About The Author
Joe Dunthorne was born and brought up in Swansea, and is a graduate of the University of East Anglia's Creative Writing MA, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown prize. His first novel, Submarine, about a dysfunctional family in Swansea, was published in 2008 and was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize 2008 and longlisted for both the Desmond Elliott prize 2008 and the Dylan Thomas prize 2008; the book has been translated into 10 languages and a film version was released in March 2011. The book received critical acclaim for the authentic voice of its somewhat delusional teenage narrator, Oliver Tate, who is convinced the end of the world is nigh. A collection of Joe's poetry was published by Faber in 2010.
His new novel Wild Abandon, is set in a failing commune in Wales, whose leader, Don, thinks a rave might bring its members back together again. Joe's stories, poems and journalism have been published in the Guardian, the Independent, the Financial Times, the Sunday Times, Viceand Poetry Review. He lives in London.
We caught up with Joe to find out about the strange location of his office, how he dealt with 'second-novel syndrome' and his urge to perform.
Below the interview is a list of titles by Joe Dunthorne currently in print in the UK. You may find other editions in our 'New and Used' section by typing the author's name into the Search field at the top of this page and selecting the 'Author Exact' filter to the far right of the Search field.
Author photograph courtesy of Angus Muir
Questions & Answers
What research did you have to do in order to portray life in a commune?
I did two types of research. First, I visited lots of different communities, which helped with understanding the practicalities, the day-to-day stuff, and showed me that no two communities are the same. But also, I quickly realised that I wouldn't get an accurate picture of the tensions, politics, allegiances in a community by just staying a few days. It would take months, years, in one place to get to grips with that, so I interviewed people who'd lived at communities, or grown up on them, to get a sense of the slow-burning dynamics.
What was it like seeing your first novel made into a film?
Very exciting. I was nervous at first, since so many of my favourite books had been destroyed by bad film adaptations but it quickly became clear from spending time with Richard Ayoade that it was in good hands. He's also a really great scriptwriter so, although lots of the novel had to be altered, cut or streamlined for the script, I knew those decisions were in the film's best interests.
Is it true you do your writing in what was once a railway carriage? Why?!
Yes! It's a converted Jubilee Line tube carriage. You can see it here: http://www.villageunderground.co.uk/workspace I find it really hard to work at home -- there are too many distractions, namely my housemates, so I needed an office. This one is communal, cheap, made from recycled materials and full of nice creative people -- what's not to like?
Did you get that much-discussed 'second novel syndrome', especially given the huge success of your debut?
Yeah, I think so. It was a real challenge to try and switch off that self-censoring voice as I was writing. At first I thought: I'd better write something that's just hugely different to show everyone how incredibly virtuoso I am. I started writing a fantasy-crime-dystopian-thriller. I soon realised I can't write like that. I had to follow what I was truly interested in, if I was to spend three years working on it, which lead to Wild Abandon. Once I got some way in to writing that, I managed to stop worrying and just go for it.
Your title suggests a departure from socially acceptable behaviour but there are other types of abandonment in your book aren't there?
Absolutely. The surface meaning of Wild Abandon -- that carefree craziness -- becomes less and less relevant as you read the book. Children are abandoning their parents, parents are abandoning their morals, adults are abandoning their pasts.
You grew up in Wales and it's the setting for both books. Are you trying to raise its profile in contemporary literature?!
That's not the main reason for writing about Wales, but it's certainly a good side-effect. It just happens that, for the subject matter of this book, Wales was the perfect location. There are lots of communes there. The other advantage is I have to do less research!
You're also a published poet and regularly perform at Glastonbury. Which is the real you: shy and retiring novelist or out-there performer?
A full-blown show-off. I'm sorry. I wish I was more like Salinger.
You've mentioned that Submarine was influenced by Salinger and Vonnegut. Did American authors play an inspirational role in your second novel?
Absolutely. The main inspiration for Wild Abandon was White Noise by Don De Lillo. It's an amazing book -- incredibly funny, but also very ambitious and thoughtful.
Wild Abandon has more characters, more story than Submarine. Is this to do with your growing confidence as a novelist, or did you not see it as more ambitious?
I definitely wanted to set myself a challenge. Submarine had next to no plot, so I wanted to try and write something with a proper narrative. Plus, it was a really exciting problem, trying to manage all these characters. I feel like I learned a lot in writing this book.
I don't know if it's about growing confidence, so much as an attempt to try and learn some new skills, as a novelist. I was willing to fail, which I think you have to be.
Can you tell us anything about your next novel?
Eek! I was hoping I wouldn't hear that question for a while. I'm working on stories and poems mainly at the moment. Please don't mention the n-word again.