Stuart Neville has been a musician, a composer, a teacher, a salesman, a film extra, a baker and a hand double for a well known Irish comedian. His first novel, The Twelve, was one of the most critically acclaimed crime débuts of recent years, and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Find out more about Stuart on his website -- http://www.stuartneville.com/ -- and/or follow him on Twitter @stuartneville.
Gerard: Those We Left Behind isn't quite your usual thrill ride. You're well known for your high octane thrillers, but this one seems more thoughtful and displays more emotional depth. Why the change?
Stuart: It just seems to be a natural evolution in my writing. I’m finding myself less interested in pace and action, and more interested in character. I think Flanagan has been a catalyst in that change. She’s opened up a lot of possibilities for me. Mind you, I’d hope this new book will still have the reader turning pages, and I think there’s enough bloodshed to do most people!
Gerard: Oh, yeah. Plenty of bloodshed in this one. But as in your previous books, I can see that you've presented it with restraint. Can I safely assume that you're not a fan of 'torture porn' as applied to crime fiction novels, or indeed TV shows and movies?
Stuart: No, I don’t like torture porn. I’ve no problem with the portrayal of violence in itself, so long as it serves the story. Violence for its own sake always stands out, and it’s obvious when an author is deliberately pushing those buttons just to get a reaction out of the reader. But I think readers are smarter than that, and they know when the writer is trying to manipulate them.
Gerard: Did you find it more difficult to write about young offenders compared to the full-grown gangsters you've explored in the past?
Stuart: To be honest, it made a nice change. I think I’ve pretty well covered the paramilitary gangster angle, and I’ve done a couple of serial killers, so it was time for something new. And again, being less focused on breakneck pace allows more room to explore something like the dysfunctional relationship of the Devine brothers.
Gerard: In Those We Left Behind, you presented one character's POV in present tense and the other characters' POV in past tense. If you can, without spoilers, tell us why. And did you have any difficulty justifying this style decision to your editors?
Stuart: Ciaran’s POV scenes are all told in present tense, but the prose is also very different in those passages. When I was researching the book, I spoke with a probation officer, and he told me something that really struck me: if a twelve-year-old boy like Ciaran Devine was put away, and was released seven years later, he’d come out still a twelve-year-old. I wanted to show his child-like view of the world, so both the present tense and language try to build on that. My editors were fine with it; I hope it’s not distracting or gimmicky.
Gerard: No, it's not gimmicky. It's very much a style choice. Do you think style is something that writers with a strong voice employ as much to entertain themselves as their readers? Or is it all about the reader?
Stuart: I think you’d drive yourself crazy if you spent your time worrying about the reader’s reaction. The story is king, so that’s always at the forefront of my mind: what will serve the story best? In this case, for the story, I felt the present tense seemed more natural for Ciaran.
Stuart Neville will launch Those We Left Behind at No Alibis on Thursday 11th June at 6:30pm. Be there or be quare disappointed.