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Interview: Stuart Neville – Those We Left Behind

Those_We_Left_Behind_Stuart_NevilleMy eyes scan the luxurious Westin Hotel’s, Atrium Lounge in Dublin and land on the bearded guy in the corner, dressed in black. If it wasn’t for the fact that we’d already met, Stuart Neville would have appeared more rock star than author and my eyes would have moved on. I find later, that if he hadn’t caught the writing bug, that’s who he may have become. Although then he may have swapped his pot of tea for something a little stronger – in keeping with that rock image!

When we get talking about his life before writing he agrees that “it seems to be quite a common thread among writers that they’ll have done a lot of odd jobs over the years before they finally end up as writers. I worked in a music shop and I worked for a long time trying to break into writing music for film. I studied music in college” he tells me, “and then I did score one low budget feature.” He grins, “sort of a musical director – for want of a better word – on a short film with Ardhal O’Hanlon.” It appears that Stuart Neville’s hands have a claim to fame all of their own. In a scene where O’Hanlon has to play the guitar, it’s actually Neville’s hands that appear on screen!

Many readers have authors they admire and would relish an opportunity to chat to them about their craft. And every writer has a number of writers they feel the same way about. I was delighted to find that we were both fans of Stephen King who Neville actually met up with last year. “It was a bit of a thrill to meet him actually,” he says.

You can read the full interview on by clicking here.


About Those We Left Behind

Those We Left Behind is the new DCI Serena Flanagan novel from the King of Irish Noir:

When 12-year-old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation.

DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran’s confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn’t forgotten the kindness she showed him – in fact, she hasn’t left his thoughts in the seven years he’s been locked away.

Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran’s confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still has over his vulnerable younger brother.

When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, fresh back at work after treatment for breast cancer, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.

Those We Left Behind is in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.

Santa’s ‘Winter Song’

“I want!  “I need!”  “I have to have . . .”

Santa’s head was melted!

He felt a sharp tug; his ever-present smile wavered, as his eyes began to water.  He peered down, through his half-rimmed glasses at the little boy on his knee.

“I want my lolly!  Santa, give me back my lolly,” pouted the little boy, as he tugged harder.

“Molly, can you bring the scissors again?” called Santa to one of the elves.

Molly arrived into the Grotto and carefully cut the red lollipop from Santa’s snow white beard.

“Maybe a cuppa and a Twitter break?” asked Molly kindly, as she raised the volume on the music; ‘Little Drummer Boy’, she knew, was Santa’s favourite.

Santa nodded as he spoke gently to James, telling him to keep his room clean and help at home so that his name would be on Santa’s Good List for Christmas Eve.  James nodded, smiled for the photo, grabbed his present and was gone.

Santa always got the words wrong, but he tried to sing along, “little baby, pa rum pum pum pum, me and my drum . . .”

As he sipped his cup of tea and munched on a gingernut biscuit, Santa scrolled down through his Twitter account to check that his elves were manufacturing the most requested toys.  It was then that he came across some unusual Tweets about #TwitterXmasSingle.  He looked at his watch, gulped back his tea and shouted to Molly that he had to fly, but he would be back later – and just like that he was gone!

Twenty minutes later he was unrecognisable, dressed as a Friar, with his white hair and beard now brown.  It was 1.00pm on Sunday, 27 November as he entered The Westin Hotel in Dublin.  His heart was thumping loudly with anticipation, but he did not want to get his hopes up – just in case!  As he came to a Reception desk he was asked to put his Twitter name on a label and wear it – so that everyone would recognise him.  He scribbled @Santa, but conveniently lost the label as he opened the doors in front of him and walked into a magnificent room, crowded with over 140+ characters – all with smiling, happy faces.  His heart soared.  He could not believe it.  Over the last few days he had become sad at the shouts of “I want!”  “I need!”  “I have to have.”

But here, in this room, it was all about ‘giving’ . . .  He sipped a cup of tea and listened in to snippets of conversation all around him.  “Hard to believe that a random Tweet from @BrendaDrumm to record a Christmas charity single . . .”  “it’s in aid of the Neo-Natal Unit at The National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, some of those babies are only the size of a bag of sugar, you know . . .”

All of these people had turned up today, most only knew each other through Twitter, and everyone was keen to introduce themselves to squeals of joy as they were ‘physically’ recognised.  Santa hoped that his disguise would hold and that no-one would recognise him!

Then it was time for the singing to start.  Santa thought things might go downhill a little here.  It was great that all of these people had given up their time and energy for others, but he hoped it would not be like some of those reality TV show’s.  Would there be screeching divas and walk-outs and sulks?  But, he need not have worried.  Brenda Drumm advised how they were going to record ‘Winter Song’ and Ian Callanan had the rows of singers, wearing their Santa hat’s, practice until they were pitch perfect – only then was it recorded.  Santa decided to stay at the back, close to the wonderful Twitter cakes which had been donated for the day.

Eventually, there was a break and more tea and coffee.  The scrumptious cakes were sliced and eaten – the sugar-hit improving the vocals even more, if that was possible.  Santa felt better than he had in days but thought he should return and get on with his job of talking to the young boys and girls to make sure they were ready for his visit.

He kept an eye on #TwitterXmasSingle and decided he would return at 2pm the following Sunday, when ‘Winter Song’ would be launched.

This time, as he walked into The Westin Hotel, he could FEEL the excitement!  Twitter friends, united in their cause, had returned and were catching up on the previous week over a cuppa.  Everyone donned their Santa hat’s again and a hush settled over the room.  They sat, waiting with baited breath, to hear ‘Winter Song’ – for the very first time – as it was officially launched on Twitter.

You could hear a pin drop, as the haunting music, the beautiful solo’s and the heartfelt choir sounded around the room . . .

When it was over, thunderous applause and cheers filled the room.  Mixed among the smiles and cheers, Santa noticed plenty of sniffles and moist eyes as the crowd stood as one, to hail their mighty leaders; Brenda Drumm and Ian Callanan for all they had done to make it happen!

Santa headed back to the Grotto, but not before he had downloaded ‘Winter Song’ by #TwitterXmasSingle from iTunes.  He kept an eye on photo’s and blogs and video’s all showing the fun that went into the making of something so wonderful.  Best of all it would benefit the little baby boys and girls; and their children; and their children’s children, that would, over the years, come to his Grotto.  What a wonderful story he would tell them . . .

Molly stuck her head around the door, “Santa, will I put on your new favourite song?” she asked, with a twinkle in her eye.

Santa nodded, the sound of ‘Winter Song’ bringing back all the goodness in the world . . .

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