Login   Sign Up 



 
Random Read




Neil Somerville Interview

Posted on 24 July 2007. © Copyright 2004-2018 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

WriteWords talks to Neil Somerville, a professional writer and author of almost 30 books, about his experience and advice for writers.

How did your interest in writing begin?

It began one school holiday. I was probably around eight and to keep me occupied my mother had bought me a sheet of transfers. After transferring the pictures to a sheet of paper, I asked what I should do next. My mother said, 'Why not write a story about the pictures?' And following that suggestion I was hooked. From that moment on I knew it was my life's destiny to write. But I also knew that was going to take me many years to realise my dream. And it did - about four decades before I was able to take the plunge and write full-time.

I learnt two very important things in those early years. I borrowed a book from my local library about children's writers. Each chapter was devoted to a popular writer of the time and at the end was a contact address. One chapter was about John Pudney, a writer who I very much enjoy reading. I wrote to him, enclosed a story and said that when I grew up I wanted to be a writer. He wrote a charming handwritten letter back saying, Neil, if you want to be a writer you must write, write, write, and he underlined those three words. And it is true. To be a writer, you do need to write. Not prevaricate or put off the writing process, but actually write. And even though in those early days you may not be published, all the time you will be learning the writer's craft, putting ideas on paper and adding to your writing knowledge. To be a published writer, I feel you need to serve your apprenticeship by doing as much writing as you can.
The second thing I learnt was in my late teens. I enrolled on a writing course and although it did not get me into print, it told me the importance of analysing the content of magazines and, if you want to get your material accepted in a particular publication, you do need to study it closely and learn about the style, format and requirements. Also on the course I found myself writing all manner of things, including love stories and which did not really suit me or my style. I probably wrote these thinking there was a good market for such material. This was a mistake and looking back, I see how important it is to write in the areas you are interested in and know rather than in areas which you think may offer a quick or easy return. Often they donít.

What was your breakthrough?

My first acceptance was an article about John Wilkes, a notorious character and rogue who went on to become Lord Mayor of London. I discovered he retired to a town near where I lived and I wrote an article about him, much of it based on what I had learnt at school. I sent it to a local magazine and they accepted it. Sadly the magazine folded before it appeared in print.
My writing was then put on hold for several years while I studied for my degree. When I started up again I wrote several articles and stories but all were rejected. Then when walking on Hampstead Heath it suddenly occurred to me to write an article about one of my hobbies. It was only a short piece which I wrote on a paper bag that I had with me. With previous articles and stories I had taken weeks to write and perfect but this was written in less than half an hour. I typed it up, sent it off and to my amazement it was accepted. From then I wrote many articles for magazines specializing in my particular hobby. It was quite a change in fortunes Ė from always having material rejected to now having everything accepted. Keen to build on this success, my next target was to write a series. I put forward an idea to one of the editors who had taken my material and he took the idea up. And this is another important factor. In building your writing career, take it one step at a time, all the time aiming to further what you do.
Also, my successes were with relatively small but specialist publications. Here competition for publication was not so great and it was a good way to get experience, acceptances as well as supplement my income, even if in a small way.

Having had articles and some series accepted, my next goal was to write a book. And here I was lucky. I had become very interested in Chinese horoscopes and the more I studied and researched the subject, the more fascinated I became. And I put forward an idea for a book describing the personality of the 12 signs and giving advice and a horoscope for the year ahead. The book was accepted and, although I did not realise it at the time, someone at the publishers said that I had a job for life. Since then, in 1987 when the first one was published, Your Chinese Horoscope has gone from strength to strength and is translated into many different languages.



A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.






Comments by other Members



MariaM at 21:26 on 24 July 2007  Report this post
Interesting interview Neil - as a non-fiction writer myself I really understand your need to keep yourself and your writing fresh by working on topics other than your speciality.

Having said that, I've got one of your chinese horoscope books and think it's excellent!

Many thanks

Maria


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .