Andrew Crumey interview

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Andrew Crumey: Award-winning author and lecturer.

Where did your devotion to writing come from?
When I was a kid I loved making up stories, whether in writing, drawing or roleplay
games. I’ve always been a dreamy, introspective sort of person, with a fair
amount of determination to complete difficult challenges I set myself, so all of
that predisposed and equipped me to be what I knew I would always end up

Please describe your journey to becoming a published author.
In my twenties I tried planning a novel in great detail and as soon as I started
writing it I found the characters were like bad actors. That was lesson one:
don’t plan, improvise. I joined a writing group, which gave me encouragement,
and after doing lots of little stories I hit on one that kept going and became a
novel. I bought The Writers’ And Artists’ Yearbook and followed the advice
given there about approaching publishers. The fourth one I tried said yes.

What would you say to someone who has ‘always wanted to write’ but is too
nervous to begin?
I would ask: what are you afraid of? Many people say that lack of time is the
barrier, but maybe that’s another way of expressing nervousness about
starting. The worst that can happen is that you find you’re not very good at it,
so accept that possibility and give it a go. I was rubbish at skiing but I’m glad I

What is the best piece of advice about writing you can offer?
Think about the reader.
And the worst…
Think about the market.

Are there ways in which the publishing industry has changed since your first
book was published?
A lot has changed in 20 years but the fundamentals are the same. If a book is
good then someone, somewhere will publish it eventually, and it might even
get read by a few people. If a book is bad it still might do all of those things. 20
years ago there were a lot of publishing houses that have all now been
swallowed up by conglomerates, and meanwhile a lot of new small,
independent publishers have appeared. There are also a number of
independent publishers that have survived the whole time by sticking to their
values and not trying to chase every latest trend. Dedalus is one such
publisher, they’ve supported me wonderfully over the years, and I’m very
happy to be with them.

What would you recommend writers do to get themselves and their work
Concentrate on quality and eventually you will be noticed by people who
appreciate quality. Concentrate on PR and you’ll look like just another jerk.

And what advice would you give to those receiving rejection letters?
Get used to it. Be patient. Don’t give up. Get on with your next book.

How important is it to join a writing group or find people who will honestly
critique your work?
It worked for me.

What is your favourite line from any book?
I’m not good at remembering lines (even from my own books).

And finally…there is this squirrel who sits on my garden fence and stares at
me through the window. I think he means me harm. What would you do?
Learn Squirrel.

Andrew Crumey is the award-winning author of seven novels, including Sputnik Caledonia (2008) and The Secret Knowledge (2013). He also lectures in creative writing at Northumbria University.


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