Was there anything in particular that sparked the idea behind You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About?
I can remember the particular moment it was born; I was upstairs at the Enmore Theatre watching one of my favourite bands, Death Cab For Cutie, and I had the initial idea for the book and I remember walking home trying to keep it in my head so I could write it down! I’d written a lot of non-fiction, but I’d always wanted to write a novel. I love this area and the music scene and wanted to celebrate it, so bringing those different threads together and writing a novel about the area I knew and the music scene and the people in it felt like a natural progression.
You’re the Kind of Girl is set in and around Sydney. Where would we find you hanging out?
There are a lot of places in the Inner West I love, it’s an area full of character and creativity. But two that stand out are The Hopetoun Hotel and the Annandale Hotel. In real life, the Hopetoun is closed and the Annandale isn’t really a music venue any more, but I took a bit of poetic license for the book. Both were quite grotty little places, but I saw so many incredible bands there and they were just a huge part of my life. Both places had an atmosphere and a sense of history you just don’t get with a slick new venue.
There’s so many great musical references in the story. Was there any particular music you listened to while writing?
I’m obsessed with music and listen to so many bands, but to name just a couple Vampire Weekend were on heavy rotation and The Replacements and The Gaslight Anthem are kind of the patron saints of the book.
The story is told from both Tim and Mandy’s perspectives – was it tricky to switch between the two POVs?
No, because they’re quite different people. It’s not a story about two people that are perfect for each other because they’re so similar, it’s about two people that have their flaws and vulnerabilities but maybe both have something that the other really needs.
So what do you think is behind the attraction between Tim and Mandy?
Initially, they just think “wow, this person is so cute and cool!”. But I think when they start to get to know each other, they realise there is something more there. Mandy sees that Tim is doing something exciting and creative and taking risks. Tim is a very extroverted person and knows a lot of people, but he realises pretty quickly that there’s a lot of depth and intelligence and passion with Mandy, and he hasn’t met someone quite like that before.
We love making up our own dream movie casts for book characters. Are there any actors you have in mind?
Miles Teller is a young actor I like a lot and I thought Emma Roberts was great in Palo Alto, she would be fantastic as Mandy. I loved Hannah Murray in God Help the Girl and could see her as Alice. It’s fun to think about and if people have other ideas on who could play these characters I’d love to hear them!
You’re a book reviewer for a number of newspapers and magazines. Was there anything you learned from reading other people’s works that you took into account when writing your own novel?
I think that helped because it meant I always had to think critically about why a book worked for me, or didn’t. One thing I feel pretty strongly about any book is that it shouldn’t feel like homework, or like medicine. Whether it’s a book of essays or young adult fiction or a graphic novel, the ideal is the reader thinking “Oh, I’ll just read a couple more pages before I go to bed…Actually, maybe just a couple more”. I don’t want to read a book thinking “This author is really smart and they’ve done a lot of research, but I wish the book would end”, I want it to be juicy and exciting and addictive, and hopefully Kind of Girl… has the effect on its readers that my favourite books have on me.
What are you reading at the moment?
The new David Levithan and Champagne Supernovas, which is about Alexander McQueen, Kate Moss and Marc Jacobs and how they changed fashion in the ‘90s. It’s fantastic.
Do you have any particular quirks or rituals when it comes to actually sitting down and writing?
I have a moleskine notebook that I write down rough ideas in that might turn into something.
What advice would you give to new writers/people looking to submit their own manuscripts to publishers?
Write the book you want to write, not the book that you think will sell or that publishers want. Also, make sure you know how to use an apostrophe!
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @danielherborn.
You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About is out now