Author David Nicholls“Often when you write a novel, you’re writing a kind of worst-case scenario.”  

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Maggie Doyle has a bit of a bone to pick with author David Nicholls. He’s made her cry and broken her heart on more than one occasion, even though they only met for the first time on The Ryan Tubridy Show this morning. In fairness, their chat starts off with an apology from the author, which Maggie is happy to accept. Nicholls, the author best known for his smash-hit novel, One Day, joined Maggie in studio to talk about his new book, Sweet Sorrow, (a “beautiful story”, according to Maggie), a tale of young love. Is any of it based on his own life? Maggie wondered.

“There’s very little autobiography, but there is a certain kind of emotional memory, a kind of recalling of how it felt to be that age.”

Sweet Sorrow tells the story of Charlie, who’s just finished school and sees his summer stretching out in front of him when he has a chance encounter with Fran and decides, as David put it, to fall in love with her. The problem is, she’s acting in a production of Romeo and Juliet, so the only way he’ll get to spend time with her is if he takes part in the production as well.

“And he’s horrified at the idea of acting. He thinks it’s all ridiculous, he doesn’t understand Shakespeare, but it’s going to be required if he’s going to see her.”

David wanted to write about how plays are put on, how intense and emotional it is. But he didn’t want it to be precious or overly-serious, he wanted it to be funny and warm. And it gave him a big cast of characters to play with.

“The love story is at the centre of it, but there’s a whole ensemble of different characters and different relationships, too.”

And one of those other relationships is the one between Charlie and his father, who’s suffering from depression. David’s own son is 13 and Maggie again wondered if there was any part of David’s own relationship with his father in Charlie and his dad, but again, no, it’s all made up. In fact, it’s the opposite of autobiographical, in a way:

“Often when you write a novel, you’re writing a kind of worst-case scenario, you’re writing a kind of nightmare vision of everything you don’t want to happen.”

The new book is Sweet Sorrow, published by Hodder. Maggie and David also talked about his other books – one of which, Us, is currently being filmed – as well as his screenwriting (Cold Feet, Patrick Melrose, among others) and they even touched on Love Island.  And you can hear it all, as well as the rest of The Ryan Tubridy Show, here:

© The Listener 2019

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