Author Gavin Extence speaks to YJA

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If you haven’t heard of Gavin Extence yet, you soon will. His debut novel, The Universe Versus Alex Woods, has been selected for the Waterstone’s Eleven Most Promising Fiction Debuts of 2013, and is described by Emma John of The Observer as being ‘Mark Haddon meets Kurt Vonnegut’. 

I met Extence on Friday 10th May, before he gave a reading of the novel at the Lincoln Inspired Festival, hosted by Lincoln Drill Hall.

The novel, already receiving so much praise, is about the unlikely friendship between Alex, a geeky, socially awkward seventeen-year-old, and Mr Peterson, his widower neighbour.

“Being on the Waterstone’s list was fantastic,” Extence says. “I didn’t actually know I was in the running until my editor phoned me and told me I was on it. That was nice; it took all the stress out of it and I just had this lovely piece of news just before Christmas. It’s been a tremendous thing for the book… I think the hardest thing as a debut writer is getting exposure in a very, very crowded marketplace. Things like the Waterstone’s Eleven make a really, really big difference to debut writers so it’s been a really wonderful thing for me.”

It took Extence eighteen months to write The Universe Versus Alex Woods. After an intense plot-planning session at his kitchen table, which Extence describes as being fuelled by vast quantities of coffee, he wrote a first draft in a year, followed by six months of redrafting. After that, he describes the publishing process as ‘as smooth as it possibly could have been’, and has since received glowing reviews from critics, including fellow author and YJA interviewee, Jasper Fforde, who describes Extence’s book as ‘warm and funny and tragic and uplifting all in one’. So it must be pretty good.

Extence is currently working on the second book of his two-book deal and is reluctant to give away too much, simply describing it as ‘completely different’ to his debut.

I soon release him, allowing him to prepare for his reading, and the audience begins to seep in through the back door. Extence follows his reading with a question and answer session, during which he is quizzed by Lincoln locals on the intricate details of his books, from the crafting of his characters to whether or not there will ever be a film (Extence is currently ‘in talks’ with film producers). Although Extence is still relatively unknown, if the size and enthusiasm of this crowd are anything to go by, we can expect more great things from him in the future.

I’m glad I got my copy signed.


Ellen Lavelle – Senior YJA Reporter

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