Author Interview: Dan Tunstall

The Couch Potato caught up with author and fellow Leicester boy Dan Tunstall to talk about his latest book Out of Towners:

1. In a nutshell, what is OOT all about?

 Basically, Out of Towners is about the things that happen to a bunch of 16 year old lads on their first holiday without their parents along. What complicates things for Chris, Robbie, Dylan and George is the fact that their parents don’t know they’ve gone off to the seaside – they just think the lads are staying out at each other’s houses. And so, when things start to go wrong, and they fall foul of the local hard-nuts, they’ve got no-one to turn to.
2. It’s quite an unusual book in the modern climate, though at the same time it’s certainly faithful to modern Britain; where did the idea to write it come from?

The book was inspired in part by all the news reports you see each summer of post-GCSE and A level students on the lash in places like Newquay, staggering about and puking in gutters. I also drew on my own experiences of similar holidays with my mates when we were all 17/18/19 – two weeks in a shagged-out caravan in Lowestoft, existing on a diet of Scampi flavoured fries, Pot Noodles and cheap lager. Happy days…Something I was really trying to capture in the writing of Out of Towners is the feeling you have when you’re at that age, just starting out on adult life, and it seems like absolutely anything might happen. Anything is possible, and the opportunities just seem endless. That sense of anticipation is the closest thing you get to perfection in this life.

3. Is the setting a particular English seaside resort, or an amalgamation of various places you’ve visited?
The town in the book, Whitbourne, is pretty much every English resort you could think of, rolled into one. I suppose the major “contributors”
are Eastbourne, Hastings, Brighton, Weston-Super-Mare, Great Yarmouth, Silloth and Blackpool. Although I’ve made Whitbourne seem like a fairly seedy place, I actually have a big amount of affection for seaside towns. No matter how run-down they are, I love them all. I think I must have a thing about faded grandeur!
The one major omission from the roster of seaside towns I’ve visited is Skegness. I think I must be the only bloke in Leicestershire who has
never been to Skeggy. Don’t know why, really. It’s just never happened. I’ll have to put that right one of these days.
4. Absolutely – my assumption was that it was largely based on Skeggy! George comes across as being a particularly likeable character; is he based on anyone in particular?

In the same way that Whitbourne is an amalgamation of lots of different resorts, George is a composite of quite a few people I’ve known over the years. George is pretty typical of the sort of lad you find in most gangs – the more gentle, sensible soul, who almost takes on a maternal role.
In all the groups of lads I’ve knocked about with, there has always been one who drinks a bit less than the others, makes sure nobody ends the night drowning on their own puke. I’d like to be able to say that I was “George” in my younger days, but that would be stretching it a bit. I was more often the one being steered unsteadily into a taxi or rolled into the recovery position!
5. What do you want your readers to take away from this book?
I’d like to think that Out of Towners offers a more positive portrayal of young people than the one currently being peddled in the press in
the wake of the recent riots and looting across the country. The reputation of teenagers is at a pretty low ebb at the moment, but there are a lot of good kids out there. The characters in Out of Towners are no angels, they certainly make quite a few dodgy decisions, but they’re fundamentally a decent bunch.
6. Are you working on anything else at the moment, and if so when might we see it?

I’ve recently had a story, Last Man In, included in the Walker Books anthology How To Be a Boy, and a short book, Seconds Out, is scheduled for publication by A&C Black later this year. The provisional date is late-September, but these things have been known to change.
In the meantime I’m working on another short book, The Passenger, and after that I’m hoping to get cracking on a third novel.
7. There are a few football references in OOT, and I know you’re a football fan. What are your feelings about the modern English game? 

The state of the game of football in this country is a big source of worry to me. I can’t help but visualise it as a giant game of Jenga – everyone taking it in turns to take another risk, stick another block on the top of the tower, whilst at the same time, weakening the foundations. And we
all know what happens at the end of a game of Jenga…

An interesting way of looking at it – I wonder if the Match of the Day golfing chums agree..thanks Dan

Out of Towners can be purchased at any good bookstore, and also on the usual websites. Check the Amazon link to read some reviews and find out more right now. His previous novel, Big and Clever, is also still available.


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