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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Blogger Jamie Eyberg said...

I personally think that writers are just a better class of people.

I really can't wait for the release of 'Ghosts' I have two copies on order. One for me and one for my old man. Hope 2009 is all you dream of.

10:11 PM  
Blogger laughingwolf said...

happy new year to you and yours, stuart :D

12:13 AM  
Blogger Lynne said...

Surfing the net came on you from bibliobuli blog.
All the best for 2009. The world always has room for good writers. The more books the better. I'm not a writer but I enjoy reading and I look forward to following your progress.
Enjoyed the story The Last Dance.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Fantastic to read such a "good luck" story (although I'm sure that there's a lot of your hard work invovled as well)

Best of luck in 2009 for your novel, and for your continued writing success!

6:19 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Happy new year, Stuart. May 2009 hold even bigger things for you.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

I have always believed a horoscope is correct for a small percentage of people. The problem is that you can’t know until later whether one of them was you.

Good things can happen, and keep on happening over and over again. To the future! :)

4:59 PM  
Blogger Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Stuart, that is such a lovely post. It is really inspirational and I'm so glad you are sharing it because you are so right. It does feel like hoping against hope but it can happen if you keep trying.

And I'm so happy for you! Here's to another great year!


5:06 PM  
Blogger Shona Snowden said...

You've had such a great year! 2009 could exceed it, though...

3:09 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

I'm sorry to hear those film people were such a-holes. Jerks! My experience (so far) couldn't be more different (I'm in school learning to compose music for film, as a matter of fact). But my experience with writers online (the only writers I've ever "met") has been fantastic, too.

I'm anxiously awaiting the release of The Ghosts of Belfast!

Happy New Year! Sounds like 2008 was a great year for you. Here's hoping 2009 exceeds it!

3:01 PM  
Blogger Gutsy Living said...

First of all I'm so happy for you. Ann Victor sent me to your article after reading a posting on my blog about two authors who succeeded in getting their self published books on the Amazon bestseller list.
"Perseverance Pays Off," is the title of the story. Thanks for motivating all writers.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Stuart Neville said...

Jamie - Thanks so much, I hope you and your old man like it.

Everyone else, especially the new faces - thanks for your comments. :)

11:16 PM  

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