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 Q&A with Nick Hornby, A LONG WAY DOWN
Posted: Nov 25 2006, 08:47 PM


Group: Admin
Posts: 40,913
Member No.: 1
Joined: 5-November 06


Originally posted on JDR:

11/14/05 at 12:15 PM

1) When writing a story, do you always know how you want the ending to be or do you decide as the story goes along?

Mr Hornby:

I don't know what's going to happen really in terms of narrative; I do know
the kind of tone I want the ending to have. I knew with this book, for
example, that I wanted the characters to live; I also wanted to convey the
feeling that their decision was a tentative, delicate one - the first tiny
buds of optimism, with no guarantee that the first breeze wouldn't blow them

2) Now that Infinitum Nihil will produce A LONG WAY DOWN, how involved will you be in the whole creative process? Are you the screenwriter for this film? If not you, do you know who is?

Mr. Hornby replies:

So far in my movie 'career', people have been nice to me, and wanted to
involve me in their thoughts and decisions. I don't want to adapt my books -
when I've finished writing them, I'm done with them, and the thought of
spending another couple of years taking apart the thing I've just spent a
couple of years putting together fills me with horror. But producers,
including Johnny, in this case, tend to email me with their ideas, and ask
if I have any of my own. No screenwriter has been appointed as we speak.

3) What character in your book, A Long Way Down, do you see Johnny Depp playing if he decides to take an acting role in the film?

Mr Hornby replies:

I think you'd have to ask him this question. He could play either of the
male parts, though, I'm sure.

4) I hear you are a big fan of a USA band from Philly called Marah, what other US bands do you enjoy?

Mr Hornby answers:

A lot of stuff. I like Rhett Miller and the Old 97s, Ben Folds, the Pernice
Brothers, Brendan Benson, Kathleen Edwards, the Eels, Bright Eyes, Shelby
Lynne...I like songwriters. And singers. Singer/songwriters.

5) In your BBC Breakfast interview, you equated writing books to writing
music. How much music have you written? Would we know any of the music?

Mr. Hornby answers:

I've written no music. I just meant that it performed the same function for
me - or rather, as I don't write music, I imagine that it comes from the
same place in me as music does from musicians. The words are, I think,
supposed to convey feelings rather than ideas.

6) When you interviewed Bruce Springsteen for the Guardian you said:

"A Long Way Down was fuelled by coffee, Silk Cuts and Bruce (specifically, a 1978 live bootleg recording of 'Prove it all Night', which I listened to a lot on
the walk to my office as I was finishing the book)."

What was it about that piece that helped you finish, or maybe a better phrase would be, what about it put you in the right frame of being to finish A

Mr Hornby replies:

For a start it has fantastic, angry energy - the long, long introduction,
with the piano and then the ginormous, beastly guitar. And then - and I
don't want to be pretentious or overdramatic, but I fear it might be
unavoidable - Springsteen's little spoken intro, about saying his prayers is
inspirational for me. It's a long job, writing a book. And you really do
have to prove it all night, every night. Or in my case, all day. Every day.

7) What was the last bit of music you listened to before opening, or while reading this email?

Mr Hornby replies:

She Loves You, by the Beatles. My kids....They have to listen to it thirty
times a day at the moment.

8) Can you please tell us about the song your wrote for William Shatner
and how can we hear it?

Mr Hornby answers:

It's on Shatner's album 'Has-Been', which came out last year. Ben Folds
emailed me and asked me if I wanted to contribute anything, and I submitted
a couple of lyrics, and they liked one of them. It's about an extremely bad
father who's been out of touch with his kids for decades, and wants to meet
up - but he doesn't want to talk about any difficult stuff.

9) In your job as a teacher, did you have any students like Jess and how
did you deal with them? Did you decide what happened to Jess's sister or
is it a mystery to you too?

Mr. Hornby answers:

Yeah, I had two or three Jesses. I didn't deal with them very well. But
they went in very deep, and I never forgot them - mostly, I think, because I
learned something about writing from them. Wherever they went, things
happened, and they could definitely start a fight in an empty room, as we
say here. And that, of course, is exactly what you're looking for as a
novelist - you need people who you can just follow around and write down
everything they do.

Jess's sister: nah, I don't know. I know less than Jess knows, and she
doesn't know either.

10) Are any of the characters in A LONG WAY DOWN modeled after people you

Mr. Hornby replies:

Well, Jess, a little - see above. And JJ...Well, he wasn't really modelled
on anyone I know. But once I knew various things about him - that he was
American, that he read a lot, that his band played kind of rootsy, souly
music - I realised he was beginning to resemble a friend of mine. So I
warned the friend in question. He was cool about it. That happens sometimes.
You imagine a character from nothing, but once you have imagine him fully,
you see that he isn't so different from someone you might know. And this
isn't because you have unconsciously modelled your character on someone
real; it's because many of us correspond to a type, despite our personal

11) Did you have an opportunity to discuss your book with Johnny Depp and get his view on it's content?

Mr Hornby replies:
We've had email exchanges. He's been very nice about it. I think he gets why
I wanted to write it.

12) Since suicide is such a difficult topic for so many people, what was your goal or mission on writing about these four characters who really, in the end, didn't want to jump?

Mr. Hornby answered:

My goal was to take people with real problems away from the dark and towards
the light. The older I get, the more I value books, films and pieces of
music that offer consolation to people whose lives might be difficult; for
me, there's too much art that goes the other way, wants to tell us that life
isn't worth living. I wanted to find realistic reasons why it might be.

13) Finally, what's up next for you?

Mr. Hornby replies:

I have a couple of screenplays of my own I'm working on. One's an original
screenplay that I've co-written with Emma Thompson; we're looking for a
director for that one. The other is an adaptation of someone's else's work -
it's a short autobiographical essay that the English journalist Lynn Barber
wrote for Granta, a literary magazine. And then I'm going to write a book
about and possibly for teenagers.

JDR thanks Mr. Hornby for taking the time to answer our questions and for being so flexible with us!

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