When Joe Cawley isn't living the dream on a tropical island, he writes award-winning books. If you read his books, however, it becomes clear that pursuing his dream wasn't easy. Packed with humor and adventures, More Ketchup than Salsa tells a fascinating story. As our Author of the Day, Cawley tells us more about his book, his secret skills and and reveals what we can expect from him next.
Please give us a short introduction to what More Ketchup than Salsa is about.
More Ketchup than Salas is the true tale of a reckless quest for a better life overseas by swapping careers on a cold British fish market for life as bar owners overseas. It would have gone so much better if my partner and I had had the slightest inkling of what we were doing.
It’s a funny Bill Bryson-esque travel memoir, a portrayal of expat life in a holiday resort, and a portrait of what happens to a relationship when the pressures of working together in such a demanding trade reach a breaking point.
Which aspect of living as an expat has been the most challenging to you?
Definitely the language. I’d like to think I speak ‘okay’ Spanish, but there are times when ranting freely is hindered by my colloquial incapacity.
Although you have been through rough times, judging by your book, you describe the situations with a lot of humor. Why did you take this approach?
In many situations, laughter was our only friend. Like when an apartment we were looking after was taken over by East European prostitutes – oh how we laughed; or when a meddling expat blew up our gas container – hilarious! Seriously though, a lot of the catastrophes that befell us were brought on by our own ineptitude and inexperience. British humor is often based on self-deprecation, and this was the perfect setting. Also, I think the book would have been less entertaining if it was just a series of self-admonishments.
If someone should offer you to take over their restaurant on a different tropical island - without paying a cent - would you jump at the opportunity to do it all over again?
I’d jump at the opportunity to run the other way. I’ve done my time behind bars. Never again! It’s too much work, too draining, and seriously harmful for your health and relationships.
Do you feel that you have romanticised the restaurant business more than you should have before taking this on?
I don’t think it was a question of romanticising it. It was more a case of not having a clue what to expect. Our youthful naivety, combined with a desperation to escape dreary days filleting fish and gutting chicken was the reason we signed on the dotted line without thinking the whole damn thing through.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I play the drums.
What do you hope people take away from this book?
That chasing your dreams is no straight path. But, if you’re prepared to work at it, and overcome the many, many obstacles, you can forge a better life for yourselves – eventually.
How does the second book in the series tie in with this one?
Whereas More Ketchup than Salsa tells of the first six months of calamities in The Smugglers Tavern, the second book, The Final Dollop, is a continuation of the journey right through to the end of our catering career. It’s a slightly darker book, as our relationship finally cracked after years of working together. But hopefully, people will also appreciate the humor in the additional escapades.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I’m working on the third in the Ketchup series, which basically joins the dots in the journey from running the bar on a sub-tropical island to chasing bears and wolves in the forests of Transylvania.
I’m also dipping a toe in the fiction pool by co-writing a thriller with another author here on Tenerife. There’s also a spin-off fictional series from More Ketchup on the cards, and TV interest in putting Ketchup on the small screen.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
If readers want to see some embarrassing photos from my bar days, they can leave their email address here and I’ll send some pronto.