If you were looking back over a hundred years of your life what would you change? This is the conundrum Richard Lumsden posed his wonderfully drawn lead character, in his beautiful, yet melancholy recent novel ‘’The Six Loves of Billy Binns’’.
Richard is an English actor, composer, and musician, having performed in such diverse TV shows including Foggy in First of the Summer Wine, Henry in Sugar Rush and Martin in The Catherine Tate Show, as well as EastEnders. His film credits include the classic Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility and Gordon in James Rouse’s Downhill.
But its Billy Binns that really resonated with me. A poignant heartfelt uplifting novel that reminds us what it is like to love and be loved in all its different forms. Join us as we chat through Richard’s love of London, his writing process (a labour of love over many years), and what motivated him to write such magical book.
This is Your London Legacy.
“You always need something else to come in – and I’ve always described as having7 plates spinning, six of which will always come crashing down. You just don’t know which is the one that will stay up.”
Richard was around 30 when the idea for The Six Loves of Billy Binns started rattled about in his mind. In musing over old photographs in the library—a story began to come to him about a elderly man trying to recall the six major loves of his life, telling his life story through each relationship. However, the research involved surrounding World War I was too daunting, so after he had finished the first part with Billy as a young man Richard put the writing on pause. For 16 years.
“I would hope that every time—if you are lucky enough to experience love with somebody—that that love is very different from the previous times you’ve experienced it.”
As you could imagine, spending so many years pondering love and relationships and the roller coaster passage of life—Richard has quite wonderful points of view on love, relationships, and writing. From a story point of view he wanted Billy to have a different kind of love and experience in each of his relationships. This undoubtedly forms some twists, a key point of writing for Richard and plot points we all encounter at some point along our lives.
While some writers pour ink onto the page without any idea of where things are going, Richard takes a different approach—plotting out the main story beats, with room for characters to veer off path for a while, so long as they end up where he’s guiding them. How interesting things would be if we could do that for ourselves. Billy is filled with a wondrous sense of humour (likely coming from Richard himself) and like everyone else, he isn’t perfect. I found myself hoping the best for Billy even when he makes mistakes, big and little, as we all must learn how to forgive others and ourselves for doing the same.
The Six Loves of Billy Binns was one of my favourite reads as of late, and absolutely loved talking in depth with Richard about the book, life, and of course—London.