You Ask the Questions: Nick Hornby ; (Such As: So, Nick Hornby, What's It like Being Middlebrow? and Do You Feel Responsible for the Middle-Class Colonisation of Football?)
Nick Hornby was born in Redhill, Surrey, in 1957. After studying English at Jesus College, Cambridge, he taught the subject at a local comprehensive. In 1992, he published Fever Pitch, a novel about the life and loves of an obsessive Arsenal fan, which became a publishing sensation. It was followed, in 1995, by High Fidelity, a novel about Hornby's other great passion, pop music, and then, in 1998, his third bestseller, About a Boy. He has an eight-year-old autistic son, Danny, with his ex-wife, Virginia Bovell. Last year, Hornby edited Speaking with the Angel, an anthology of new stories by Helen Fielding, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Colin Firth and others, the proceeds from which were donated to the TreeHouse Trust, a school for autistic children, which his son attends. Hornby lives around the corner from Arsenal's Highbury stadium, in north London. His latest book, How to Be Good, published by Penguin, is out tomorrow.
What was the highlight of your career before Fever Pitch?
K Pullen, Ely
Selling my first piece of fiction - to Morning Story, on Radio 4, in 1989 - felt pretty good and was a much-needed confidence boost. Other than that, probably dressing up as Pepsi or Shirley, I can't remember which, for an end-of-term school concert when I was a teacher. The crowd went wild.
Have you ever found anything in a review of one of your books that's benefited you?
D M Lowe, Plymouth
No - that's why I stopped reading them. Even the good ones. The vast majority of them are plot and career summaries with some adjectives attached. I wrote the plot, so I don't need that bit, and usually you can guess the adjectives from the name of the reviewer. I've forced myself to read one this time around, because it was written by someone who I think is great, and whose book has influenced me in my writing. Next time, I'm hoping to cut it down to zero.
What's it like being middlebrow?
Anthony Hyde, by e-mail
Why, thank you - it's pretty good, as you might imagine. The only real advice I can offer highbrow writers is to keep working at it. Write a couple of extra drafts, just to make the prose digestible. And put in a few jokes - people like 'em. Some of my favourite middlebrow novelists include Dickens, Steinbeck, Anne Tyler, Jane Austen... You put up your best five highbrows, and I'll put up my best five middlebrows, and you watch - we'll wipe the floor with you. Personally, I don't want to be distracted by a book's brow. I want to look it in the eye.
I, too, grew up in Maidenhead and did not find it obstructive to either happiness or success in life. What's your problem, pal?
Michael Keating, London
I think that says more about you than me... No, Maidenhead's great if you aren't interested in any form of rock music. Or the cinema. Or the theatre. Or books. If, however, your main cultural interests are not-getting-mugged and commuting, it's the place to be.
How difficult was it to find the right voice for your new narrator, Dr Katie Carr, in How to Be Good?
Katie Dorey, London
Not as hard as trying to write from the perspective of a child, where mentality and language and everything are different. There's this whole industry telling us that men and women are different, but there are many ways in which we're more alike than we've ever been. She doesn't swear as much as my previous narrators/leading characters. And her frames of reference are different...
How responsible do you feel for the middle-class colonisation of football?
P Butler, by e-mail
Not at all. For a start, I don't entirely believe it's happened - the most recent survey seemed to show that this colonisation is anecdotal and has no basis in statistical evidence. …