Friday, October 19, 2007

Nick Hornby

Last night I skipped out of coaching (I'm just the assistant coach) my daughter's soccer practice, to go see one of my favorite writers at Brookline Booksmith--Nick Hornby. The event was actually held at the nearby school, and it was sold out--about 250 of us filled the auditorium (@ $5 a head).

Raymond Chandler famously said, "If you liked a book, don't meet the author." But Nick was as funny and witty as you'd expect him to be. And a terrific reader--he read for 20-25 minutes, though I think I prefer it when authors read from the beginning, rather than the middle of a book, because I don't like for them to give anything away.

The questions afterwards weren't particularly inspired, though it was interesting to get Hornby's thoughts on a possible takeover of Arsenal by a Russian oligarch (he's definitely against it). There was the requisite "what's your advice for young writers?" question. He wasn't particularly inspiring on this point--at first he just said, "Get an agent." Oh, thanks. But then he said "If you can quit, then you should. And if you can't, then you're a writer." Sound advice, but nothing new.

He did talk a bit about his process, which was interesting to me. He said he spends weeks or months trying to get a handle on the character's voice in his head, all before he starts writing. Then once he's got it, the book comes out as sort of an extended monologue. This is part of the appeal of his writing to me, the fluidity of these monologues (Long Way Down wove four different voices into one book). Part of the reason I wrote Tornado Siren in first person was that it felt like the smallest jump from writing plays. My new novel has two different first person narratives, but again, I feel like I can use my playwriting skills in a different medium. (I seem to recall elsewhere that Hornby was interested in writing plays as a young writer.)

I'm glad I went, and I'm already enjoying the new book, Slam. (I've got eight hours of bus rides in the next 48 hours, so I have a good chance of finishing it soon.)

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