Get to know… Jonathan Izard

Hello. A little about me, you say? Well, I’ve been an actor and a broadcast journalist (BBC and LBC newsreader, DJ at Melody FM). I spent twenty years as a psychotherapist in private practice seeing clients with a variety of issues, working with couples, facilitating groups and teaching. In December 2019 I closed my therapy practice and left the BBC in order to be able to write and travel. A month later Covid arrived, making travel impossible but writing more possible. Since then I have written a lot in various genres and now, when asked, ‘What do you do?’ I confidently say, ‘I’m a writer.’

I had a novel published by HarperCollins many years ago and thought I’d arrived. I hadn’t. It was a revolving door and my literary career ended as soon as it had begun. A few years ago I published an e-book. I’ve co-written plays and a musical that have had a certain success. Recently a documentary I made for BBC Radio 4 about post-traumatic stress won the Radio Academy ARIA award for Best Factual Storytelling.

It was all a bit stop and start. Frustrating. My partner asked how much ‘you know, actual training’ I’d done for a writing career. Um, not much. I’d followed my instinct and hoped it would be enough. Realising my naivety, last year I applied for a screenwriting course at UEA. I was rejected and told that the extract I’d submitted was ‘not dramatic enough.’ The following week the screenplay won an award at a film festival in New York. It, and another, have since won various other accolades. As William Goldman said, ‘Nobody knows anything.’

I took a course at City Lit which was OK, but then discovered the Editing and Submission course with Jenny Parrott on the Writing Room website. Those few weeks were an absolute inspiration, full of wise words, encouragement and honest feedback. It was a real haven of professional insights and support. I can’t praise it – and Jenny – too highly.

I’m a writer. I write. A lot. Who was it who said, ‘The first rule of writing is to get your bum on the seat’? I agree. Face the page/screen and do it: word by word by word. And then cut quite a lot of them.

I was given a gift of some workshops and realised that I had a blind spot about short stories; didn’t read or write them. I took a course with Domestika and discovered that I enjoy that discipline too, focussing on small details of people’s lives, wondering ‘what if..?’ I’m currently working on a second draft of a new novel called Life Before Death about surviving childhood sexual abuse. The opening section is below. I have a website ( to showcase my work across various platforms: fiction, non-fiction, audiobook, journalism, broadcasting.

I’m in the process of trying to get a literary agent. Querying, as it’s become known. Sending work out, having it rejected or ignored. But still believing, still curious, still crafting. Still wondering ‘what if..?’ and getting my bum on the seat.

Well, that’s me. Tell me about yourself.

Chapter One

Peter Wilkins looked at the body on the floor and thought, ‘How come he’s still alive?’
‘How come you’re still alive?’ He spoke in a low mutter.   
‘It’s no thanks to you, you useless waste of space.’
‘Oh, you heard that, did you?’ said Peter.
‘There’s nothing wrong with my hearing. Now help me up, you bastard.’
‘I won’t if you call me names.’
‘It’s your job. Get me back into my chair.’
‘Have you broken anything? Your neck, maybe?’ he said, bending to pick up the scattered objects: glasses, saucer, cup – empty now its contents had spilled onto the carpet. The stain wouldn’t show on that pattern. ‘What were you doing anyway, trying to charge about?’
‘I was not charging. I haven’t charged for twenty years. You’re a cruel one, you are. I wish Georgie was here to look after me.’
‘So do I, Dad, so do I. But she fucked off to avoid having to wipe your arse, didn’t she, eh?’ 
Peter rolled his father onto his back, helped him to sit up and squatted behind him, hands under his armpits. 
‘Ready? Tuck your feet under. One, two, three…’ 
He lifted his father to a wobbly standing position. A manoeuvre he’d carried out hundreds of times. For a few seconds  there was an odd intimacy in the proximity of their bodies and an uncomfortable reminder of the reversal of their roles. The parent reduced to childlike, the son promoted to parental. Neither wanted this. Peter tried not to breath in the pungent odour, not to see the blackheads on his neck, not to notice how flimsy and fragile his father’s body was. Everything about this unsettled him. It would also touch him deeply if he allowed it to, but he banished that possibility with the same vigour he used to discard the daily incontinence pads. 
‘Where were you going this time, you old fool?’ Peter steered him to the mustard-coloured wingback chair, lowered him gently and put a cushion behind his back. He moved items on the side table a bit closer. 
‘What? Speak up. You mumble all the time.’
‘I said, where were you racing off to?’
‘Don’t shout, I’m not deaf. I wanted the paper for the crossword. You know I like the crossword in the morning.’ 
‘Could you not have waited until I came in to say cheerio?’
‘I thought I could manage.’ He changed his tone. ‘I wanted to manage.’
‘Look, Dad, how many – ’ 
‘I don’t want to be a burden, Peter.’
‘Well, it’s a bit late for that, isn’t it?’ He crossed the room, brought the Express to his father and checked to see if there was a pencil on the table. ‘Will I get you a tea before I set off?’ He checked his watch. He was already late leaving and after today he wouldn’t have another chance to be on time. 
‘Yes or no?’
‘Don’t rush me. You’re always rushing me.’
‘I have a job to go to.’
‘Job, that’s no job, shuffling papers and – ’
‘Not this again.’
‘Brickie, that’s a job. Chippy. Plumber. Where you’ve got something to show at the end of a day’s work. What do you have to prove you’ve even been there, eh?’
‘A day’s pay is what I have. And nicely shuffled papers. No tea, then?’
‘Oh you’re refusing to make me a cuppa now? You’re a cruel child. I wish Georgia was here instead of you.’
Peter managed for the umpteenth time that week to resist walloping his father. Or holding a pillow over his face. Or raging at him with all the pent-up fury he carried inside like an overdue pregnancy. He made tea in the large mug with blue stripes. He knew that if he used the wrong one he’d get an earful. Plenty of milk, full fat. Not too full or it would spill and scald. Again. 
‘Right. Tea there. Biscuits in the tin next to you. Don’t eat too many.’
‘What sort are they?’
‘I don’t know. Look in the bloody tin.’
‘Don’t swear. You’ve got a foul tongue in your head. Your mother never liked you swearing.’
‘Well, if she tells me to stop, I will.’
‘Don’t be crackers. You know she’s six feet under. Are you losing your marbles? How will I cope if you go doolally?’
‘Oh, you’ll get some other victim to dance around you. I have to go, Dad. The carers will be here in half an hour to get you dressed. And the next lot at one to make your lunch. OK?’
‘Who is it today?’
‘I have no idea.’
‘I hope it’s Maureen. I like Maureen. Or that other one. She’s Polish but she’s very nice. Warm hands.’
‘Good grief, I’m not going to ask.’
‘I don’t like the dark chappie. I can’t understand what he says half the time.’ 
‘Don’t call him that. His name is Junaid. I’m off. Today’s my big day. I’ll see you later.’
‘Why big?’
‘Because after today… Oh, never mind. Be good, and if you can’t be good…’
‘Be careful,’ his father said. 
Peter put a hand on his father’s shoulder, bony even through the thick dressing gown, and bent towards him, wondering if today would be the day he’d be able almost-spontaneously to give him a goodbye kiss. 
It wasn’t. He squeezed the top of his father’s arm and left the room. He was already late for work.