New Vernon author Jeffrey Arnold has spent his life writing and telling stories, though never as a novelist.
First a commentator for CBC, and in newspapers, then as the rewrite guy for film scripts, in finance and as a real estate developer, Arnold was always writing, always offering his own viewpoint and always telling a story, though with a humorous bite.
Then three years ago, with Okanagan real estate, his primary business, in a bit of a lull, the 64-year-old grandfather of seven decided to bite the bullet and write his first book, Nobody’s Laughing, joining the legions of others pursuing the self-publishing movement as a hobby or career.
“I had written novels before, though never successfully, and (when the economy turned) I decided to take the opportunity to give it another try,” he said, noting he counts himself as a journeyman writer, used to cranking out copy on demand.
The story took a year and a half to complete, an extremely long time in his view.
“I was trained to produce three minutes for air for tomorrow,” he explained.
The novel took a minimum of three hours a day, five-to-six days a week to write and his agent then spent more than a year trying to find him a publisher.
In the end, Arnold opted to go with Friesen Press, a self-publishing outfit based in Victoria, and he will be touring the area working on publicity in the months to come.
Nobody’s Laughing is a satirical assessment of the state of the world, in which Arnold suggests society could stand to take itself a little less seriously and focus on things that matter, like family, relationships and the environment.
“Older people can get curmudgeonly, but I’ve seen it in kids and that’s disconcerting to me. I’ve never seen children that have the angst and stress that children do today,” he explained.
The characters in the novel follow the old satirical tradition of naming for traits.
The protagonist, an everyman character, is Richard Bonhom. The developers, conjoined twins from Asia who do not always see eye to eye, Zang and Wang Ton, offer commentary on the rise of the Asian economic power, while Bonhom’s problems, his drug-addicted daughter, pending financial and mid-life crisis, reflect the first-world calamities of a generation obsessed with material excess.
“Slowly we’re going to survive, but not without looking at ourselves critically,” said Arnold.
“As my daughter put it, (the book) made me laugh, it made me cry and it gave me a headache.”
One can’t help but notice there are a few likenesses between Bonhom and Arnold.
Bonhom too is a developer. He too has seen a fair amount of change in his time and he too has had to learn to adapt on demand. Taking a first crack at writing novels, for example, might qualify.
Arnold is a senior partner with Avanti Growth Management, a private equity company focused on providing financial, management and marketing services.
Arnold will be signing copies of Nobody’s Laughing at Coles Bookstore in Vernon’s Village Green Centre on Saturday, Feb. 9 from noon to 2 p.m.
— Jennifer Smith is arts and culture reporter with the Kelowna Capital News.