Ahead of the release of his fantastic third novel, Stolen Souls, out in Hardback 26thJan 2012 from Harvill Secker, Stuart Neville kindly dropped by for a quick interview about his books and the world of Crime Fiction.
I’d had the pleasure of meeting Stuart only once before, at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival where, like a fool, I asked him to sign my copy of ‘The Twelve’ when I spotted him at the next table on quiz night. It probably means I’m the only person whose signed copy reads ‘I hope we get more points than you!’ And his table certainly did, which to be honest wasn’t hard to achieve as the team I was part of, well – we were rubbish.
KBW: Who would you say have been your biggest inspirations in crime fiction, other than James Ellroy (who I assume is numero uno)?
SN: Yes, Ellroy’s at the top of the pile for me, but I’m also a fan of a British writer called Ted Lewis, who wrote a book called Jack’s Return Home. Most people probably know the film better – Get Carter. I also went through a phase of devouring Carl Hiaasen novels, and I think my first attempt at a novel – which will forever remain unpublished – was mostly me trying to copy his style.
KBW: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from another crime writer?
SN: I’ve had so much good advice from other writers, it’s hard to pick out one single thing. My favourite, and I don’t remember where I heard this, is that when writing a novel, write the gushing, glowing review this book you’d like it to receive – then do your best to write the novel that deserves that review.
KBW: Did you attend any writing classes when starting out? Do you think they work for most first time novelists?
SN: I didn’t go to classes, but I spent a lot of time reading all the publishing and writing blogs out there. I learned a huge amount from those, and not just about the craft of writing, but about the business end of things too. I also read a few books; Stephen King On Writing, and Story by Robert McKee were a big help. I think learning about writing, whether it’s a class or a blog or a book, is always useful, but it can’t give you talent. You either have that or you don’t.
KBW: What’s the closest you’ve come to being involved in anything even approaching the crimes you have written about?
SN: I’ve some indirect experience of the kind of low level intimidation that peppers the books, mostly from paramilitaries, but not the actual guns-and-knives murder stuff. Thank God.
KBW: Now that you are above and beyond the ‘new star’ status of crime writer, who can you see coming up through the ranks that we should have our eyes on as readers?
SN: I have high hopes for Chris F Holm and Gerard Brennan. Chris’s debut, Dead Harvest, is a great blend of the noir and paranormal genres, and Gerard is writing wonderfully gritty and funny stories set in Ireland, Wee Rockets being his latest.
KBW: Are there any plans afoot to bring Jack Lennon to the big or small screen? And, if so, would you want to be involved, or would you prefer to hand over your baby (figuratively speaking) at that point?
SN: The Jack Lennon character is tied up in the movie option on The Twelve, so it’s unlikely he’ll make it to the screen any time soon, I’m afraid.
KBW: Can you write anywhere or do you have a structured routine and place to write?
SN: Since my baby daughter was born last summer, I’ve been going to the local library to write. Getting away from the constant chatter of Facebook and Twitter has been great for my productivity. But I’ve written everywhere from sitting parked in my car, to German trains, to transatlantic flights. The one place I find it hard to write now is in my home office.
KBW: Is there a subject that you couldn’t/wouldn’t write or wouldn’t put Jack through?
SN: I don’t think anything’s taboo, but there are topics I’m becoming less interested in. I think I’ve addressed the Troubles pretty comprehensively by now, so I don’t think I’ll go back there unless a really remarkable story presents itself.
KBW: What can we expect next from you – more of Jack Lennon? Or is there a standalone on the horizon?
SN: After Stolen Souls, there’s a standalone on the way called Dweller on the Threshold. It’s quite a departure in that it’s set in and around Dublin in 1963, though it’s still very much a thriller.
KBW: You made a comment on twitter in recent weeks saying you were adapting a novel for a screenplay – just for the hell of it. Could you let us know which book that was and if there are further plans for that project?
SN: That was the aforementioned Dweller on the Threshold, which should be published around January 2013, assuming the Mayans were wrong. I’ve been talking to a couple of people about it, but there’s nothing specific in the pipeline. I really wanted to see what kind of form it would take – whether it would be a feature length script, or if it would lend itself more to a TV serial. So far, it’s looking like a serial. But again, it’s just me messing about, nothing serious at the moment.
Many thanks to Stuart for taking the time out of his busy writing life, and new dad duties to pop by.
Now, please go check out his excellent books.