Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Neil: Neil Randall, 43.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Neil: I’m from the north Norfolk coast.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Neil: I read law at university but quickly realised that wasn’t for me. And decided that I wanted to write the kinds of books I’d always loved reading
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Neil: It’s been very quiet at the moment. I’ve been working on a few different projects, two new novels and a lot of shorter fiction, which has been really pleasing because not only have I been particularly excited with the quality of the stories, it’s been a long time since I’ve written any short stories. I thought I didn’t have any left in me!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Neil: I was always into writing stuff when I was younger, but I went to the kind of school where if you displayed any aptitude, talent or interest in anything it was roundly and summarily crushed underfoot. Pure discouragement. And it wasn’t really until my late teens, early twenties that I started to read really widely, which inspired me to maybe, perhaps try writing something myself.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Neil: I don’t. Even though I get up everyday and write for a few hours, even though I’ve got a hell of a lot of material together (some of which I’m really proud of) since I first put pen to paper, I still feel a million miles away from considering myself a writer. Even though I’ve had some modest small press success, been shortlisted for a few awards, I don’t consider myself to be a published author, even. I don’t mean that in a weird, abstruse, silly way. I just think it’s a constant, ongoing, evolving thing, not a job title or bag or category. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and see what happens.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Neil: Like most writers, I had quite a few abortive efforts before I wrote what would probably be called my first book, officially. But personally, I would say The Butterfly and the Wheel (an historical epic set around the Russian Revolution) was my first book. It took me three years to write (the first draft was 250,000 words long). It was inspired by a trip I took to Russia when I was about 19 or 20, a trip which sparked a lifelong interest in Russian literature, history. When the book was finally published by a small boutique press (who have since gone out of business, unfortunatley) I had to make huge cuts to the text (due to printing costs they could only publish books of 130,000 words). My ambition is to go back to it one day, put it all back together (with the 200 pages I had to cut in the end) and publish it properly!
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Neil: Trial and error. For a long time it was called The Communization of Delusion. Then The Fraud. Not quite sure how I came up with The Butterfly and the Wheel. Maybe that famous Times headline when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were facing long jail terms for possession of marijuana in the 60’s – who’d break a butterfly on a wheel. But, funnily enough, there’s a film called The Butterfly and the Wheel (or something very close) and Gerard Butler, the star, his character is called Neil Randall (same spelling). Very random!
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write contemporary fiction now. Not sure how to classify style or genre. Literary, maybe, but I now try and tell every story I write as plainly and simply as I can. I revise like a bastard and hopefully that kind of distillation process makes me very readable.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Neil: In general terms, I draw on my own experiences a hell of a lot. In Klingsor’s First Summer (the first short story I ever had published), I documented a summer when I had a brutal job as part of a gang of agricultural workers picking potatoes. I was only about 16 at the time, and it really was a boy trying to do man’s work. And this horrible bloke, a real nasty piece of work, bully, picked on me relentlessly. Or in another short story Hands, another summer job waiting on tables this time. One lunchtime, I walked over to serve a family of four and the mother had severely deformed hands, and I couldn’t stop from looking a bit taken aback, and the family (rightly) took offence. And it started off the chain of surreal events. Anyway, what I think I’m trying to say is that in everything I write I always draw from my own experiences, be it strange jobs, people, events et cetera.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Neil: Not really, not intentionally, consciously. Life, whether aboard a vessel or dry-docked tends to throw at you a wealth of interesting things to write about, whether you’re walking to get a paper or strolling along the banks of the Seine. I think Raymond Carver said something along the lines of trying to make a teaspoon interesting in his writing. And he’s right. No offence to teaspoons (who I have a lot of admiration for, both in shininess and functionality) but even the most mundane, everyday things, events can make for the greatest stories known to man.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Neil: Not sure. The small presses I’ve worked with have sorted all the artwork.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Neil: Happiness is Possible. But you or I will never get close to it.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Neil: I recently discovered a Chilean writer called Roberto Bolano – who’s amazing. I love the more unconventional storytellers who produce such intoxicatingly simply prose that their stories almost swallow you whole. Murakami, Paul Auster. I’m currently reading a book by James Baldwin and his sentences are so rich and full, evocative but in a way sparse, you don’t feel like you’re being bombarded with images/information but taken by the hand and walked around (Brooklyn in this case).
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Neil: Not sure what you mean. I think I’m driven on, and will continue to be driven on by a desire to write a story that compares to the stories that my literary heroes have written, that one day a young directionless man like I was back in my early twenties might walk into a second-hand bookshop and pick up a one of my novels and be inspired to start writing his own stuff.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Neil: In so far as I’m going to keep writing no matter what.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Neil: Only who published it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Neil: The sea has neither meaning or pity.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Neil: I wouldn’t mind having a crack at it myself. Think I’m probably either a bit of a frustrated rock star or method actor.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Neil: Preserve, even when it’s not going so well. And always try and finish everything you start, because, in my experience, there is a moveable, elusive kind of eureka moment when things fall into place, and it might be at the very moment you’re thinking of aborting the story – thrash it out until either you or it is dead.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Neil: Bear with me. The best is yet/about to come.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Neil: As I said: Another Country by James Baldwin
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Neil: I think it was Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (although I’m sure lots of kids, learning books etc before that) but that sticks in my mind. It was very exciting.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Neil: I try and avoid any extreme outward shows of emotion. Save that for the typewriter.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Neil: Probably Adam Green.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Neil: I run a lot.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Neil: Not much of a TV person. I prefer music and books.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Neil: I like spicy food. Blue (of course). Adam Green. Anything with an acoustic guitar and some melancholy words.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Neil: Steal my Dad’s cue and make a living out of playing pool
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Neil: Making prank phone calls
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Neil: I aim to be around for a long time yet. By the time I’m thinking of checking out, death probably won’t exist anymore.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yes: www.narandall.blogspot.com – I regularly update with new sample material, spoken word stuff and news about upcoming releases. And you can check me out on twitter @NARandall1
Amazon Authors page UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Neil-Randall/e/B00JYXI862/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1