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Lucy Turns Pages: Author Interview: Steven Neil

Author Interview: Steven Neil

1. Please introduce yourself (who are you, what genre/s do you write in, what books do you have out)

My name is Steven Neil. I am the author of The Merest Loss, a historical fiction novel based on the life of Harriet Howard. I am retired now, but in my working life I was a bookmaker’s clerk, management tutor, management consultant, bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder. I am married and live in rural Northamptonshire. I have a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. The Merest Loss was conceived during my BA studies, drafted during my MA and completed in the two years following.

2. What are your favourite books?

My favourite books are probably anything by Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. I’m also keen on the American tradition ; Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Steinbeck. If I had to name one book, it would be Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier.

3. When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I think I wanted to be an author when I was seventeen. I was all set to study English Literature at university. A change of plan saw me switch to Economics and the dream was shelved for nearly forty years. I didn’t write again until I was retired and enrolled as a mature student to do the degree I missed out on first time around.

4. What is your favourite part of the writing process? What is your least favourite and how do you get through it?

I really enjoy the planning, the research and initial drafting. I also like editing. In fact I like almost everything about the writing process! I didn’t enjoy the publishing process.

5. What is your writing routine?

I don’t really have a writing routine. The great thing about being retired is that I write when I feel like it and do something else when I don’t. I don’t see myself as an author. I’m just someone who wrote a novel.

6. How do you balance writing (and everything else to do with it) with the rest of your life?

When I was writing my novel I had the luxury of devoting all my time to it. If I hadn’t retired when I did, The Merest Loss would never have been written. I have great admiration for those people who manage to write when in a job or bringing up children. I couldn’t have done it.

7. What inspires you? How do you beat writers block?

I was inspired to write The Merest Loss because the subject really appealed to me and I wanted to emulate, in a small way, my 19th century literary heros. The words just came out and I was lucky not to be afflicted by writer’s block.

8. How do you keep consistent/write a lot?

Actually I don’t write a lot. I write when the mood takes me. Since writing The Merest Loss, my time has been taken up with other projects.

9. Does anyone read or edit your work before publication? If so, how did you find them?

I was fortunate to be writing The Merest Loss whilst studying and my creative writing tutors and fellow students were an enormous help to the writing process. When I had completed what I thought was my first draft I paid a professional editor for a development edit. It was money well spent.

10. Can we have a sneaky look at your future plans?

My future plans are fluid. I have some short stories that are close to being a fully formed collection and also an assembly of poems. I dont’t know if I have another novel in me. I put everything into The Merest Loss and I’m not sure I could better it.

11. Finally, what advice would you give to other writers (inspiring, those publishing and those published)?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice. All I would say is that completing the first draft of a novel is only half way to successful publication. There is still a long road ahead. However, don’t let that put you off. If you believe in your novel, keep going.

Check out Steven's book, The Merest Loss.

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