‘Actors helped with my writing’

David Nicholls
David Nicholls
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Eastleigh-born writer David Nicholls will be back in his home town tomorrow for a talk at The Point.

The author and screenwriter will discuss his work, including new novel Us, ahead of a screening of the film adaptation of his best-selling novel One Day.

As well as themes of art, science and Europe, David describes Us as a comedy, ‘a road trip about people in their middle age trying to hold on to the idea of family and the idea of “us”.’

Us tells the tale of Douglas Petersen, a 54-year-old industrial biochemist. His wife Connie tells him their 24-year marriage is over after recently booking their final family holiday, a grand European tour, before son Albie goes to university.

‘The last novel I wrote [One Day] was about people in their 20s and 30s – that time of life where you are entering the adult world and you are trying to work out who you are. It was a funny, sad love story and I was keen to write something in that vein but an emotional sequel, a what-happens-next when you are a bit older and you have a family,’ says David.

Although David says that his books are never really autobiographical, he was inspired by his own tour of the continent.

‘When I was publicising One Day I spent a lot of time travelling round Europe, snatching moments to see the sights. I wanted to write about travel and the British abroad, about the great European cities.

‘Doing the tour was great, but for two years I had lots of distractions and I never like to spend too long away from writing. It is this weird business of sitting down by yourself and clacking away at a keyboard.’

David has a track record for writing screen-friendly novels – two of the four he has written have appeared on the big screen. So who would he cast in Us the film?

‘I do have a couple of actors in mind but I always keep it to myself. I don’t want to plant an image in people’s minds, I want them to imagine the characters. That’s why authors don’t like having faces on their books,’ he says.

An Audience With David Nicholls is part of the Eastleigh Library’s 25th anniversary celebrations, and is a place close to David’s heart.

‘I spent three or four nights a week for a great chunk of my childhood in the library, hiding in the stacks and reading everything I could find, so I’m here to acknowledge that debt really. Eastleigh library was massively important to me, almost as much as my school.’

David attended Toynbee School and Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, a few years after fellow alumni Colin Firth. The pair ended up working on a film together called And When Did You Last See Your Father?

‘I have written six films and that was the one I liked the most, Colin was fantastic in it. We reminisced a lot about Barton Peveril – we shared an English and drama teacher called Penny Edwards and she was a big inspiration to both of us.’

While David confesses he would be too attached to his novels to adapt them for the stage, he does have experience treading the boards.

‘I went and lived in New York for a while and trained to be an actor. I was always a bit of a disaster really; it’s something I’m nostalgic about but glad I have escaped. Watching brilliant actors perform, taking notes on how good scenes begin and where scenes end – this was all good training for my writing.’

David Nicholls is at The Point tomorrow at 3pm. Tickets: £8, (023) 8065 2333 thepointeastleigh.co.uk