Monday, May 24, 2010
It was a real pleasure to have a chance to do this interview with Stuart, who is one of the hottest writers going. Stuart's debut novel "THE TWELVE" in the UK & titled "GHOSTS OF BELFAST" in the U.S has recieved glowing reviews. The books film rights have already been purchased by late night host Craig Ferguson. I appreciate Mr. Neville squeezing this interview in, in what has to feel like a blur to him, as he has been traveling extensively on the books behalf. I hope you enjoy this interview with Mr. Stuart Neville.
1) Why the two different titles, "Ghosts of Belfast" in the U.S. & "The Twelve" in the U.K.?
It was purely a commercial decision. The original title was actually "Followers", but when I was revising it just before my agent submitted it to publishers, I changed it to "The Ghosts of Belfast". The problem was that in the UK, books about Northern Ireland, particularly if they're about the Troubles, are viewed with a little trepidation. There's a history of very mediocre fiction consisting of either trashy thrillers or dour literary stuff, and nothing in between. We didn't want that stigma to be attached to the book, so the title in the UK was changed to The Twelve.
2)The first short story you sold was" Me and The Devil Blues". When did you first become interested in Robert Johnson and are you a Blues Man yourself?
I first thought of writing this story as a teenager, but I didn't get around to it for about twenty years. I'm a blues fan, so I've always found the Crossroads myth interesting. I'm surprised it hasn't been explored more often in fiction.
3)When you first got that call from Nat Sobel, what was running through your mind when he started naming his clients, such as James Ellroy & Richard Russo?
Well, Ellroy's name was enough for me. It was a life-changing moment that I'll remember for the rest of my days.
4) I've seen where you're an avid reader yourself. What writers did you cut your teeth on and which writers do you still read today?
I grew up in the 80s, so of course I read a lot of Stephen King. My first proper grown-up novel was The Shining. I got into crime fiction as I got older, and Ellroy's American Tabloid had a huge impact on me. I was also influenced by an underrated British author called Ted Lewis who wrote a brilliant novel called Jack's Return Home. That was adapted as the movie Get Carter, starring Michael Caine.
5) You started writing around the age of 8 and continued to do so through 2007 without any commercial success. That's some 27 years & you never gave up, and you stayed at it. Then in 2009 you break through in a big way. Some will say, he's been an overnight success. But you know differently. What did the period of time between when you started writing &finally breaking through teach you?
I wasn't writing constantly since that age. I would just take a stab at it once every couple of years, but never very seriously. It wasn't until about three or four years ago that I started writing seriously, but I guess that's the lesson to be learned: you have to approach it seriously to stand a chance of accomplishing anything, you can't treat it like a hobby.
6) You did the Late Show with Craig Ferguson. How was that experience & does it all seem a bit surreal and take getting used to?
That was very strange. For one thing, they sprayed stuff on my head to make me look less bald under the lights. They told me before I went on that it would feel like it lasted thirty seconds and I wouldn't remember any of it when it was over. They were absolutely right.
7) We know that "Ghosts of Belfast" has been optioned and Craig Ferguson picked up the film rights, so when might we see the film in theatres?
That's a long way off. There's such a mountain to climb between here and there, so many obstacles in the path of getting any film into production, that I wouldn't like to speculate on it. But Craig is very passionate about it, and if anyone can get it made, he can.
8)The short story can really be linked to launching your career, without it you may have given up. Would you recommend to other writers just starting out, to start with short stories before attempting a novel?
Short stories are useful, but I think any given writer should work in whatever medium suits them best. But ignore the short story at your peril. Even today, it's still a relevant way of telling a story, and the Internet has only made it more so.
9) I have got to know, what are you eating, drinking or (etc)...before you go to bed at night, that gives you these terrific story ideas from your dreams and where can the rest of us writers get some? I love it, dreaming about a guy in a bar surrounded by people he's killed.
I don't know, but it definitely wasn't cheese!
10)Where too next, will you pick up again with Gerry Fegan in your next novel, or will you go a completely different direction?
The next novel, Collusion, is a sequel to The Ghosts of Belfast, and Gerry does play a part, but he's not the main character this time around.
11)Several short story anthologies have came out in the last couple years, staving off what looked like a dying vehicle. Is there any better way to get a taste for an author without first reading his novel than through the short story?
12) Any plans for a U.S. book tour in the near future?
I'll be touring the US in October 2010, starting with Bouchercon in San Francisco, and crossing the whole country. I can't wait.
13)The last 2 years has seen an explosion or "New Wave" of wonderful Irish crime writer's. How does it feel to be included in the same breathe as Ken Bruen, John Connolly, Declan Hughes and Adrian McKinty?
It feels pretty good. What's interesting is how diverse the styles are from such a small part of the world.
14) I noticed on your website that you include links to other artists? Is it important to you to help and support other writers?
I've been constantly surprised by how supportive writers are of each other, even those that could be considered rivals. There's no sense of competition. Other writers have been very kind to me, so it's only right to pay it forward.
15) For those of us in the U.S. who may not know, what exactly does a hand double do for a comedian?
Ah, that was a short film called Flying Saucer Rock'n'Roll in which Irish comedian Ardal O'Hanlon had to play guitar. I provided the hands for the close-ups.
16) I love the varied theme's you touch on in "Ghosts of Belfast", such as vengeance, deliverance, redemption, mercy, quieting the ghosts of our past & the realization that we all pay in the end. These are universal themes, but yet they are of vital importance to Ireland and it's history. Was it important to you to try make a statement in your book, or were you?
I just wanted to tell a story, but all good stories have themes at there core. You need to let the themes come to the surface by themselves, though. If you chase them too hard, they'll end up dictating your story until it becomes a sermon. And nobody wants to read that.
17) Without giving too much away, Gerry receives what he seeks in the end. Was there ever any thoughts of taking it the other direction? Not receiving what he was seeking?
18) Do you think you can ever top 2008?
19) Final Question: Where do think Gerry Fegan is today?
I know exactly where he is, but you'll have to read Collusion to find out!
Posted by Rod Norman at 5:45 PM