Friday 11 October 2019
Interview with Neil Campbell
NC: When I am totally immersed in it and oblivious to the word count it feels like it is going well. Sometimes, working in cold flats, I only realised I was freezing cold once the writing was done. I think Hemingway said being cold and hungry is good for a writer. But that's bollocks.
Q: What was the inspiration for your Manchester trilogy?
NC: The inspiration for the first book, Skyhooks, was the autobiography by the footballer Paul Lake called I'm Not Really Here. The trilogy was more generally inspired by autobiographical fiction: Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, John Fante, and more recently Karl Ove Knausgard. I wanted to write novels in a Manchester voice, keeping those novels as clear as possible from literary techniques and devices. Novels my mate Scoie would enjoy reading. Above all I wanted to avoid doing any research. That way I could be certain that the novels were written from inside and remained true to me. I'm aware of the counter argument, and the other routes open to me as a novelist, some of which I will continue to explore. But novels rooted more obviously in lived experience remain my favourite.
Q: Did you have any difficulty in getting the first book of the trilogy published?
NC: No. I sent it to Salt Publishing, the same people who had published my short stories in the collections Broken Doll and Pictures from Hopper. Although that was ten-years after I'd first written a novel. In those ten-years I only wrote short stories. Then I wrote a trilogy of novellas that I ended up putting together as a novel. So, getting it published was easy, but writing it was a little convoluted.
Q: How do you bring your stories to a close?
NC: I want to leave the reader thinking about the story beyond its end. For that reason, I much prefer open endings. Great stories merit repeated readings and for me there's no point in re-reading a story that gives you the answers at the end. That's not to say you can't have a neat ending. This morning I read a story by Wendy Erskine. It starts with people being locked out of their homes for not paying the rent and ends with the protagonist locking her jailbird mother out.
Q: Between the first book of the trilogy and this latest book, Lanyards, have you changed your way of writing?
NC: I always try to find the right voice for each novel and short story. The syntax gets slightly more complex as the trilogy progresses, but only slightly. Generally, I take more time over things now. I was in too much of a rush to move on before. But I've always got things on the go: novels, short stories, flash fiction, poems. Writer's block is an academic construct.
Q: How would you define "the writer's life?"
NC: Sacrificing financial well being via other routes in order to give it your best shot / looking from the outside in.