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'High Fidelity' author talks relationships, new book and film

  • Story Highlights
  • Nick Hornby, author of "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy" releases new book Tuesday
  • "Juliet, Naked," revisits the dysfunctional male, music fan kind of character
  • Internet has changed how the obsessive type lives and thrives, Hornby says
  • "An Education," for which he wrote screenplay, gets critical acclaim, festival attention
By Jessica Ravitz
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(CNN) -- The modern and dysfunctional man, who struggles to find his footing in relationships, career and, in fact, the world, has in many ways been the bread and butter of best-selling British author Nick Hornby's career.

Best-selling British author Nick Hornby releases his latest novel, "Juliet, Naked."

Best-selling British author Nick Hornby releases his latest novel, "Juliet, Naked."

Best known for his novels "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy," both of which were turned into movies (as was his memoir, "Fever Pitch"), Hornby's latest novel, "Juliet, Naked," released in the United Kingdom on September 1, has just been released in the United States.

It focuses on an American singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who still rests on the success he saw with one album in the 1980s, an obsessed English fan, Duncan, and his exasperated girlfriend, Annie.

Hornby's love for music has inspired more than plotlines. It has fueled a partnership with the rock band Marah and other projects, which recently included penning the lyrics for Ben Folds' "Levi Johnston's Blues."

Meanwhile, Hornby is also the force behind the screenplay of the critically acclaimed film-festival darling, "An Education," which will be released in New York and Los Angeles on October 9.

CNN spoke with Hornby about how he develops the characters for his books, the challenges of writing in a woman's voice and his own prowess in relationships.

CNN: Your newest novel, "Juliet, Naked," seems to revisit the kind of character that anchored "High Fidelity," the obsessive, somewhat dysfunctional music fan. What is it about this type that had you coming back, and how have the years changed this character?

Hornby: Well, I conceived them as being different. Rob in "High Fidelity," he wasn't the obsessive. It was the people around him. This one [Duncan] is one of three characters; he's the nerdy obsessive. ... The Internet's changed everything. There are no record stores to hang out in anymore. Ten or 15 years ago, he [Duncan] wouldn't have found anyone to talk to. And nobody's career [character Tucker Crowe's included] is allowed to die. Way back, obsessives had to admit other interests into their lives. These people don't have to really do anything like that. Video Watch the author talk about music, comedy and relationships »

CNN: Your books, and now your screenplay, are so rich in complicated and incredibly flawed characters who, in turn, have complicated and flawed relationships. How much of what they struggle with is autobiographical? Are there aspects to these characters that are reflections of you?

Hornby: I think sometimes there are. I have three kids by two moms. Tucker has five kids by four women. But my experience is relatively ordinary. My relationships are fairly stable. A lot of this is trying to write comedy, and complicated relationships are funnier than straightforward ones.

CNN: At times, for instance in your book "How to Be Good," you've narrated as a woman. What are the challenges of taking on a woman's voice?

Hornby: Anytime the narrator is someone who is not you, the challenge is equal. The challenge is to make people laugh. My last book, "Slam," was for young adults, and I had to write as a 16-year-old boy. Of course, it makes me more nervous writing as a woman. I just made sure every woman I knew read the narrative as soon as I finished. But no woman speaks for all women.

CNN: You've been open about having a son, now 16, who is autistic. How much, if at all, has that informed your writing when it comes to getting into the heads of kids and adolescents in, for example, "About a Boy?"

Hornby: It hasn't. Not yet. The experience of fathering a child like that is so different, but I think you have to be very careful about how you use it and how it affects other people.

CNN: Your screenplay for "An Education," which is based on an autobiographical essay by British journalist Lynn Barber, was first recognized at the Sundance Film Festival in January and continues to get critical acclaim. How has this creative journey differed from the one you're used to traveling in the book publishing world?

Hornby: The process is incredibly different. With movies, it always feels like such a long shot getting it made. With books, you write and talk about it with your editor. With movies, you need the money, the cast, the director -- I felt much more confused by the the movie-making process.


CNN: But with movies, the insecurities you might have about your own work as an artist, as a writer, are helped by others. It's not all on you, right?

Hornby: Yes. I can look at the film and take pride in other people's work.

All About Nick Hornby

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