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Turning Forty - Q and A with best-selling author Mike Gayle

Reaching the age of forty is a landmark in our lives, and it's a subject the latest novel from the hugely popular author Mike Gayle explores. High-flier Matt Beckford expected to have his life sorted out by the time he got to forty, but instead finds himself out of a job, separated from his wife and living with his parents.

Matt turns to the past and a previous relationship to look for a solution, but soon discovers that things have changed while he's been away - and that other people have moved on too.

Mike Gayle captures the emotions of turning forty perfectly - but his latest novel is an enjoyable read that manages to leave you chuckling rather than feeling depressed about getting older and it's a perfect holiday novel.

We're delighted that Mike agreed to talk to Contented Baby about his work.

What inspired you to write Turning Forty?

I was mainly inspired by getting older! I wanted to write a book that captured some of the concerns of my friends and I as we approached this milestone birthday. When you're young forty seems like a whole lifetime away, and then you blink and suddenly somehow you look at the calendar and discover that the years have flown by and that the big four-oh is coming your way.

The book is a sequel to your earlier novel Turning Thirty - had you always intended to return to those characters at some point?

Funnily enough when I wrote Turning Thirty I never thought for a moment that I'd see those characters again, but then again when I was thirty, forty seemed like a lifetime away! The older I got and the more things that happened in my life and those of friends the more I began to realise that actually Matt's story is a long way from being finished.

Why do you think turning forty is such a significant event?

I think it's because we imagine forty to be the tipping point, the point at which we're no longer officially young. I remember on my own fortieth thinking how weird it was that it twenty years had elapsed since I was twenty. It didn't seem to make any sense. Also, there's a sense that at forty, whether you like it or not, you're officially a grown up and for a generation that's grown up thinking that they'll be young forever it's a bit of a shocker to realise that we're supposed to be the responsible ones! Obviously, it's different for each individual but every now and again when I'm telling off the kids and I catch myself thinking, "How can I possibly be turning into my Dad when I like Daft Punk and playing video games?" More than all this however it's the sense of being at the halfway point in life that makes you wonder if you should check your map just to make sure you're going in the right direction.

The theme of trying to return to the past or recapture your youth emerges in the novel. but you deal with this very sympathetically - do you think we have a tendency to see the past through rose-tinted spectacles as we approach forty?

Absolutely, I think we idealise the past because it made such a strong impression on us. Everything we did back in our youth was the first time: whether it was going to the pub or falling in love, and I think that the first time you do anything is hard to forget. That said, you do tend to be selective about the bits you choose to remember and the bits that you'd much rather forget! I think for Matt, he simply wants to recapture that feeling of knowing who you are and what you want.

From My Legendary Girlfriend to Turning Thirty and now Turning Forty, do your novels follow your own path through life?

I suppose they do to a degree. The books are all about growing up and dealing with the problems that life throws at you. Generally speaking my characters have been getting older with me, mainly because I think it's getting older in such an interesting subject. Each year you get older brings new experiences and new ways of seeing the world that I feel like I want to get them all down on paper.

Your books have sometimes been labelled as 'chick lit' - how do you feel about this as a male author?

It doesn't bother me at all. It's a well read, much loved genre, that brings a lot of joy to a lot of people and contains some of the best selling authors of the last decade. Who wouldn't want to be aligned with a genre like that!

You do leave the reader longing to know what happens to Matt next - is there any chance that we may see him Turning Fifty at some point in the future?

I'd like to think so because I like Matt a lot and it would be great fun to find out where he would be in another ten years!
About the author:

Mike Gayle lives in Birmingham (which he regards as the greatest city in the world) with his wife and two children. Previously an agony uncle for Just Seventeen magazine, Mike has contributed to a number of publications including The Sunday Times, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, and has been a judge for the Costa Book Awards. Turning Forty is Mike's twelfth book and in total they have sold over a million copies in the UK. Follow Mike on twitter @mikegayle or visit www.mikegayle.co.uk

Turning Forty is published by Hodder and Stoughton at £12.99

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