The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Joe Dunthorne

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The Interview: Bookbag talks to Joe Dunthorne

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Summary: Bookbag was mightily impressed by Joe Dunthorne's debut novel, Submarine and the chance to ask him a few questions was more than we could resist. Submarine was funny, naughty, rude and beautifully observed, Holden Caulfield meets Adrian Mole in Swansea for a wonderful debut novel. It's missing the most satisfying of climaxes (no pun intended), but that's all.
Date: 20 January 2009
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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Bookbag was mightily impressed by Joe Dunthorne's debut novel, Submarine and the chance to ask him a few questions was more than we could resist.

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

Joe Dunthorne: Well, I've never tried that before - let me see... Ah! They've all got pitchforks, and they're asking for their money back. In truth, I'm not totally sure who my readers are - when I wrote the book, I wanted to write the sort of book that I'd want to read. So I imagine I share a sense of humour with my readers. They probably have some shade of geek in their personality, too.

  • BB: Will Oliver ever find true love?

JD: Of course he will! He's making so many mistakes so early on, he's bound to get to grips with relationships at some point soon. I reckon, in a few years time, he'll be quite a catch.

  • BB: As big fans of the site, we were really pleased to see www.abctales.com get a shout out in your acknowledgements for Submarine. How useful is online feedback generally to aspiring writers?

JD: I think it can be really useful - especially as, sometimes, you're not looking for hyper-detailed critical feedback, you just want to know that you are not alone in trying to become a writer, and that someone is reading your work.

  • BB: It's the standard question that debut novelists always get asked, but how much (if any) of Submarine is autobiographical?

JD: The story is not autobiographical, but Oliver's character, I'll admit, bears a resemblance to a fifteen-year-old me. I reckon he's about 50% based on myself, and the other 50% - I won't say which bits - are fantasy.

  • BB: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers as to how to get published?

JD: Only boring advice: write, read, write, read, write, read etc. Oh yeah, and edit!

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment?

JD: I finished Lolita by Nabokov last night, which was amazing. It doesn't really have very much going on in the plot, but the book is carried by its manic pleasure in the English language. Nabokov will not let one sentence be dull. The voice of Humbert Humbert is a one-off: scary, sad and beautiful. I love the descriptions of back-street America via the motels they visit.

  • BB: What is the world's best pun?

JD: Why do hairdressers have all the best puns? This fantastic blog has all the answers. Astonishingly, there are hairdressers actually called Curl Up and Dye, so let's say that is the world's best (worst) pun.

  • BB: Which book has most influenced you and do you still have a copy?

JD: Tess of the D'Urbevilles. I read it at school and it made me realise that, if a book was good, characters could actually exist in the mind of the reader.

  • BB: Who was your favourite teacher at school and why?

JD: Mr Lucas, my music teacher. I used to want to be a rock star and he kindly supported that delusion while I was at school. We used to listen to Ghost Town by The Specials and try and work out what made it such an amazing song.

  • BB: What's next for Joe Dunthorne?

JD: I'm writing my second novel at the moment. It's about a family who set up a commune (in either Wales or Scotland - I haven't decided yet...) It's about home schooling and porridge and the end of the world. Also, I've got a pamphlet of my poetry coming out early next year, so I'm getting that together, which I am very excited about.

  • BB: Thanks a lot, Joe - and good luck with the next book!

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