David Nicholls is well-known for writing about love, relationships and the family dynamic without necessarily giving the reader the schmaltzy, predictable, happy ending that they often seek. He tells the audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival that he certainly believes that this is why he hasn’t managed to crack the film market yet, something he is keen to do in the future.
But he is not really here to talk about future projects, he is here to talk about his latest novel Sweet Sorrow which he openly admits is his favourite to date, the one he has always wanted to write.
Sally Magnusson chairs today’s event which will be broadcast on Radio Scotland this Sunday (25thAugust 2019) and they make a perfect pairing on stage. Magnusson gently probing Nicholls about his interest in father/son relationships, Nicholls responding with an articulate, quiet approach that makes him intensely likeable to the literary fans who have packed out the main theatre for the event.
Sweet Sorrow was published last month – the perfect summer read. It tells a story of first love with all the awkwardness and uncertainty that teenagers carry. Protagonist, Charlie Lewis, is unsure of his future and with his summer holidays stretching out in front of him, and only his father for company, he takes to cycling into the countryside and reading for solace. One afternoon he meets Fran and reluctantly ends up joining a drama group to try and get closer to her, taking him on a journey of self-discovery he could not have imagined possible on the day he left school.
Nicholls wanted to explore those awkward teenage years saying: “For boys, 16 is an age when there is a kind of noise, a kind of clamour and showing off that conceals something a little sadder, more melancholy. I wanted to write about the tenderness and the anxiety and the loneliness of being that age.” In Sweet Sorrow he does just that, the older Charlie Lewis looking back on his teenage years with an honesty and openness central to Nicholls characters.
The popular author is not sure what he will write next – the books come to him and have to be fully fledged ideas before Nicholls will put pen to paper. He gives a fascinating insight into how he writes his novels keeping a kind of scrapbook initially and jotting down descriptions, conversations and ideas that he hopes will eventually knit together to become a fully formed piece. He encourages anyone who wants to write to get everything onto paper first and then cut, paste and edit when it is all there.
Just as his books are difficult to put down so too could the audience listen to David Nicholls all day but alas, his hour is up. Tune in to BBC Radio Scotland this Sunday if you want to listen once more (or for the first time) to this engaging author.