Q & A THREE
Getting to know Steven Neil, the author of THE MEREST LOSS.
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.
The Learning Process
- The ability to write is a gift. True or false?
It is a gift that most of us have, to a greater or lesser extent. What is missing is usually application. Having said that, not all writers are created equal and some people do seem to have the ability to write effortlessly. Lucky them.
- Some people think that writing cannot be taught. What do you think?
Clearly no one can teach you to be a great writer. You have to have some feeling for language and a story to tell. However, I think the craft of writing, the technical ability to write grammatically, to be able to describe character and to be competent in building the arc of a story, can be taught. It is no certainty, however, that the skills will be learnt.
- How did you learn to be a writer?
I studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the Open University. It took me five years to complete my degree. I enjoyed it so much I carried on and took a one year Masters in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. I also read almost a lifetime of books!
- What experiences have been most useful to you in honing you skills?
My formal education and my reading helped me, but I have probably learned most from getting feedback from other authors on my drafts.
- Have you read any helpful texts on writing?
Stephen King: On Writing
- Which authors do you regard highly for their technical excellence?
Amongst nineteenth century writers I think Anthony Trollope is the master craftsman. Amongst modern writers Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel and William Boyd are technically excellent but they are also great storytellers.
- Would you recommend creative writing courses?
I would absolutely recommend courses, but I do understand that my courses were taken at a time when tuition fees were much lower than they are now and it is hard to justify the cost of a degree course.
- What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Stick to your guns. Whilst all the advice I have been given along the way has been helpful, one particular development editor thought I should rewrite The Merest Loss from a different point of view. I’m glad I took the conscious decision not to change it.
- What do you wish you had known before you started writing?
I have mixed feelings about this. I am proud of my novel The Merest Loss and pleased with the critical feedback. However, if I had understood the true economics of publishing, where even a successful novel brings meagre financial rewards for an author, I might have done something else with the time I invested. Who knows?
- What would you recommend to someone setting out as a writer?
Read a lot. Write a lot.
© Steven Neil
THE MEREST LOSS is available in paperback and eBook in the UK, US, France, Canada and Australia.
Follow Steven Neil on https://twitter.com/stevenneil12 for information on how to purchase the paperback through an independent bookseller in the UK.
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The Merest Loss by Steven Neil ISBN: 1788039718
‘A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.
When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet?
Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?’
Historical Fiction and Victorian Historical Romance
Steven has 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. He has been a bookmaker’s clerk, bloodstock agent, racehorse breeder and management consultant amongst other professions in his varied career. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire, England. The Merest Loss is his debut novel.
IAN author page