‘Sex scenes give me the willies’: Author David Nicholls on the perils of writing love stories

The author of the best-selling novel One Day has revealed that he struggles to write sex scenes – because he thinks about his mum reading them.

David Nicholls made the revelation at an event in Manchester to mark the opening night of Bright Old Things, a celebration of the work of 14 individuals who found themselves a new vocation later on in life.

At an event hosted by veteran Manchester DJ Dave Haslam, Nicholls, whose bestseller was turned into a film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess waxed lyrical about his journey from musical theatre student in New York to publishing success.

The interview, at Selfridges in Exchange Square, opened an air of tongue-in-cheek joviality, as Nicholls and Haslam discussed the upsides, and the downfalls, to being successful in later life.

On the discussion of love scenes, Nicholls said: “There may have been an opportunity or two to write about sex, but I think I’m just a bit cowardly about it really.”

Nicholls talked about he narrowly missed the path of becoming a writer in his youth, and pursued a career in drama.

“I had grown up absorbing books. I was awkward and terrible at sports.” He joked. “But I was tricked into thinking I could act.”

Following his passion, Nicholls travelled to America to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York.

“My first class was musical theatre. We had to perform a musical number as spoken word. It was then that I realised that the school was not for me.”

Nicholls then proceeded to break out into a dramatic reading of Chim Chim Cheree, much to the delight of the audience.

“In the end it got to the point where I had the choice of being in a production of Twelfth Night or getting a job as a script writer. I took the job with the BBC.”

On a more serious note, Nicholls talked about One Day and the poignancy that it had with his own experiences of growing up.

“It was a kind of farewell to youth.” He said. “I have grown up in four books. They have all sprung out of something. I had just become a father when I wrote One Day.”

“They are all personal without being biographical.”

The interview took a slightly bizarre turn when Haslam read out a review of One Day that he had pulled from Amazon.

“I have been thinking about what I do not like about this book. Everything. Why do people write books like this? Why do people read them?”

Nicholls admitted that reading his own reviews turn him into a ‘nervous wreck’.

He said: “I don’t read reviews about my work; it’s the thing I find the hardest. I will lose a whole day’s work just thinking about them. I was a complete nervous wreck for the first 2 weeks I was on Twitter.

“I write with the hope that everyone in the world will like it. I probably have to be a bit thicker skinned about it really.”

During his inspirational speech, Nicholls told the audience about the anxieties he endured on his path to success.

“It was the general consensus that acting wasn’t my vocation. By the time I was twenty- nine I was already worrying about the future.”

But Nicholls is the living proof that a late change in vocation can lead to happiness and success.

“A lot of people are changing careers later on in life and I think it is wonderful.”

Bright Old Things talks are taking place throughout February at Selfridges in Exchange Square. Tickets cost £10 and include a tasting plate and a glass of wine or soft drink. For bookings, call 0161 838 0610 or visit customer services on LG at Selfridges Exchange Square.

For more information, visit

Picture courtesy of Carousel PR, with thanks.

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