Now, not many Linda’s Book Bag readers know that I am a huge fan of the Tour de France. It used to be my count down to the summer holidays when I was teaching and I was in Paris for the final of the 100th Tour in 2013. Consequently, when lovely Kathleen Jowitt asked me if I would like to be part of the launch celebrations for A Spoke in the Wheel, I jumped at the chance. Kathleen kindly agreed to stay in with me to tell me all about her latest book.
If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.
Staying in with Kathleen Jowitt
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Kathleen. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Thank you for inviting me! It’s nice to have a bit of a sit-down at this stage on the blog tour.
I bet, so make yourself comfortable! Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought A Spoke in the Wheel. It’s the story of what happens when a disgraced professional cyclist meets a disabled cycling fan; a story of assumptions, of redemption, and of coming to terms with one’s own limitations.
As for why I’ve chosen it, it’s my newest book, released just last week, and I’m very excited to share it!
(Oh! Congratulations and a belated Happy Publication Day!)
What can we expect from an evening in with A Spoke in the Wheel?
Some surprises, I hope. I always like to play with literary clichés – like the person ‘who’d rather die’ than live with a disability, or the elite athlete whose career is ruined by a false accusation – and bring them more into line with reality.
So in A Spoke in the Wheel we have a disabled character who isn’t holding her breath for a miracle cure and is just getting on with her life. We don’t have the squeaky-clean sporting hero; we’ve got an ordinary bloke who did as well as he could and then made some bad decisions trying to get better.
More than anything, though, what I hope you’ll see in A Spoke in the Wheel is characters who are human, who have their virtues and their flaws, who are doing the best they can.
(I think A Spoke in the Wheel sounds a brilliant book. I like that concept of inverting expectations and clichés.)
What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?
I’ve brought a handful of spoons and a box of matches. This is a nod to two metaphors that meet in A Spoke in the Wheel.
(Now you’ve got me intrigued! Tell me more.)
Cyclists talk about ‘burning their matches’. They know that they only have so much energy, and that they have to conserve it to make sure that they can get through the day’s racing.
Meanwhile, many disabled people use the ‘spoons’ analogy to express the concept that their physical energy is limited, and that they only have the capacity to complete so many tasks in a day. There’s a really brilliant essay about this here that your blog readers might like to see Linda.
(I’ve had a read of that post and it is so good Kathleen. Thanks for pointing us at it.)
I was watching the Vuelta A España (that’s the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France) with my partner a couple of years ago, and he made a comment to the effect that professional cyclists probably would understand the concept of ‘spoons’ because they do spend much of their time at the limits of what their body can do.
That was where this book started. Both those metaphors say the same thing: you only have so much physical capacity to get you through the day, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. There comes a point where there are no more spoons in the pile; there are no more matches in the box.
(I wish someone would tell my 84 year old mother that – she really doesn’t need to wash the kitchen floor at six in the morning and then wonder why she’s worn out at 11!)
I began to wonder how two people who were familiar with those concepts might come to interact with each other, and what they might think of each other when they did. Everything else came from there.
(How interesting. I love hearing where authors get their inspiration.)
I’ve also brought some coffee and cake to keep us going. If you go out on a cycling club ride, the chances are you’ll end up at some café or other. How do you like your coffee? And what sort of cake will you have?
(Hmm. I’m really a tea drinker but have just started trying a coffee now and again so you’ll have to guide me on that one Kathleen. As for which type of cake – that’s easy. All of them!)
Thank you so much for staying in with me to tell me about A Spoke in the Wheel Kathleen. I think it’s one of those books I’m going to really enjoy.
A Spoke in the Wheel
The first thing I saw was the wheelchair.
The first thing she saw was the doper.
Ben Goddard is an embarrassment – as a cyclist, as an athlete, as a human being. And he knows it.
Now that he’s been exposed by a positive drugs test, his race wins and his work with disabled children mean nothing. He quits professional cycling in a hurry, sticks a pin in a map, and sets out to build a new life in a town where nobody knows who he is or what he’s done.
But when the first person he meets turns out to be a cycling fan, he finds out that it’s not going to be quite as easy as that.
Besides, Polly’s not just a cycling fan, she’s a former medical student with a chronic illness and strong opinions. Particularly when it comes to Ben Goddard…
About Kathleen Jowitt
Kathleen Jowitt was born in Winchester, UK, and grew up deep in the Welsh Marches and, subsequently, on the Isle of Wight. After completing her undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of Exeter she moved to Guildford and found herself working for a major trade union. She now lives in Cambridge, works in London, and writes on the train.
Her first novel, Speak Its Name, was the first self-published book ever to be shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize.