Writer of the Month
May – EMBA
To celebrate this year’s fantastic shortlist, we’ll be featuring the East Midland’s Book Award authors in the countdown to the award ceremony on the 20th June, where the winning author will receive a ?1000 prize.
Neil Roberts was born in Manchester and educated in Latymer Upper School, London, and Clare College, Cambridge. He is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Sheffield, where he has taught for thirty-eight years. He wrote the first critical study of Peter Redgrove, The Lover, the Dreamer and the World, and knew the poet well during the last twenty years of his life. His other books include Ted Hughes: A Literary Life, and works on D. H. Lawrence, George Eliot and George Meredith. He lives in Derbyshire.
Neil Roberts’ A Lucid Dreamer has been shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2013.
Writing East Midlands caught up with Neil to talk about his writing:
Congratulations on being shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2013. How do you feel?
My situation is a bit different from those of other writers on the shortlist because I’ve published a lot of academic books which don’t get much attention. Part of what I wanted from writing this book was to break out from academic publishing, and being shortlisted is just the kind of recognition I was hoping for.
Could you tell us a bit about A Lucid Dreamer?
It’s a biography of the poet Peter Redgrove, who died in 2003. He’s not as well-known as other poets of his generation such as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, but in many people’s opinion he is just as good. I was very lucky to have the support of his widow, the poet Penelope Shuttle. I had to develop new skills such as interviewing people who had known Peter, and luckily I had his archive in my own university library. What is perhaps unusual in a biography of a recently dead person is that through access to his intimate journals I was able to give a pretty in-depth psychological portrait of a very complex man. Several of the reviewers thought this was an outstanding aspect of the book. I’d also like to say that the review in the Independent described it as ‘mind-bogglingly entertaining’!
What advice would you give to emerging writers?
Persevere, persevere, persevere.
Can you tell us about your writing process? What do you find to be the most exciting part, and why?
As you are an East Midlands author I wondered if the region affects your writing, perhaps by giving it a ‘sense of place,’ or a particular voice or identity, in any way. Or is this not a great factor in your writing?
Not in this book but maybe the next one (see below).
Who, if anyone, has had the biggest influence on your writing and why?
When I started I read a number of literary biographies to see what I could learn from them. The one I really admired was D.M. Thomas’s Life of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I also interviewed Thomas, who was a friend of Redgrove, and he told me to make each chapter tell a story, which was excellent advice.
What are you working on at the moment? What are you hoping for next in your writing career?
My ambition is to establish myself as a professional biographer, though I am also interested in fiction and travel writing.
The East Midlands Book Award winner will be announced at the Award Ceremony at Barnsdale Lodge on the 20th June as part of Oakham Festival. You can download the full festival brochure here.
Interested in reviewing the EMBA 2013 shortlist? with the opportunity to have your review published on the Writing East Midlands website?
All reviewers will be entered in to a prize draw to receive two tickets to attend the prestigious award ceremony at Barnsdale Lodge in Oakham on 20 June. Find out more here.