Some miscellaneous information about the author of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole
Sue Townsend was born in a 'prefab' on Hillsborough Road, Glen Parva, Leicester in 1946, and despite quitting school at 15, went on to become a household name after her book "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 ¾" sold millions of copies in Britain and around the world. Sue attended Glen Hills Primary School in Glen Parva starting in
Before her success with Adrian Mole, for two decades, she worked in a factory, and was a shop assistant and garage attendant. At the age of 35 she won the Thames TV playwrights' award, launching her writing career. Her most famous creation is the neurotic diarist Adrian Mole, first introduced in 1985 in "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole."
The best selling 'Diary' series was followed up with "The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole" and "The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole." In 1991 she wrote the bestseller "The Queen and I" - a wonderfully humorous novel in which the Royal Family are deposed (thrown out) and land up living in a council estate in Leicester. A play by the same name was adapted from her novel and presented by Max Stafford-Clark's new "Out of Joint" touring company in conjunction with the Leicester Haymarket and the Royal Court. Other books by Sue include "Rebuilding Coventry" (1988) and "Ghost Children" (1998).
As well as attending Glen Hills school in the early 50s, Sue also attended South Wigston Secondary Modern for Girls (approximately from 1957 to 1961) from where some ex-pupils still remember her for her antics. In 1999 Sue Townsend was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and began losing her sight. She is now "as technically near to blind as you can get." She is married and still lives in Leicester.
Some observations about the character of Adrian Mole by the Author
One Sunday afternoon I wrote Adrian Mole. Well, I called him Nigel Mole. And he was fourteen and three- quarters. And that was sparked off by a remark my eldest son made. He said to me, 'Mum, why don't we go to safari parks like other families do?' Now the reasons we didn't go: I had no money, I had no car, I didn't like them, so those are the reasons that we didn't go! But it reminded me of that kind of criticism of the family which sort of kicks in at that age.
An actor asked me if I had got anything suitable; he was going for an audition for Huckleberry Finn. And I remembered this fourteen year old that I'd got and he liked it; he loved it. In fact, he liked it so much that he sent it to John Tydeman, a drama producer at BBC Radio. And they did it as a thirty minute theatre on New Years Day and it got a lot of listeners and they liked it.
From the neck down I knew what Mole was like. I knew how he comported himself, the clothes he wore. But his face, his hair, I couldn't tell you. And then one day, I was sitting with one of my daughters watching the telly and there was Mole. And the news item was the new cabinet, Thatcher's new cabinet and there was John Major and he had just been made Chancellor of the Exchequer. And nobody had ever heard of him or seen him, I certainly hadn't. I thought, 'No, it can't be!' I laughed and said, 'That is Mole!' And then I couldn't believe the progress with Major. To me, Adrian Mole ended up running the country. This was the horror story!
The thing about Adrian Mole is that he is Suburban Man. He was a product of the suburbs. And above all else I think that people move to the suburbs because they want respectability. They want a quiet life. They don't want adventure. And that's what Adrian is a product of. He's never lived on the edge. There's a wonderful quote from Bertram Russell which is, 'The aristocratic rebel, having had enough to eat, seeks other causes for his discontent.' And it seems to me that that's what Mole is doing. He's trying to almost make himself more interesting.
He is going to end up as confidant of the Prime Minister who, of course, will be Pandora Braithwaite. He is going to be a pretty powerful person but at one remove, because that's Adrian Mole, he is at one remove, he's one remove from me."
"IT'S HARD TALKING TO PEOPLE WHEN YOU CAN'T SEE THEIR FACE."
By Joan Stephens, Leicester Mercury, November 21st, 2002.
It is a terrible irony that Sue Townsend's world-famous creation, Adrian Mole, bears the name of a creature whose most notable characteristic is blindness. In the next Mole book, Adrian too will be blind - as Sue herself now is.
It is typical of her concern for both honesty and detail that she shuns the expression "partially sighted."
"It creates the wrong impression, gives people the idea I can see more than I can," she argues.
Sue has been registered blind for 18 months now, her loss of sight due to the diabetic condition she has suffered for 20 years. For someone who has always had a passion for books and reading, and a keen eye for detail, blindness is a terrible affliction - a calamity is how she describes it - but she is, of necessity, gradually coming to terms with it.
"My husband Colin and my children read to me, and I have audio tapes and talking books. I have a magnifying computer screen, which I can see on good days. One of the worst things is not being able to write myself notes to remind me of things I have to do, so a lot gets forgotten."
"I'm not doing book signings any more. They are too exhausting because I can't see properly, and it's difficult talking to people when you can't see their face. I find it embarrassing. I expect it's something I'll have to get used to."
Colin and her two daughters help with make-up, doing her hair and choosing clothes. She is, as ever, quietly smart in black, her eyes half hidden behind tinted designer specs.
"Shoes are a problem, because the diabetes affects my feet, too. I can't feel them, so I have to walk very carefully and wear flat sensible shoes. I'd love it if Prada started designing shoes for diabetics, but I don't think that's about to happen, do you?"
The Townsend sense of humour remains firmly intact. Her new book, Number 10, (published by Michael Joseph at £15.99) is an acutely observed, often hilarious, but damning satire on British life. Sue is surprised that people have dubbed it vicious.
"I don't see it that way at all. In fact, if anything some bits are really watered-down versions of what conditions are really like in this country."
"Obviously Edward Clare, the Prime Minister in the book, and his wife, Adele, have similarities with Tony and Cherie Blair, but they are not them."
Sue is now about to begin writing a radio play, which has a blind heroine.
"There's a coincidence," she laughs wryly. "It will be interesting for me to explore how I feel. I won't know until I write it - sometimes fiction puts you in touch with your feelings, whether you're reading or writing it."
Yes, there will be more novels, and definitely another Mole. When I remind her that after the second Adrian Mole book, she vowed there wouldn't be another, she corrects me.
"I said I wouldn't do one every couple of years, which I could have done. They'd have sold because, as Del Boy would say, Mole has been a nice little earner for me. I've done a Mole book every five years, and I think that's about the right gap."
"In the next book, Mole will be diabetic and blind. He'll have to be. I can't write about a character who can go out and about, who is up to date with the visual world if I'm not myself, can I?" Nowadays, Colin sits at her screen while she dictates.
"It's usually some time after midnight. He's brilliant," she says. "I try to find a style that seems as if I just breathe it, but in fact I've always found writing very difficult, so I put it off, and have to work myself up to it."
"There's so much choice - of words, of punctuation, the way you put it all together. And every time you make a choice, you expose your education, your reading, your life experience, your whole self - that's truly frightening."
PAIN HELPED SUE SUCCEED
December 17, 2002
Leicester author Sue Townsend has revealed that she got into writing to escape from her life as a single mother juggling three jobs.
The 56-year-old creator of Adrian Mole told a national newspaper she turned to writing for solace after her husband left suddenly following the birth of her third child.
Ms Townsend, who is blind and dictated her latest novel to her second husband, got married at 18.
She said: "He wasn't what he appeared to be, but we carried on because there was passion there."
"There we were in our early 20s, living with three children in a prefab in Leicester. He was a sheet metal worker and I looked after babies and read and wrote silently."
"He left suddenly. It's still too painful to recount. I think we all drastically underestimate the effect divorce has on children."
"I got three part-time jobs, one for each child. My daughter once said: 'Mum, you never smile.' I was always worried."
"I had all this stuff going on in my head. I was writing the beginnings of Adrian Mole secretly on scraps of paper I stuffed into a box."