A Galley Beggar Q&A with Francis Plug

Just before Christmas we had a Twitter Q&A session with none other than Francis Plug. Users of the social media platform sent in questions, and he answered them. He did! You can find the thread by clicking here. Or, easier still, just read below.


Q: Dear Mr. Plug. Of whom, or what, do you dream? (@JamesClammer)

A: ‘Mr.’ Plug. That’s very formal. I’m not a school principal, you know. Or even a Vice Chancellor (let alone a proper Chancellor). Although, I suppose my time as Writer in Residence is worthy of formal respect. Yes, it so is. Sorry, what was the question?


Q: Do you really go and get those signatures? (@monsterlander)

A: Yes, I really do. Although sometimes I wake up in the morning and there’s a book spread on the floor, and inside is a dedication to me, and I don’t remember going to get that. So, I think the pixies get those ones, question person.


Q: To pay off a pub tab, whose autobiography would you most like to ghostwrite, and what would you like to sneak in as fact? (@thepeterenton)

A: Off the top of my head, because this is a live web chat, I would say J.D. Wetherspoon or Samuel Smith (the Tadcaster brewer). Because I’d have to research them thoroughly. And scattered through the book I would sneak in the word “Boo!”


Q: Francis, I was wondering why you never do any of your own public appearances and instead always get that Paul Ewen guy to do them? It doesn't seem very fair on that Paul Ewen guy. Not fair at all. Sincerely, Paul Ewen.

A: I do. Sometimes. They’re in my new book, some of them. Maybe you should read my new book with your eyes. Also, Paul Ewen has the benefit of a NZ accent, the sexiest accent in the world. Everyone knows that. Hey, you have the same name!


Q: Do you ever steal the pens from the signings? (Anon Bookseller, who asked not to be named for reasons obscure!)

A: ‘Steal’ is a very strong word. I once gave Richard Russo a signing pen to use, because he had lost his and my pen was very, very, very similar to his. Sometimes, on the pen-tester pads in stationary shops, I write short stories.


Q: Which author smells nicest?

A: I expect that will be Keri Hulme, but I haven’t met her yet. I imagine she will smell of beach fires and forest rain. Jonathan Franzen smelled of feathers and webbed feet! And David Attenborough absolutely stunk of orang-utans and Malaysian Green Turtles!


Q: If I were going to write a book, how many words would it have to be?

A: I would start by writing about ten, and if that seems to be working, just keep going. But don’t just keep going and going because it’ll be like when you’re running down a hill and you lose control and can’t stop and face plant. No one wants to read that.


Q: Some of your stories seem a little incredible. Was there really a Giant Squid at the Hay Festival? Did Butterflies really spill out of Julian Barnes’ head?

A: ‘Stories’? Sorry, what do you mean? I’ve got photos somewhere. Elly, Sam, could you hunt out those photos I took of the Giant Squid in Hay and Julian Barnes’ gushing flip-top head? Remember? Yeah? And post them? Cheers. FP. [Ed Note: No photographs are available…]


Q: When is the best time to prune roses? And secateurs or chainsaw? (@lisaquattromini)

A: Definitely in the morning. Because, if you try and do it after lunch, when you rock back from the pub, you can end up doing an Edward Scissorhands dance around the lawn with secateur hands, completely forgetting about the roses and pruning them.


Q (from @LRBbookshop): Was it you who broke our loo in 2016 after the Sarah Moss / Max Porter event by trying to flush a wine bottle, & if not, who do you reckon was responsible?

A: I blame Dr. Alexander McCall-Smith for that. Absolutely. It has all the hallmarks of Dr. McCall-Smith, that incident. Although… was there a message in the bottle? A message intended for Jacques Cousteau? In my handwriting? There’s a very slight chance…


Q (from Sam): Why I haven't been invited back to any Booker parties? For some reason, they stopped replying to my emails and when I called up, the nice woman said something I didn't quite understand about the ‘police’ and then put the phone down?

A: Sam! This web chat isn’t for you! It’s for the public! Honestly! You can ask me that any time! When we’re doing book stuff! Not in this live forum! Anyway, I really don’t understand the relevance, to me, of your ‘question’. Like, huh?


Q: Hilary Mantel keeps saying nice things about you and your books. But you don’t appear to have anything nice to say about her books or her. Why is that? (Thanks @i_am_mill_i_am )

A: I’ve never had a bad word to say about Hilary Mantel. Although she did suggest I should be chained up, which is a bit friggin’ weird, right? But actually, she is currently acting as a direct mentor for my latest project, so you could say we’re presently collaborating…


Q (from @alexpheby aka Dr Alex): Francis, there's a wet patch in the corridor outside my office. It's not anything to do with you, is it?

A: Ha, ha! Lovely to hear from you, Dr. Alex! Here I am, doing a live web chat! I’m always doing these sort of things. All this literary stuff, in the literary world. Literary chatting. Chat, chat, chat! Ha, ha! Sorry, I think I’m running out of words and syllables to answer your….


Q: Which came first, your love of booze or your love of books? (@LindaNathan)

A: I think they’re best together, right? At least in terms of writing the books (you can go a bit cross-eyed when trying to read them). I enjoy a drink, and so if I drink when I write, then the writing is enjoyable too, if you get my drift…


Q: Which titan of modern Irish literature would win in a fight? Banville or Barry? (@mePadraigReidy)

A: It would have to be Banville, given he is also a superhero, but only when donning his mask, as Benjamin Black. Although, maybe when Sebastian Barry is Barry Sebastian, he might have laser eyes. Or Wolverine claws.


Q: This fellow I met at a bus stop wonders how one could apply to be your apprentice/Sancho Panza, and what duties the role entails. (@SteveHimmer)

A: I like buses too. Which bus were you waiting for? Was it a sperm whale or a right whale? Can you ask my assistant to manage my schedule, because, to be honest, I have no friggin’ clue what’s going on half the time.


Q: Dear Francis, as well as making me laugh your latest book also made me sad; you do seem a bit cross at the state of the world – and the UK especially. Do you think we live in an unkind society, and what can we do to help things?

A: There’s certainly a decent share of dickheads around at the moment. Pushing in at the bar, waving their cards around, even though you were waiting first. You can ignore them, but I’ve started saying, ‘Oi! Don’t be a dickhead all your life!’


Q: Dear Francis, my wine drinking at book readings game has been a bit off recently. Haven't got into a heated debate with a Tory in ages. Any pointers/words of encouragement for a slightly jaded literary groupie? Kind wishes, Fay. (@fayblock)

A: It’s because they’ve started charging for drinks at book events, that’s my theory. What’s the point of that? Do they expect us to go and just see an author talking? Hello? No one in their right mind is going to do that!


Q: Who has been the funniest author you have met and why? (@RFHunt1)

A: I met Dan Rhodes once. He’s very funny indeed. Also, Jeffrey Archer. He was hilarious. Oh my word. I could not stop laughing when I saw Jeffrey Archer. He has a gift, that man. My poor sides. He got a bit angry about that, Jeffrey Archer. Did I laugh at the wrong bits?


Q: In an ideal world, who'd write your biography? (@tjcarlisle)

A: Not Samuel Bloody Peeps, that's for sure. Maybe Boris Johnson? He managed to research and write a sizeable tome about Winston Churchill when he was in office as Mayor of London, so he could easily dash out a biography about a minor, no-frills writer who just sits in the pub all day, in his capacity as MP. Right?

 ... Erm ...

 ... Just had one last message from Francis... 

He says: ‘Oh no. I’ve been asked to leave the Internet cafe. Sorry if I couldn’t answer everyone’s questions. But who would have thought that you can’t have a laugh, and a drink and a sing-along in a friendly public internet cafe...?’

So, that’s it, for today. Sorry if we didn’t get to your question... But thank you to everyone! Those questions were great. It was a lot of fun. Watch out for Francis posters in our store soon. And I hope you’ve been enjoying the novel. Isn’t he great?!

If You’d like to find out more about Francis, you can read his special Galley Beggar playlist here and read the first chapter of Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author here. For those looking for two excellent books to read, pick up How To Be A Public Author here, Writer In Residence here, or treat yourself to a 3-book Paul Ewen special bundle, here.