Event: The KU Big Read – An Audience with Gail Honeyman

Talk, Q & A and Signing

24th October 2018
Kingston University, London

ku-big-read-logo-e1454187927236I’ll admit, I doubt I would’ve read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine if it wasn’t part of my university’s book club. However, ever since I completed it, it’s been in the back of my mind – to the point where I’ve recommended it to people around me in the hopes that I can share my thoughts with them.

My university – Kingston University, London – created the KU Big Read, a project where once a year they choose a book to give out to potential students for free and host events throughout freshers where readers can come together with a shared topic and make friends. A wonderful idea, which opened new doors for students to come face to face with authors and hear all about their experiences with writing and publishing.

The moment I first heard that Gail Honeyman would be attending my university and speaking about Eleanor, I grabbed a ticket so I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to hear about such an empowering book from the writer herself. Kingston was surprisingly organised, allowing students to enter the room first and find a good seat before opening the doors for the public. I managed to grab a spot near the front and readied myself. It didn’t take long for the event to begin, which lasted a good hour before the signing.

The talk was rich with insight, Honeyman speaking passionately on the topic of Eleanor and its characters, expressing her opinions on the glamorisation of men within adult fiction. She loved writing about Raymond, explaining the fact that she wanted a normal, everyday man, that within fiction there was too many of the same exceptional, dream-like characters and that a regular, kind person was all she wanted. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is an incredibly character-driven novel, so it wasn’t a surprise to hear that Honeyman created the protagonist first and spent a lot of time crafting her before working out the plot details – most of which didn’t appear until writing the novel itself. However, what I loved hearing about the most was how devoted she was to her characters.

“If you connect to the character, you’re happy to go anywhere with them, even just to the hairdressers.” 

As a writer myself, I loved hearing someone that shared a familiar passion for character creating, it being my favourite element of creating and would be happy spending my entire life populating the world in my head. She stated that as she spent so much time with her characters that she began to understand even the smallest details about them, most of which weren’t even important to the novel itself – or mentioned. This connection to Eleanor and co. was wonderful to hear about; you could clearly see how much writing meant to Honeyman.

“Eleanor is a heroine in my eyes.” 

During the Q and A, Honeyman was asked a lot of questions from students, alumni and the general public about the process of writing and her approach to publishing the novel. Yet, there was also a lot of talk on the themes within, especially her respectful exploration of mental health and the research necessary involved. On the topic of loneliness within Eleanor, Honeyman states how “we read to know we are not alone” which resonated with me. The reason this book was chosen by my university was due to the representation of a young person suffering with loneliness, something that doesn’t get enough recognition within the media. Personally, after moving away from my loved ones recently, reading has become a huge escape for me, having very little interaction and enjoying exploring the worlds of others. However, her advice on writing in general was one I found most inspiring, giving me the motivation to go back and work on my own projects with newfound enthusiasm; you never know what could happen.

“Tell the story you’re compelled to tell.” 

My review of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is available here.


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