Annus Mirabilis: 2008 in Review

Wednesday, December 31, 2008, 8:27 PM

This New Year’s Eve I find myself incapacitated by strained metatarsal tissue in my left foot (my resolution to get fit for 2009 kind of backfired on me), so before I embark on an experiment to record the combined effects of painkillers, beer and cider on the human body, I thought I’d take a look back over the most extraordinary year of my life so far.

2008 started well for me as a writer. My flash fiction piece OPENING TIME appeared in the January 3rd edition of Every Day Fiction. In a case of serendipity, that story was inspired by injuring my right foot in exactly the same way my left foot is right now. I parked outside my local off-licence and waited for them to open so I could buy a bag of ice to apply to said foot. While I sat there, a small huddle of men in shabby clothes gathered to buy their day’s alcohol. Read the story and you’ll see what I’m on about.

A few days ago, I happened upon my horoscope for 2008. It said January 25th, my birthday, would bring good news that would have extraordinary consequences for the rest of the year and beyond. I’m a hardened sceptic when it comes to such matters, but it just so happens that January 25th was the day I received word my story THE LAST DANCE had been selected for the February edition of ThugLit. Naturally, I was delighted, but I had no clue as to the series of events that would follow.

I won’t go into it all again. Anyone who reads this blog, or knows me at all, has already heard the story. All I can say is I have been blessed with the most incredible luck this year as far as my writing goes, and I still struggle to believe it myself. It’s the kind of scenario every writer fantasises about, but no one thinks can actually happen. Not in the real world. I made an offhad quip to a journalist just before Christmas that when I was a kid learning guitar, I daydreamed that David Coverdale would somehow hear me play and be so impressed he’d ask me to join Whitesnake, and that was kind of what happened when my agent came across THE LAST DANCE online. I regretted saying it a few days later when the newspaper led with that angle, and so did a radio interviewer, but it is a fair analogy as much as it made me blush when I read back my own words. I really got that lucky.

One point came up in my recent round of interviews: with one exception, I never told my friends or family I was writing. I was too embarrassed. Given the massive odds against success, even if you have any talent, it seems such a ridiculous thing to spend your time on. Even when circumstances forced me to come out as a writer, I did so with a red face. I still cringe when someone I know asks me about this whole book business. But there’s a lesson for all my writing friends who are still chipping away, hoping for their break: It’s not a stupid thing to do, it’s not a waste of time, it’s not a fool’s errand. Keep plugging. 2009 could be your year.

One of 2008’s highlights for me was the Dun Laoghaire crime writers’ weekend at the start of September. This was the first time I’d ever gone anywhere and introduced myself to others as a writer. The nearest equivalent I’d experienced was more than ten years before when I attended a film festival at which a low budget feature I’d written the score for was having its premiere. That was a bad weekend. I found the attendees to be rude and hostile, even those involved in the same production as me. One director ripped up my business card in my face (it said “Stuart Neville, Composer”), and the whole event was defined by cliques and the worst kind of snide jealousy and rivalry. So, when I went to Dun Laoghaire in September, I was braced for a rough ride.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I found the writers in attendance, even though they included some of the biggest names in the business, all welcomed me with the greatest warmth and openness. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with John Connolly, Arlene Hunt, Brian McGilloway, Declan Burke and more, and I was delighted to find every single person I encountered friendly and down to earth. Throughout 2008 I have been constantly impressed by how supportive the writing community is, both within Ireland, and internationally. That goes from those just starting their climb to those who have reached the summit, and all those publishing professionals who give so freely of their time to help steer us on our ascent. While writing and the publishing industry is a tough place to be from a business point of view, on a personal level it is the best creative industry I’ve ever been involved in. The coming years will see massive changes in the publishing world, I think everyone accepts that as inevitable now, but I desperately hope the human aspect remains intact.

Since I started blogging in 2006, I’ve made more friends than I can possibly list here. There are many of you to whom I am deeply indebted, and you know who you are. I hope 2009 will be as good for you as 2008 was for me.

Happy New Year!

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A Quick Christmas Roundup (Incorporating God Bless Ken Bruen)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008, 12:37 PM

It's been a busy few days, so here's just a little list of things...

I did another radio interview, this one with George Jones on his u105 drive-time show. It was a lot easier than the BBC one, the questions being not quite so probing.

I'm picking up speed on the new book again after some time away for editing the last one. I'm hoping to get some serious work done over the Christmas break.

I also hope to write a short story for Gerard Brennan and Michael Stone's anthology, provisionally titled Myths and Mobsters. Mine shall be called QUEEN OF THE HILL.

The BBC NI news website is currently featuring an archive video of a news report from 1978, wherein a young Australian reporter shared her impressions of the city at that time. How things have changed.

A short story and an article by yours truly recently appeared in Ulla's Nib, the magazine published by Belfast's Creative Writers Network. The article was called Small World: Writing in the Internet Age, and it features input from Nathan Bransford, Betsy Dornbusch, Declan Burke and Moonrat. I've posted the article to my website for anyone who can't get their hands on the mag.

Last, but definitely not least, the Irish crime fiction star Ken Bruen very kindly read THE TWELVE recently, and he had this to say: "The Twelve is the book when the world finally sits up and goes WOW, The Irish really have taken over the world of crime writing. Stuart Neville is Ireland's answer to Henning Mankell."

And on that note, I'd like to wish all my friends a very Merry Christmas. I'll be back for a recap of 2008's events some time before the New Year.

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That Radio Ulster interview...

Monday, December 22, 2008, 11:17 PM

Well, that was an interesting experience. I've done radio before in a musical capacity, but I've never been interviewed live on air. Another first was reading my work out loud for others to hear. If there's going to be a first time, I suppose it might as well be in front of tens of thousands of people rather than a handful at a reading! The presenter William Crawley rather caught on me on the hop by asking some rather insightful and intelligent questions, but I think I gave a reasonable account of myself.

Anyway, if anyone cares to have a listen, the BBC iPlayer show is here - though I don't know for how long. The programme starts with an interesting piece for anyone who likes Hunter S. Thompson, and my segment begins around the 8:30 mark.

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Interview on BBC Radio Ulster This Evening

Just a quick heads up for anyone who's interested - I'll be interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster's Arts Extra programme this evening at some point between 6:30 and 7:00 GMT. You can listen in on the BBC website at by clicking on the 'listen now' link near the top right of the page.

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Spanish Book Deal!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 10:50 PM

Judith Weber, the foreign rights specialist at Sobel Weber, let me know this evening that Ediciones Urano, the Barcelona-based publisher, has acquired world Spanish language rights to THE TWELVE/THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST in another two-book deal. I'm currently having a Stella Artois to celebrate, but it should really have been a San Miguel. Incidentally, I've been to Barcelona twice, and it's one of my favourite places on earth. This might be a good excuse for a return visit!

In other events, an article and a short story by yours truly have just appeared in the winter edition of Ulla's Nib, the magazine published by Belfast's Creative Writers' Network. The story is a reprint of THE LAST DANCE, the short that first inspired my agent to contact me, but the article (a piece on writing in the Internet age) is brand spanky new. I'll post a link to the online edition when it's available.

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Two-Book Deal with Rivages, France

Tuesday, December 09, 2008, 9:25 PM

I got yet another pleasant surprise today when Judith Weber, the foreign rights specialist at Sobel Weber Associates, got in touch to tell me she had just secured a two-book deal with the French publisher, Rivages. Rivages is France's leading publisher of noir fiction, including a few names you might have heard of, like James Ellroy and Ed McBain. Of course, I'm delighted.

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A New Website for a New Title

Wednesday, December 03, 2008, 8:51 PM

I've been a busy boy over the weekend and built myself a brand spanky new website. This is largely because no suitable variant on THE TWELVE was available as a domain name, and the old site needed a good going over anyway. Have a look at the links section - I've tried to include as many people as I could in the rush to get it online, concentrating mostly on authors with specific promotional sites, and I've left the 'Friends' section rather bare. If you'd like a link and I've neglected you, please let me know in the comments.

In other news, I have received editorial notes from my other editor, Briony (yes, I have two editors!), and I have to say I'm astounded at her eye for detail, and slightly embarrassed at all the mistakes she's found. I've got another busy period to come as I work through revising the manuscript.

And finally, just thought I'd mention I'm off to New York in March, and I'm as excited as the first time I went.

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God Bless John Connolly, Part 2

Monday, December 01, 2008, 8:51 PM

I got a very pleasant surprise yesterday evening courtesy of John Connolly, via Declan Burke, by way of Jeremy Duns (whose debut Free Agent will appear next year). It seems this weekend's Irish Times ran a feature where various public figures, some literary, some otherwise, chose their books of 2008. One of those figures was John Connolly, and he said the following:

"Meanwhile, this was a good year for Irish crime fiction, with strong additions from Declan Hughes, Tana French, Paul Charles and Brian McGilloway, among others. I suspect, though, that one of the crime novels of the year in 2009 will be Stuart Neville's stunning debut, Twelve (Harvill Secker, £12.99), which is, I think, the best mystery to have emerged so far from the aftermath of the Troubles. I read it in a single sitting, and it marks a major step forward for the genre in this country."

I am happy.

The full article is here.

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