Novelising the social issues of expats

Gus Duffy with his recently published novel about expats.
Gus Duffy with his recently published novel about expats. / T. BRYANT
  • A new book focuses on the frustrations of five foreign residents in Fuengirola

“When you try to escape from your problems, they are the first things you pack,” claims a new book by British author, Gus Duffy.

The Estepona-based writer has just released his first novel, A Little Bit of the Moon, a book set in Fuengirola that focuses on the social issues of a group of five expats from very different backgrounds.

Gus, who came to live in Spain in 2014, set the book in Fuengirola because it was where he first set up home on the coast.

Born in Harrow, NW London, in 1982, Gus came to Spain with his wife (a former teacher) in search of a stress-free life, having tired of trying to make ends meet in London.

They both quickly adapted to the quality of life they could afford on the coast, but Gus, like so many before him, struggled with the language and found it difficult integrating into Spanish society.

“I wasn't very good at languages at school and I haven't grasped the language here, even though I know that I should have, but I will persevere and try to become more integrated,” the 36-year-old writer says with conviction.

His association with the expat society in Fuengirola fuelled his drive to write the novel, as the characters are loosely based on some of the people he had met. However, the story is inspired by the songs of British Ska band, Missing Andy. The title of the novel is a line from one of the group's hits. The band's songs focus on working class issues, like domestic violence, an issue that plays a large part in the novel. Gus, who is a big fan of the band, felt compelled to write about the normal everyday issues of expat life on the coast, rather than the falsified stereotypical image.

The author is keen to point out that something like domestic abuse happens to all sorts of people, “not just the typecast victims we see on television”.

The book is set around the fictitious Gloria's Bar and focuses on the frustrations of five different people who must learn from their past mistakes to confront their futures.

“The characters are based on the diverse groups of people that one finds in Spain. At home we tend to mix with people in our own circle, but here, as expats, we mix with people that we would probably not have mixed with before,” Gus says.

This is his first published work. He originally tried his hand at play writing and even though he had his work considered by the Finborough Theatre in London, a career as a playwright did not materialise.

“I hit that point in my life where I had been doing a job to just to pay the rent and survive, and I wanted to make a change. When I was small I loved to write stories, which was the only thing I was confident with, and so I started writing scripts. After I had been knocked back a couple of times, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel, which my wife thought was a good idea,” Gus explains.

Gus's wife used her teaching skills to edit and proofread the book and although she was critical, she encouraged her husband because she believed he had unveiled the true identity of the foreign community on the coast.

“Being an expat is more than moving abroad, it is like an identity. No two expats are alike and the only thing they do have in common is the fact that they are expats,” he says.”

He feels that the expat residents of the Costa del Sol have never been truly depicted in a novel and he believes that his new book tackles subjects that are not normally explored.

“I might have got a little close to the truth for some expats, but it is something I feel strongly about. We all think that people who suffer from domestic abuse are a particular type of person, but this affects people from all walks of life, even the ones we least expect,” Gus concludes.

Little Bit of the Moon is available from Amazon.