EARLIER this month I spent a very enjoyable afternoon at Mansfield Library in the presence of one the UK’s million-selling authors, Sue Townsend, creator of Adrian Mole.
Sue came to talk to members of the Visually Impaired Reading Group which meets every month at the library. The group members had all been reading the latest Adrian Mole book, ‘Adrian Mole: the Prostrate Years’ and by the sound of it they all enjoyed it.
Before the meeting though, it was the turn of the media to record interviews. First of all Rob Sissons and a cameraman from BBC East Midlands Today recorded a piece for their evening news programme and spoke to Sue Townsend about her blindness, about her support for libraries and her new book ‘The Woman who went to Bed for a Year’.
Time was tight, so when my turn came I decided to concentrate on just one or two points.
I began by asking if Adrian Mole was based on anyone in particular. Sue said that it all started after a remark from her son when he was about nine years-old asking why they couldn’t go to a safari park like other families.
At that time she couldn’t afford to take her children to such places and besides, they didn’t have a car. She realised that he had reached that age when children begin to grow apart from their parents and to criticise their lifestyles.
What she called his self pitying, whining voice set her thinking and instantly she began to write ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾’.
Sue also revealed that just before the ‘Secret Diary’ was due to be published, she rang the publisher to ask them to cancel publication.
She was afraid that the book wouldn’t sell and that she would be humiliated and copies would end up in the remainder bin. The publisher reassured her that it this would not happen and she would one day be proud of it. And how right he was! Sue says she is still constantly surprised at the book’s success. It has sold in millions all over the world and a 30th anniversary edition was published earlier this year.
I asked Sue if the character of Adrian Mole seemed to take on a life of its own. She said she didn’t think about him all the time, but she is often reminded of what he might do in various situations as she has 10 grandchildren herself.
Finally she spoke about her latest book ‘The Woman who went to Bed for a Year’. This is a novel about Eva who one day suddenly decides to go to bed and not get up, not because she is ill, but because she wants to rethink her whole life.
She is fed up of being taken for granted by the rest of her family, who don’t take kindly to her neglecting them. It’s a comic novel with serious undertones.
The meeting itself was a lively affair as Sue Townsend fielded questions from the 20 or so visually impaired people attending.
As well as much discussion about ‘Adrian Mole: The Prostrate years’, Sue talked about her working class background and how it has affected what she writes and compared notes about living with sight loss with others around the table.
Two of her other titles had been particularly enjoyed by the group: ‘The Queen and I’, in which the royal family is sent to live on a council estate by a republican government and ‘Number 10’, a thinly veiled satire on the prime ministership of Tony Blair.
Asked if there will be more about Adrian Mole in the future, Sue revealed that she has been commissioned to write another book for completion in June 2013.
She says that Adrian will be a grandfather by then. So, will Adrian Mole get to marry Pandora Braithwaite? Will his parents ever settle down and live sensible lives?
For the answers to those and many more questions about Adrian, we’ll have to wait until next year.