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Nick Hornby brings middle-age mindset to new works

 Writer Nick Hornby poses during a photocall to promote the movie
Writer Nick Hornby poses during a photocall to promote the movie 'An Education' at the 59th Berlinale film festival in Berlin, February 10, 2009. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele
— image credit: Reuters

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nick Hornby's new novel has been billed as another touching takes on fandom, music and love but the British author says it is more soaked in mid-life blues than the books that made him famous.

Nearly 15 years after his best-selling novel "High Fidelity" about a record shop owner's music obsessions, Hornby's sixth novel, "Juliet, Naked," follows the relationship between three middle-aged characters -- a U.S. singer and a geeky, obsessed English fan and his unfulfilled girlfriend. It hit U.S. bookstores this week.

But the 52-year-old Hornby sees obvious differences between his new novel and earlier works such as his memoir "Fever Pitch" and novel "About a Boy," which both became hit movies.

"The fact that the characters (in "Juliet, Naked") are older and have way more regrets and have (frittered) away chunks of their life ... is the new thing because that is the time of life I am writing in," he said in an interview.

Hornby also wrote the screenplay for "An Education," which will be released in the United States on Friday, and it also features a major character in mid-life.

"An Education" is Hornby's second screenplay and his first in more than a decade. It is based on an essay by British journalist Lynn Barber about a young girl who encounters a charming man in his 40s.

Inspiration for the characters in "Juliet, Naked" and their disappointments with earlier decisions or indecision in life was drawn from the people around him.

"It is an interesting time, middle age, because it is a time where people start to be regretful," he said. "Certainly the stakes are higher as you get older, all the big decisions about careers and families and partners ... a lot of those have been taken by the time you are in middle age."

Hornby says personally, he has managed to avoid regrets. "I guess I made good decisions," he laughed.

One of those good decisions was choosing to focus on writing books instead of screenplays, he said.

"It (writing a book) is a fairly straightforward process whereas movies, it's such a miracle if anything gets done," he said. "You look back and think, 'I have no idea how that happened or if it could happen again.'"

"Juliet, Naked" has received some praise from critics, including The Guardian, which called the book "immensely readable" while London's The Daily Telegraph said "his observations of social change are spot on."

The book includes many references to how the Internet has changed communication, including for once reclusive music geeks. Hornby, long known for his passion for music, says that reflects his own embrace of the Web and the possibilities of storing music on a computer.

His passion for music has lead to a collaboration with U.S. singer-songwriter Ben Folds, who asked Hornby to write the lyrics for some upcoming songs.

Hornby said he is realistic about why music remains his serious hobby and writing, which he works on during the day at an office away from home, is his day job.

"I am more passionate about music than writing because writing is my job and music is something I do when I finish it," he said, adding with a laugh that music opportunities were also once rare. "Nobody approached me 20 years ago."

(Editing by Mark Egan and Bill Trott)

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