The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Hugo Driscoll

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Hugo Driscoll

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Summary: Sue thought that Seven Days With You was a quick but suprisingly deep read which looks sensitively at young love and terminal illness and that it's more uplifting than you might expect from that description! There was a lot to chat about when author Hugo Driscoll popped into Bookbag Towers.
Date: 12 May 2017
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Sue thought that Seven Days With You was a quick but suprisingly deep read which looks sensitively at young love and terminal illness and that it's more uplifting than you might expect from that description! There was a lot to chat about when author Hugo Driscoll popped into Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Hugo Driscoll: A lot of people! Beach bums! Heartbroken souls. Romance junkies. Teenagers. A wide variety, though I think Seven Days with You's readership will lean towards a female one as male readers can be put off by stories concerning love.

That said, a lot of my guy friends have revealed The Notebook is their favourite film. But they'd kill me if I ever said their names....

  • BB: What inspired you to write Seven Days With You?

HG: It was a combination of factors, but If I had to put my thumb on it, I’d say it eventually came down to two things. Firstly, I’d recently completed my first novel, which was, in no other words; irrecoverably bad. But it did prove that I could sit down and finish a story, so when I had a dream about someone I knew and loved, It spawned the idea of Seven Days with You. Only that time, I was determined to write well, rather than simply type my way to the finish line.

  • BB: What prompted you to set the story in the nineteen fifties and sixties, rather than the present day?

HG: That's a great question, and I thought long and hard about the merits of a present-day setting, but it just didn't feel right because I felt dating apps were making people less and less likely to fall in love. I'm keen to state, however, that I'm not condemning dating apps at all. Far from it. Many have found their partners on Tinder and its ilk. But the idea of setting it in a period free from such technology seemed incredibly appealing.

Also, if I'm totally honest, I'm a sucker for an old-fashioned love letter and was desperate to incorporate a certain amount of epistolary into the novel which I don't think would have been feasible- let alone realistic- had it been a modern-day setting. Though I suppose romantic WhatsApp messages could be explored in future novels...

  • BB: I loved the character of Sean Johnson. Is he based on anyone you know?

HG: Thank you! Sean isn’t based on anyone I know. All I wanted when I wrote his character was a relatable male protagonist because there a very few love stories that have normal men at their forefront. He isn’t 6ft 2 with long locks of hair. He doesn’t wear a leather jacket. Nor does he have underlying commitment issues. He’s just a guy who wants to be loved.

  • BB: You write very sensitively about terminal illness. Do you have experience of this? If not, how did you do your research?

HG: My grandfather suffered a quick death from cancer when I was around 14, and I vividly remember his gaunt appearance when visiting him one final time. It was haunting, but at the same time beautiful because he told me he had lived life on his terms and found someone he loved.

Of course, Sophia is a young character, and I was acutely aware that if not done well, I could be seen fetishizing terminal illness for the sake of a love story. It was a risk, but I didn't want to let that put me off. So I looked up forums online concerning young people dealing with cancer, and on the whole, the threads were awe-inspiringly positive and reminded me of the upbeat attitude my grandfather showed in his final days.

  • BB: What made you choose Paris for Sean and Sophia's bolt hole when they met after all those years apart?

HG: It just made sense. It's not too far from England. It's the City of Love. And then there's its literary history and spellbinding scenery. You've got the museums. The galleries. The libraries. It's a cultural delight, and culture played a prominent role in Sophia's life, and Sean knew that- It's what he loved about her.

There was also a Life magazine article chronicling early 1960s Paris which interested me. It wrote of a more bohemian lifestyle and had snaps of students playing guitars in attics and well-dressed locals drinking in local establishments until the early hours, and I immediately laughed and imagined Sean and Sophia being in those photos!

I think what ultimately swayed me, however, was the realisation that Paris is Sophia. She's elegant, classy, and incredibly alluring, and I just knew Paris would be a fitting swansong for her. No other city came close.

  • BB: I know that you've been a journalist and that you're now a content writer. How difficult was it to switch to writing fiction, and which discipline do you like best?

HG: I think fiction is unquestionably the most difficult medium of writing. You're trying to convince potential readers if you're writing a novel, that is, that reading 200+ pages is worth their time when they could easily sit on the sofa and binge on a Netflix series instead.

Concerning the switch to fiction, it was hard, not least because in journalism you're never having to show, you're merely telling people what's happened or if it's an opinion piece, why you think a certain way. Though I didn't fully realise that until I completed my first novel, which for the well-being of humanity, will never see the light of day!

  • BB: Which three books would you recommend to everyone and what would be your desert island book?

HG: That's a very tricky question! But as you've asked I'd have to pick The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and Stoner by John Williams. All three had a massive influence on me, mainly because the characters were entirely relatable. The prose for the three books is also gorgeous, but it doesn't ever become superfluous which I think many literary works are guilty of.

As for the desert island book? That's easy. The Alchemist. It's helped foster a resilience in me when it's come to pushing forth with an idea and turning it into a reality which I think is half the battle for many writers.

On a less serious note, I'm sure a book as spiritually uplifting as The Alchemist would also help me through the painful realisation that my pale skin will never catch a tan, despite being stranded on a sun-drenched island!

  • BB: You've got one wish: what's it to be?

HG: For my mother to live a life free from stress, anxiety and financial worry.

  • BB: What's next for Hugo Driscoll?

HG: To keep growing my audience with this novel. I'd love Seven Days with You to reach as many readers as possible, so a lot of sleepless nights promoting it no doubt lie ahead!

Away from SDWY, I have recently completed the second draft of a new novel. Like SDWY, it's a love story, but is set in contemporary London and involves a lot of nihilism which was worryingly cathartic to write!

  • BB: We wish you every success with both of those endeavours, Hugo and thank you for taking the time to chat to us.

You can read more about Hugo Driscoll here.

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