The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

In search of Spanish paradise, Joe Cawley finds his salsa in the writing life

Hands up, anyone who’s ever thought of jacking it all in — running away to a paradise island, opening a bar and living the easy life?

I know I have. So many times! Thank God I didn’t, though, because Joe Cawley got there first and wrote a book about it — and in the process discovered that the easy life is not quite as idyllic as you’d imagine. In fact, it was terrifying!

Joe’s book, More Ketchup Than Salsa: Confessions of a Tenerife Barman, is a hilarious account of his decision to trade in working in a cold fish market in Bolton, Lancashire, England, for running a bar in the sunshine of Tenerife, the largest and most populous of Spain’s Canary Islands. Accompanied by his girlfriend, Joy, Joe anticipates a paradise of sea, sand and siestas — but instead ends up with a life of chaos, full of crazy locals, irritating expats, gangsters, con men, and the endless nightmare of Spanish bureaucracy.

It’s a great book, and I loved it.

Today we’re lucky enough to feature an interview with Joe that was published the week before last on the excellent writing blog Woman On The Edge Of Reality. Linda Parkinson-Hardman is that edgy woman, and she has very graciously allowed me to share this interview with you — because Joe Cawley is a hero of mine! By the end of this, I’m sure he’ll be one of yours, too!!

Here’s Linda:

In More Ketchup than Salsa, Joe had me laughing so hard that I spilled a cup of tea all over the bed. His tale of travelling from Bolton Fish Market to Tenerife, Costa del Bognor, opens up the can of worms that most of us never even consider when we are sitting sipping coffee on a terrace and dreaming. His daily battles with cockroaches, the local mafia, animals and the never-ending variety of people that stepped through his door, was the wake-up call I needed to think again about what it was I might just do if I ever decided to take the plunge and live abroad. This is the perfect book to take on holiday with you especially if you are already planning to make that move.

Hello, Joe, and welcome to the hot seat. As you know, I start every interview off with the same question: “What is one thing that no one would usually know about you?”
That I was once appeared as an alien in a US TV commercial for Chevrolet. Not the proudest moment of my life, or the most comfortable. I had to stand outside in 100 degree heat painted from head to toe in silver and wearing a silicone head extension. I’ve looked better.

What did the best review you ever had say about you and your work?
That More Ketchup than Salsa was: “Fantastic, hilarious, painful. Completely un-put-downable. Probably the best book I have read this millennium!” And no, it wasn’t written by me. Or my mother. (Linda’s Aside: I have to agree, it was brilliant and I’m looking forward to a sequel.)

How did you choose a title for your book?
I was at the Carnival in Tenerife watching lithe Latinos strutting their stuff to the salsa beats. A pocket of Brits were trying to copy, but their movements were all over the place and sloppy. I thought it looked more like ketchup than salsa.

Have you ever wished that you could be or do anything else instead of writing, and if so what?
Absolutely not. I love it…best job in the world. Although if pushed, I’d say drummer in a rock band. I nearly got there with that one but was foiled by a bowl of sugar, a broken tooth and an over-zealous immigration official.

Have you ever written naked?
Hell yeah! I often wake up in the middle of the night with some inspired idea for a chapter. And not being one for pyjamas, I’ll sit butt naked at my desk and write for hours while my dog gives me quizzical looks. I try to finish up before the postman arrives though.

Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?
Write. The difference between “aspiring writers” and “writers” is that the latter have finished something.

What has been the best experience you have ever had in your life?
Apart from having two gorgeous kids, I’d have to say sleeping in an open-sided hut in the Peruvian Amazon while a tropical lightning storm exploded all around me.

Are you jealous of other writers?
Not jealous, but definitely inspired. D. H. Lawrence was my first inspiration. I just love the way he paints with words. Bill Bryson was my second. In fact I’m inspired by any author who has great success. It makes me think there’s no reason why I can’t do it.

What was the most important thing you learned at school?
Kissing girls who wear braces can be painful. (Linda’s Aside: Oh dear, I was one of those girls!)

What is the book that you wished you had written?
The Bible. Though I’d have included full-page photos. It would make it seem all that more believable.

Tea, coffee, water, juice, wine or beer: which do you prefer when writing?
Water while writing during the day, wine for creative stints in the evening. And maybe the odd Jack Daniels and Coke or single malt if I’m feeling very pleased with myself.

* * *

So, readers, any further questions for Joe — especially from an expat or travel perspective?

You can meet Joe online on his author site; you can also read his work in The Sunday Times, Telegraph, Independent, Express, New York Post, and Taipei Times; and/or you can join him on Twitter: @theWorldofJoe

You can also download the book onto your Kindle from More Ketchup than Salsa from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

What are you waiting for? You’ve still got two weeks of summer left! And thanks again to Linda for letting us share this awesome interview.

STAY TUNED for a guest post tomorrow from long-time friend of the Displaced Nation, cultural writer/producer Anastasia Ashman.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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3 responses to “In search of Spanish paradise, Joe Cawley finds his salsa in the writing life

  1. Linda August 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for reblogging, it was a pleasure hosting Joe on the blog and I thought his answers were brilliant – just like the book really :-)

    • Tony James Slater August 23, 2012 at 12:08 am

      Yeah, absolutely! And thanks again for letting me re-blog this here. I’m super-keen to share the word about Joe’s book, as it’s one of my favourites – and this interview just shows he’s as amusing in real life as he is in the book! That’s the best kind of author, one you feel you could really have a laugh with over a beer – just as long as he’s cleared the cockroaches out of the bar first…
      And I must say, your own site is fascinating as well! I was just reading your post on making a social media schedule:
      http://womanontheedgeofreality.com/2012/08/22/creating-a-social-media-schedule/
      – and it made me chuckle, because you are every bit as anal about this as I am! I honestly thought I was the only one to make spreadsheets to keep track of my Social Media chores!! Of coure, you go one better (presumably) by actually using them, whereas mine have sat their unloved on my desktop since I spent half a day making them all…
      Great stuff! :0)

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