Authors talk gender at latest Readers and Writers Festival event

Arts Editor Barney Evison met authors Lucy Robinson and Mike Gayle at Brixton Library’s latest Readers and Writers event, ‘Stag and Hen’.

Local book readers gathered at Brixton Library on Wednesday night to hear Q&A and readings with two young popular fiction writers, Lucy Robinson and Mike Gayle. ‘Stag and Hen Night’  was the second of the Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival 2013 events to take place in Brixton this year.

[L-R] Tim O'Dell, Lucy Robinson, Marie Ayoola & Mike Gayle at Brixton library
[L-R] Tim O’Dell, Lucy Robinson, Marie Ayoola & Mike Gayle at Brixton library
Sometimes dubbed writers of the ‘chicklit’ genre, Lucy and Mike both write books about relationships. Mike Gayle, author of nine best-selling books started his writing career at teenage magazines for girls, and even worked as an Agony Uncle for Just Seventeen and Bliss. His writing has frequently been dubbed ‘ladlit’, due to its focus on the relationships of its male protagonists with their girlfriends and friends. Lucy Robinson has two published books and is working on a third. She began her career as an author after her hilarious dating blog for Marie Claire was noticed by publishers in 2009.

I caught up with Mike and Lucy before they took to the stage. “I love doing events like this,” said Lucy, “I find reader feedback really useful.” I asked Mike what it was like being an Agony Uncle. “Essentially, there are only 3 questions that people ask: ‘how do I get a boyfriend?’, ‘what do I do with my boyfriend?’ and ‘how do I get rid of my boyfriend?’ They would go into incredible amounts of detail about their relationships.” I assume some of this material has found its way into his books. Where else does he get his inspiration from? “I’ve got a big group of mates that I’ve known for a long time – their various relationships, breakups and mishaps provide me with constant material.”

The audience had plenty of questions for these two talented writers and there were obviously some budding authors in attendance. When asked what it’s like to write about characters of the opposite sex, Mike revealed that the hardest thing for him was dressing his female characters. “I was stuck for ages, but now I’ve started using the Next catalogue and I can be really specific about their clothing! Everything gets run past my wife first too. She let me know that scrunchies are out for example.”

Lucy told the audience that some of her characters are based on people she knows: “Sam, the main character, has a loveable childishness about him that is based on my partner.”

Lucy Robinson and Mike Gayle sign copies of their books for readers
Lucy Robinson and Mike Gayle sign copies of their books for readers

One pertinent questioner asked what they thought was the key to their success. “Because I’m silly,” said Lucy, “I don’t mind writing jokes about farts.” Mike thought it was because his books appeal to a unisex audience: “Couples have said my books are great for cutting down on how much holiday reading they each need to take – he can read it, then she can read it, then they can talk about it.”

Mike’s next novel  Tony 40 is coming out July 4th, and Lucy has a new book on the way for January 2014.


The Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival happens every year in May offering a month-long programme of free inspirational events. Don’t forget to go along to the remaining events in Brixton and around Lambeth.