Stuart Neville – Serial Thriller | Magazine | Crime | Interviews

By Sarah Downey

In an exclusive interview Stuart Neville chatted to’s Sarah Downey about striking it lucky, villains & writing his popular, bestselling series.

“The Last Dance” turned out to be just the beginning for Stuart Neville.  He submitted the short story to crime fiction zine in February 2009 and was handsomely rewarded.  “I got a t-shirt for my trouble! Then two weeks later I got a call from a literary agent, Nat Sobel and he just happened to name James Ellroy as one of his writers, who just happens to be my favourite author.”   Stuart could hardly believe his luck, it turns out Sobel’s main way of finding new authors is scouring writing websites online.  He asked to see the novel Stuart had mentioned in his bio on the site, the rest as they say, is history.

Stuart had tried in vain many times before to write, “I would never get very far, maybe a couple of pages and I’d lose interest.” He wrote two novels in his mid-thirties, but never believed they were good enough.  “I made the mistake of not having an ending in mind and the story just meandered.  Writing is like a muscle you need to exercise, you need to build up the stamina to write.”  While the books weren’t destined to set the world alight, the process of writing and making mistakes was priceless.

Neville’s first, novel, The Twelve, started life off as a short story, “I woke up on a Sunday morning with an image in my mind of a man drunk in a bar surrounded by all the people he had killed and just started typing out a short story on my mobile phone, about a month later I decided to turn it into a book – it just wouldn’t leave me alone.” The book went on to achieve critical acclaim and was placed on the The New York Times Best of 2009 list and awarded the Los Angeles Times book prize. Vanessa O’Loughlin of received a proof copy to review and has been raving about it ever since – she maintains it is one of the best crime novels she has ever read.

His next book, Stolen Souls, is the third part of this successful series following protagonist former IRA hitman, Gerry Fagan and is due out this September. Stuart is currently working on his fourth book, which will be a considerable departure for Neville. “The book came about through unearthing an historical fact I wasn’t aware of. It’s set in Dublin in 1963 and features some real historical characters.” He’s relishing the opportunity to write something different. “I felt like stepping away from the series for one book, I’ve enjoyed writing it, being freed from the restrictions of writing a series.”

Of course, there are also many benefits to writing a series, “you’ve got a readymade world & you can leave trails for yourself that you can pick up on later.” Fans will be pleased to hear that a major loose end at the end of the second book, Collusion, will come back into play in a forthcoming book. But Neville says, “It’s also nice to put that aside and write something completely different.”

“To surprise yourself,” that’s Stuart’s top tip for writing thrillers. “I find characters take me by surprise, in my next book a character was just meant to have the function of getting someone from a to b, but they turned out to be the primary villain- that really surprised me! That helps readers to enjoy it more too.”

With a new baby on the way, Stuart is sure to be in for more than a few surprises himself!

About the author

© Sarah Downey July 2011

Stuart Neville is the author of The Twelve (2009) and Collusion (2010)

Armagh author Stuart Neville has worked as a musician, a composer, a teacher, a salesman, a film extra and a baker. His first novel, The Twelve, was placed on the Best of 2009 lists by both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times and has spawned a series. His next book, Stolen Souls, will be published in September.

You can find out more about Stuart on his website,

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