TV favourite and au­thor Gra­ham Nor­ton on fame, fic­tion and look­ing for love

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Contents -

Gra­ham Nor­ton has be­come a house­hold name for his hi­lar­i­ous Fri­day night chat show, which has made him one of the BBC’S high­est-paid stars. He also has a show on Ra­dio 2 and a weekly agony col­umn in the Tele­graph, so you’d think he’d be too busy to take on any­thing else. But some­how, in the mid­dle of all that, he’s be­come a nov­el­ist in his 50s. His first book, Hold­ing, was a great suc­cess and he’s now pub­lish­ing his sec­ond novel, A Keeper.

Set in Ire­land, where he grew up, the story cen­tres around a woman who an­swers a lonely hearts col­umn in the 1970s and is drawn into a fam­ily’s dark se­crets. It’s a sur­pris­ing read from a writer known for his witty asides who has lived in Lon­don for 30 years, but it’s Ire­land and its sto­ries that in­spire him, he says.

En­joy­ment drives me on.

I en­joy the TV show and I still en­joy the ra­dio show and the Tele­graph col­umn. Writ­ing a book was about age. I’d al­ways said I wanted to write a book and, when I turned 50, I thought if I’m go­ing to do it, then I need to get on with it. My first one was pub­lished when I was 53. You don’t do many new things at 53, so it was a nice feel­ing to be a de­but any­thing at that age. It was the fi­nal thing on my to-do list of the things I as­pired to do.

Ire­land in­spires my sto­ries.

This book comes from a story that my mother told me about some­one she knew, whose daugh­ter an­swered a lonely hearts ad from a farmer and went to visit him, but it all turned out to be a lie. A Keeper is dark in a Gothic way – it’s so dark, it’s en­ter­tain­ing.

When I fin­ish the first draft

I send one to my mum, one to my sis­ter, one to an old English teacher and one to a friend of mine who reads a lot of fic­tion, so I can get feed­back about what I need to clar­ify. It’s scary be­cause you’re putting it out into the world.

My plea­sure in the book is over now.

My plea­sure was in cre­at­ing it and now this bit [be­ing in­ter­viewed] is the worky bit. It’s a bit like peo­ple com­ing on my show – I’m now in the awk­ward sit­u­a­tion of try­ing to sell my book!

If I knew what I was look­ing for in a re­la­tion­ship, I might be in one!

I think the big thing is not to look for too much in a re­la­tion­ship. That’s pos­si­bly been my mis­take in the past; to ex­pect some­one to be ev­ery­thing for you. I’ve been sin­gle for a while – a cou­ple of years any­way. I’m not do­ing Tin­der any more, but I’m still go­ing on dates and stuff. You know, hope springs eter­nal. Maybe not springs quite as much as it used to, but still.

I like liv­ing alone.

I think when you have kids it makes sense to live to­gether be­cause it’s all hands on deck for child­care, or you can share with some­one be­cause you pool your re­sources to live some­where nicer. But I live some­where nice by my­self. Why would I want to share that?

I cry a lot about non­sense.

I cry about any­thing. Films, songs and telly doc­u­men­taries. Watch­ing my dogs get old makes me sad, too. Bai­ley is go­ing to be 14 soon. Her hair is fall­ing out and she lost a tooth over the week­end – she’s fall­ing apart. That makes me sad. The thing about our re­la­tion­ship with dogs is that we keep the se­cret that they don’t know they’re go­ing to die. We all know, we don’t have to tell each other. We en­joy to­day be­cause to­mor­row we might pop our clogs. Dogs think it’s go­ing to go on for ever and I think that’s why we like spend­ing time with them, be­cause they live such a sim­ple,

re­ally un­com­pli­cated life.

My friends have al­ways asked me for ad­vice,

so my agony col­umn in the Tele­graph is my dream job. I think some of my ad­vice is sur­pris­ingly good – I say sur­pris­ing be­cause I know that if I’ve been in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions I haven’t done what I’m telling read­ers to do. Per­haps I should fol­low my own ad­vice. I do take it quite se­ri­ously and it is quite a re­spon­si­bil­ity. If I get any whiff that the reader might be deal­ing with big­ger is­sues or men­tal health prob­lems, I al­ways ad­vise them to find some real help – be­cause I’m just some bloke off the telly.

You want re­ally fa­mous peo­ple on the TV show

be­cause the ex­cite­ment in the stu­dio when I say Tom Cruise or Cher or who­ever is pal­pa­ble. There is a bub­ble of fame around them. There is some­thing, I don’t know what it is – even af­ter all these years I can’t re­ally put into words what it is. But there is some­thing spe­cial about them, about their en­ergy. Big stars do carry some­thing with them.

As a kid I used to dream of be­ing on the Late, Late Show. But now I’m an adult I re­alise be­ing the host is much bet­ter. Be­cause I’ve had a job for 20 years, the peo­ple I in­ter­viewed 20 years ago are not com­ing on the show any more. These are the va­garies of fame. If you have your feet by the desk, that’s a much bet­ter job.

There is a temp­ta­tion to have plas­tic surgery,

then you see peo­ple who do it and think, ‘This hasn’t re­ally worked out well for any­body.’ Men are lucky, too. We’re al­lowed to get older, we don’t have that tyranny of youth that women do. So I’m re­sist­ing the knife!

◆ A Keeper by Gra­ham Nor­ton (Coronet) is out 4 Oc­to­ber

‘Men are lucky. We’re al­lowed to get older, we don’t have the tyranny of youth that women do’

Block­buster chat: re­cent guests on the show in­clude the stars of Juras­sic World

He says big stars like Cher have a spe­cial en­ergy

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