes, I work part time as a pastor, and my other part-time jobs involve writing, raising kids, doing house chores and raising my two lovely boys, Ruben and Freddie. My wife is a busy primary school teacher, so to keep a healthy work life balance for us all, we pull together.
My faith is a very important part of my life. I guess it’s a lens by which I view the world and process my own narrative, while making sense of others. For me, faith was never a leap in the dark, but rather a confident step into the light. These themes are explored in No Idea.
Though my father is Jewish I wasn’t brought up Orthodox. I’d never visited a synagogue or for that matter, a church, during my childhood or teenage years, apart from the hatch, match or dispatch service they all provide.
Not long ago you took a DNA test to dig into your ancestry, something I’ve also done. Any shocking results in the Page family line?
I found the whole thing fascinating. I am apparently one-third British, two-thirds European, and 1 percent Pacific Islander. (That may explain my love for eating coconuts and wearing grass skirts!)
My aunt has taken our family tree way back to the 8th century, so I knew certain things (on my father’s side) about our history.
One of my great-grandfathers was the famous Jewish boxer, Daniel Mendoza.
He was an English prize-fighter, who was boxing champion of England in 1792–1795, and he was of Portuguese-Jewish descent. I also have another grandfather who was the governor of Puerto Rico, and I recently discovered that the famous comedian and actor, Peter Sellers, is also a relative. Maybe that’s where my funny bone comes from!
Who are some authors you find inspiring?
This is a very interesting question. I don’t have any particular favourites, but I do warm to stories that are authentic, enriching, even life changing. Anyone who can weave a great tale will get my attention, but I don’t do erotic, horror or gratuitous violence (speaking as a reader and a writer of course!)
I am inspired by many self-published authors, including yourself, Dana, who work tirelessly to bless and enlighten others, despite the hardships of finding a readership in a world where millions of new books are written every year, each one shouting for attention.
What made you decide to delve into the world of writing?
Another good question. I think my wild teenage years, coupled with the experience of pastoral ministry, have weaved their own stories. I guess writing is just one of the outlets I have to express those stories and observations about life, love and laughter.
Now onto the important stuff. Chocolate or vanilla?
Both when they are mixed inside an ice cream bowl. 😉
Who was your teenage celebrity crush?
This question has me laughing! I don’t think I had many imaginary ones because I had enough real-life ones! My teenage years had no lack of girlfriends, so when I met Solana in 1995 and married in 1998, it was time for the black book with phone numbers and ratings out of ten, to go in the bin!
Any more books on the horizon?
Yes, I have three books on the go. First, there is a comedy called The Holiday. This one is really funny and looks at the world of a stressed out teacher and her husband who set out on a disastrous holiday.
Second, there is the sequel to Missing Gretyl. After the success of the first book, the central character, Gretyl Trollop, simply won’t leave me alone. She wants her name in lights again, so she’ll definitely be getting a sequel. I’m only a few chapters in, but it’s moving!
Finally, there is a story called The Collar. If you read No Idea, you can sample the first few chapters inside the book, because I made Rob Wise the author!
Thank you, Dana, for inviting me to open a window into my writing journey. May you and your readers be truly blessed.
Shalom and L’Chayim!
And all the best to you, Simon.
Get No Idea on Amazon:
See Si Page’s Amazon author page for all his work, including Missing Gretyl.