Paul! Welcome to the blog, finally. I know we’ve been talking about doing this for far too long and that we’ve not is mostly my fault. But we’re both busy, right? How’ve you been? What have you been busy with?
Howdy, Mr Cool! I’ve been good. Been a busy year so far. The second London Short Story Festival not long over. A trip to Mexico with the British Council a few weeks back and promoting the novel. Getting shortlisted for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize was pretty amazing.
You have a book out. What is it? Who’s it for? What’s it about?
The Good Son is a coming-of-age tale set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1980. It’s about a 10 year old boy during the summer holidays between the primary school he loved and secondary school he’s dreading. It’s about just how far we are prepared to go to protect the ones we love. It’s for anyone who likes their stories told with pace and humour, who likes to see how people are shaped in the most extraordinary circumstances and what it means to be human, in all its complexities.
How long was it in the writing?
On and off over 10 years. I lost the finished novel once when my hard drive got corrupted. Gutted, I left it for a long time and had to start again from my notes. I left it again when I gave up writing for a while, finally pulling it out of drawer about 3 years ago and doing a final major rewrite. That’s the version that got published.
As well as being a writer you’re also the director of the London Short Story Festival (I really must get down for that one day!) and associate director over at Word Factory. Could you tell us all a little bit about those.
Word Factory is pretty special. Founded by Cathy Galvin, co-founder of The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, it brings together the best short story writers in the country to read their work every month. There’s always a fascinating discussion with authors on the craft of writing and a masterclass to learn from the best.
The London Short Story Festival has quickly established itself as an important date in the literary calendar and has gone from strength to strength. Gathering authors from around the world for a weekend of celebrations on the short story form the audiences have come from as far as Australia this year.
I’m curious – how does being involved in projects like those affect your writing? Are you able to keep them all separate, or are they a little more linked than that?
I had a very honest conversation with myself earlier this year. I love building platforms for writers, programming and creating things from nothing BUT it turns out this impulse comes from the same well and my writing. I’ve realised that if I’m to write another novel or finish this collection I’ve been tinkering with, I’m going to have to make big changes. I think I’ve already begun.
Your one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to write a good story would be…
Read a lot. It’s important to learn from the masters but also the new voices. Try writers outside your culture and comfort zone too.
What’s next for you?
I’ve taken August to read. I’m enjoying picking up books that aren’t for work. In September I’m off to Cork International Short Story Festival and Wroclaw Short Story Festival in October. But the big thing is to start writing again after such a long break. Scary stuff.
Anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for the invite.
Paul McVeigh was born in Belfast where he began his writing career in theatre. He moved to London where he wrote comedy shows, some of which appeared in London’s West End. Since turning to prose, his short fiction has been published in journals and anthologies, been commissioned by BBC Radio 4 and read on BBC Radio 5. Paul is co-founder of London Short Story Festival and Associate Director at Word Factory, the UK’s leading short story salon.
His debut novel The Good Son was published in April 2015 and has been called ‘Outstanding’ by Toby Litt and ‘A work of genus’ by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler. It has just been shortlisted for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize.