Posted on 03/06/2013
In the last event of this season’s Lunchtime Reading series on Thursday 6 June, author Joe Dunthorne is guaranteed to make us laugh with tales of life on a rural commune from his acclaimed second novel Wild Abandon.
Joe’s comedy novel, which won the Society of Authors' Encore Award, tells the story of siblings Albert and Kate growing up on a Welsh farm commune run by their parents.
It follows the success of his first book Submarine, which was made into a feature film in 2010, directed by the IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade and with music from the Arctic Monkeys.
We caught up with the Welsh writer to talk about his East London literacy project, comedy writing and clearing up those Wiki rumours:
What was your inspiration for Wild Abandon?
It all kicked off when I met a friend of mine who grew up in an intentional community in Wales. Her parents were Oxbridge graduates who wanted to do something different. They found a farm and with a few other families started home schooling their kids and growing their own food. She was kind enough to let me dig around in her childhood and family history. After that, I went to a few other communes around the UK, for research purposes. It was fascinating. No two communities were the same.
What tips would you give to aspiring authors about comedy writing?
For me, I always start with the characters, the setting and the story. If there are good jokes along the way then all the better, but it’s not a good idea to be led by the idea of making fiction funny. Good humour comes out of interesting, motivated characters in interesting circumstances.
How did you feel when you found out your novel Submarine was going to be made into a film?
I was very excited, but I also had the feeling that it could fall apart at any minute. I couldn’t really believe it until the credits rolled! I was glad in the end that the film was different from the book. It was fascinating to see my story filtered through the director Richard Ayoade's eyes. In the film, for example, Oliver the protagonist's bedroom is full of posters from Richard's room when he was a teenager. It was great to see him take control of the story.
Is it true you live in a disused train carriage?
If only that were true! That's my favourite bit of misinformation on my Wikipedia page.
I believe you are involved in a literacy project in East London - what do you think is the main challenge to improving child literacy in the UK?
There’s no easy answer to this. But I believe that centres like the Ministry of Stories, which I helped to set up with Lucy Macnab, Ben Payne, Nick Hornby and a team volunteers, can make a real difference. We offer free support for young people, aged eight to 18, and encourage them to get started on any kind of writing, from lyrics to soap operas and novels. It’s amazing the change that can be made by offering the right tools and environment, inspiring children to unleash their imaginations and transform their lives through writing.
Joe will read from Wild Abandon at 1pm on Thursday 6 June, in the Students' Union Main Hall. This will be followed by a Q&A and a chance to buy the book and get a signed copy. The event is open to all students, staff and members of the public and is free to attend.