AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK SOMEONE SHOULD CALL THEMSELVES A WRITER?
It`s all a question of attitude. Unless you tell yourself that you are a writer and begin to think like a writer you will not become one. The moment someone makes a conscious decision to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to their writing, they should consider themselves a writer. This is very different from the many people who simply think they would like to write a novel and set out to do that but don`t stay the course.
WHAT DIFFERENCE DO YOU SEE BETWEEN A WRITER AND AN AUTHOR?
As a writer, I have written in many different forms, including journalism, PR, and corporate and business writing. I have also authored several books and reports. So, it`s all about form and what you write.
HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED WRITING UNDER A PSEUDONYM, AND WHY OR WHY NOT?
My novels are written under the pseudonym C.J. Neill but I also write non-fiction and journalism in my own name Neil Bromage. For me, it`s simply about separating the two forms.
WHAT DO THE WORDS “WRITER’S BLOCK” MEAN TO YOU?
Very little! I learned a long time ago that writer`s block is overcome simply by writing one word after another. Whenever I feel I might be struggling to get the words down I remember the words of Adrian Plass: “I dejectedly push a key or two, just for old times’ sake, before putting my coat on and setting out for the Job Centre. A couple of words appear on the screen; they grow into a bad sentence; I put the sentence right; I have to write a second sentence in order to explain the first one; suddenly my interest is caught by some aspect of what I have written; I sit up in my chair and wriggle into a comfortable position; my fingers do a sort of piano-playing mime as they hover over the keyboard; I plunge headlong into composition; I am writing again”.
HOW DO YOU PROCESS AND DEAL WITH NEGATIVE BOOK REVIEWS?
Writers have to learn to handle rejection and negativity. We can`t please all the people all of the time. The only way to deal with this is self-belief. Without it, we are likely to shrivel up and die at the mere suggestion of someone not liking our work or any part of it. It was the writer Anthony Horowitz who said, “If you`re going to be a writer you have to have self-belief. Every writer gets rejections (negative reviews). They say the difference between a successful and unsuccessful writer is an unsuccessful writer gives up. If you keep going you will succeed.”
ARE THERE THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS TO MODELING A CHARACTER AFTER SOMEONE YOU KNOW?
All characters are modelled on someone we know, it`s all a question of detail. I may pick one specific characteristic from one person and another from someone else, but they must gel together. And as Ian Rankin said, “you are god”, you can bump off someone you don`t like and there can be some satisfaction in that.
WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
If by “writing process” you mean the actual writing or production of the words and finished story, then it’s two things. The gestation period when I`m mulling over different aspects of where the story is going can be frustrating. I really want to just get on and write but I know that I must complete the outline, in my head at least. The editing process can also be frustrating. I’ve probably spent a year writing the novel (many years for The Money-Go-Round) and then must wait weeks for my editor to return it with comments. Understandably I should add as editing takes time.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING OR WHEN DID YOU START?
About forty years. It began with diary entries when I was working in the legal profession. In 1990 I won an award for a stage play, The Accommodation. I was first published in 2006 and went on to write for most major UK media titles including The Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as well as Reuters.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A WRITER WORKING ON THEIR FIRST BOOK?
Get help! They need to understand the basics of good writing before beginning a novel, ideally by writing shorter-form fiction in order to learn the basics. Writing a novel is a huge task, even for those who have done it before and know what they`re doing. When you learn to drive you don’t begin on a motorway and the same is true of writing a novel.
WHAT, TO YOU, ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF GOOD WRITING?
Sentence structure and flow are really important. Good writing should have a beat, just like good music. It shouldn`t jar. Brevity, for me, is also important and I never want to use six words where three will suffice. Storytelling ability is also vital but then without good editing, none of it will amount to much.
WHAT COMES FIRST FOR YOU –THE PLOT OR THE CHARACTERS — AND WHY?
It`s a little bit of both. In The Money-Go-Round, I`ve written about Max Stephens and I will probably do so again in my next novel. But I tend to start from a position of wanting to write about a particular event, possibly one I`ve either witnessed or experienced and so the plot might come first. But a plot without character doesn`t work and so as a thriller writer, I need to ensure I blend both together.
HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR PLOT AND CHARACTERS?
Whilst I have an outline of where I want a story to go I must confess to being a bit of pantser. That means I try to allow both the plot and the characters to come alive and go their own way. It`s dangerous as both can end up going over a cliff! But that`s fine because as Ian Rankin said. I can play god and bring them back to life, stopping them from going over the edge. Both are a bit like children and it’s my job to give them life and allow them their heads until they look like they might get into trouble.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST CALL YOURSELF A WRITER?
I have always known that I was a writer. I was living the life of a (penniless) writer a long time ago when I wrote my first novel. However, it took until 1996 for me to really think like a professional freelance writer, which I then became, following the publication of my first (paid-for) feature.
HOW DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN AUTHOR?
Not very well, I`m afraid. I`m OK with Facebook and Twitter where I have profiles for both my fiction and non-fiction. I`ve also just started to use Instagram and TikTok. I`m currently working on a plan to ensure that all my social media is handled more effectively.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE PART OF PUBLISHING?
I`m rarely happier than when I’m writing. I`m also happy when interacting with my readers and other writers. The more practical aspects of publishing, eg submissions to agents and publishers or the technical requirements of setting up and managing social media, Amazon KDP or IngramSpark can be tiresome.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO AN AUTHOR WHO WANTED TO DESIGN THEIR OWN COVER?
Don’t! At least not unless you have a real qualification in design and even then I`d say to avoid doing it and get it done by an independent professional who will see things you don`t.
Interview post link https://www.instagram.com/p/Cp0hRPMyoVR/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=