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Meet Chris Killen: Author of In Real Life.
Thu 26 May 2016, 18:30 – 19:30 BST
‘A funny, heartbreaking and at times painfully poignant book about the disconnect between who we are and who we say we are’ The Independent
A review in the Financial Times, described In Real Life as ‘a historical novel about the internet’; a description I liked a lot. And yes, the internet—and especially the ways in which it has changed and shaped us over the last ten years or so—was definitely one of my main concerns when writing this book.
I had a lot of fun thinking about things like embarrassing Hotmail addresses and old social media accounts and the ways people thought and behaved before everything was filtered through the prism of social media. You need only look at the ways in which celebrity MySpace profiles from ‘before they were famous’, for everyone from Kim Kardashian to actor Tom Hardy, have garnered countless numbers of column inches.
But, also, hopefully, the novel works as a character study, too: of three friends, Ian and Lauren and Paul, and the ways they’ve grown and changed and drifted apart during that same ten-year time period (roughly 2005 to 2015). Once upon a time, they shared the same friends, the same university, and the same dreams; but by the time the novel is set, it feels like they are now living worlds apart. It’s a situation I’m sure more than a few of us can identify with. Who needs a school reunion-style meet-up when you can simply search a name online and scroll through your former university pals’ Facebook updates?
Some reviewers have noted that the novel is quite bleak or depressing in places—I’m guessing probably because nobody in it really quite achieves the things they hoped for, back when they were fresh-faced 21-year-old graduates. But hopefully it’s also funny at times too, which was one attempt I made to balance out the dreariness of ‘real life’ as it is presented in the book.
I certainly didn’t set out to write a depressing novel. In fact, quite the opposite: my aim was to create something warm and, to an extent, optimistic—the kind of book that might make someone not feel quite so alone in the world after they’ve read it.
About the author
Chris Killen was born in 1981 in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, and currently lives in Manchester. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester, and returned as the University’s Writing Fellow at the Centre for New Writing in 2009. He has lived in Manchester for just over 10 years, and worked as a bookseller at both Waterstone’s and Blackwell University Bookshop.
His first novel, The Bird Room, was published in 2009 by Canongate Books. In 2012, alongside the novelists Joe Stretch and Socrates Adams, he co-wrote, co-directed and acted in the comedy feature film Wizard’s Way, which won best comedy feature at the London Independent Film Festival and the Discovery Award at LoCo (The London Comedy Film Festival). Remake rights have been purchased by Jack Black’s production company.