ANDREW Ffrench speaks to best-selling novelist David Nicholls about how his tale of a bittersweet romance was adapted for the big screen.

LAST year, the Oxford Mail and Waterstone’s chose David Nicholls’ One Day as their Book of the Year.

The bittersweet romance was already an international bestseller, but Nicholls dropped everything to come and pick up his award from Waterstone’s book store in Broad Street.

His smash-hit novel tells the story of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, who get together for the first time on St Swithin’s Day, July 15, 1988, as they are about to leave Edinburgh University.

The novel then charts the course of their lives by revisiting them on St Swithin’s Day in the years that follow.

Now, almost a year on from The Guide’s meeting with Nicholls, the movie version of One Day has hit our cinema screens.

Directed by Danish film-maker Lone Scherfig, who directed An Education, the film stars Jim Sturgess as Dexter and Anne Hathaway as Emma.

There have been some dark mutterings from some film critics who questioned the consistency of Hathaway’s Yorkshire accent.

But Nicholls wrote the screenplay himself, ensuring that the story, which starts and finishes in Scotland, is not completely Americanised.

The author says: “I didn’t write One Day as a screenplay in disguise but I love writing dialogue and fiction, so perhaps inevitably there was a filmic quality.”

Film producer Nina Jacobson saw the novel’s potential as a classic movie romance and worked hard to secure the film rights, promising Nicholls that she would keep the story within its original British setting.

Jacobson explains: “At many studios, the inclination would be to Americanise it (the story) and not to keep the UK setting and the characters British.

“To me that would have meant compromising the singularity of the characters; the setting is part of the appeal.”

Nicholls has made the page-to-screen move before, as his novel Starter for Ten became the movie Starter for 10, so he knew elements of the novel would not make the final cut.

He says: “There is a challenge involved in trying to condense 20 years of a character’s life into a novel anyway.

“When you have to condense it even further, into maybe two hours of screentime, you just have to accept the fact that you are going to lose things.

“Having said that, One Day is a very faithful adaptation, in terms of both the mood and the tone, as well as the storytelling style.”

After seeing the movie, Nicholls said he felt elated, relieved and melancholy and added that he felt the movie was faithful to the book.

Now the film has been released – the novel first came out in June, 2009 – Nicholls, a father-of-two, may finally feel free to start something new.

Matching the success of One Day, now published in 31 languages, would be a daunting prospect for any novelist, but if anyone can repeat the trick then he can.