Interview with David Nicholls, author of One Day

On August 3, I was lucky enough, along with a group of bloggers, to be able to speak with David Nicholls his novel One Day, and the movie adaptation. For a giveaway, as well as my thoughts on the book and expectations for the movie, see my review post.


Jen: You have written both books and screenplays, how does the process compare?

David Nicholls: It’s a long time since I wrote a book, unfortunately, because I’ve been sort of tangled up in these various screenplays, which I love. But, the hardest thing is, when you write a novel, you create the characters. You kind of cast them in your head… You’re very much the director, the designer, the music coordinator, the editor. And when you move on to a movie, you have to kind of spread that load. You might get asked what you think of a particular location or a costume design, but it isn’t your responsibility.

And that’s not a bad thing. That can be quite liberating to know very precisely what the parameters are of your role. But, inevitably you can feel as if you are losing a little control. And so, on this movie, I felt that much less than I have in the past….
The other difference is you lose a lot of your equipment, if you like, your technique. It’s very hard to do an internal thought process.

A lot of what happens to Emma in the three years she leaves University happens in her head. And unless you use acres and acres of voiceover, minute after minute of long, protracted voiceover, you can’t really get a thought process. You can’t really get an interior monologue onto the screen.

So, there’s this terrific pressure all the time to move things forward and to concentrate on what people say and what they do rather than what they think and feel. And that can be quite tough…

And finally, I suppose there are the budgetary and scheduling restraints. I mean, the most obvious example of this, and I’ve used it before, is if you write in a novel, you know, “it’s raining,” then it’s sort of just words on the page. It’s nothing. And if you write “it’s raining” in a screenplay, then suddenly they’ve got to hire all this equipment, stand around in the rain all night, and it costs an extra 200,000 pounds. It’s not your 200,000 pounds. And someone is going to ask, “Does it really need to be raining?”

Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway as Dexter and Emma


Jen: I’m really interested in Emma and Dexter’s relationship, because it’s this grand relationship and there are all these obstacles in the way, but they never feel like you’re just throwing obstacles for the purpose of throwing obstacles. And they’ve got this love that’s this great cross between romantic love and friendly affectionate love.

David Nicholls: Yes. I mean, this is the great conundrum for the writers of modern love stories. You know, what are the obstacles? What are the modern obstacles to people getting together? The sort of golden age love story, there are kind of class divisions and family feuds and all of these very powerful barriers, the kind of Romeo and Juliet barriers. And now, what are those barriers? And I think they’re to do with temperament and personality.

And in One Day, there’s a mixture of plot driven obstacles, like letters that don’t get sent and phone calls that don’t get answered and a single stupid remark that pushes them away from each other for a period of time and being with someone else….
Those things are fun to plot, but the main obstacles are to do with their growing up. There’s a period of time where Emma is just much too self-involved and lacking in self-confidence and much too depressed, I think, for it to be the right time with Dexter. I know definitely a long period of time where Dexter is just too immature and just too self-involved and too foolish, really, to be the right match for Emma.

David Nicholls

And that seemed to me to tally with real life, with the observation of the relationships between my friends, that often the process of getting together was incredibly protracted, incredibly complex, incredibly complicated because it wasn’t quite the right time. And I think maybe that’s the great modern obstacle, that we all take a lot longer to settle into a relationship and to settle into thinking that it’s the right time.

This post was written as a result of an interview set up at the behest of Big Honcho Media

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