Nick Hornby at West Hartford, Connecticut's Kingswood Oxford School
By Alma Macbride
WEST HARTFORD, Conn., USA – Sometimes being a slacker pays off.
British author Nick Hornby called himself “a terrible student” who did almost nothing in school except listen to a lot of music.
He said he hung out at record stores, watched soccer and rarely studied.
It turned out, though, that his mistakes helped inspire his novels.
“All the time I wasted wasn’t wasted,” Hornby said.
Hornby, 54, spoke recently as the featured guest at Kingswood Oxford School’s 28th annual Warren Baird English Symposium. He also spoke with a few reporters.
Hornby’s work – from his soccer memoir Fever Pitch to his most recent novel, Juliet, Naked – also includes writing the lyrics for Ben Folds’ new Lonely Avenue album.
Throughout his writings, Hornby has been able to infuse his words with the aspects of popular culture – musicians, sports teams, settings, and other facets of life that have made an impact on him.
While his friends got jobs after college, Hornby kept trying to write. He said he felt compelled, despite the consequent revenue, or lack thereof.
Hornby said he writes for the money – just like William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Dickens was trying to keep one cover as far from the other as possible since he got paid by the word, Hornby said.
“If I don’t write books it means disaster for me and my family,” he said.
He said his books weren’t written in a burst of inspiration but rather “page by page” and “with a great deal of misery, swearing, and smoking.”
He said he doesn’t write until he imagines voices speaking. He said he starts by writing monologues rather than the actual novel.
Hornby said he felt inspired by the idea that if “you think it’s a work of art, it’s a work of art.”
Among Hornby’s bestsellers over the years are the novels High Fidelity, About A Boy, How To Be Good and A Long Way Down.
When he writes a new book, he said, “I don’t need an editor to say, ‘This is genius.’ I just need them to say, ‘This is sane.’… All they need to say is, ‘This is written on the same level of the things you’ve written in the past.’”