We offer our first and exclusive Q&A Interview with Niall Crowley, a writer whose literary works have been featured on our Spillwords pages as well as being Author of the Month of August 2023.
What does it mean to be selected as Author of The Month?
I forever wonder if my writing is any good, if it offers anything of value to the reader. I always find pleasure in the writing, but the stories are written to be read and publication is a constant struggle. As such, being published and promoted by Spillwords Press has been important for me, and selection as author of the month goes even further in the encouragement and stimulus it provides. Publication and selection don’t resolve imposter syndrome, but they do help in sustaining creative endeavour, and they certainly put a smile on this writer’s face.
How have your friends and/or family influenced your writing?
My partner is generous in reading the raw material and unrelentingly honest, a rare gift that leaves me in no doubt when I need to do better and, sometimes, when I might be hitting a good note. I am a member of a writing group that gives solidarity, critique, fun and learning in generous abundance. Our online group, gently and knowledgeably facilitated by poet Matthew Geden, has played a central role in my writing over the last three years, and has sustained a discipline to this with its regular meetings. More broadly, family and friends taking the time to read my stories, and at least claim to enjoy them, is a vital source of encouragement.
What inspires you to write?
My motivation to write lies in the satisfaction and release found in losing myself in the process of writing and finding the right phrases and words. My inspiration for what gets written often lies in place. Place holds stories in its history, sparks stories with its beauty, and shapes stories with its character. Place in my stories has principally been west Cork in Ireland, with its dramas and quirks, monuments and wonders. My animation in the writing process comes from hope in a better future for our world, one of equality and environmental sustainability, and from anger in a troubled present where injustice and climate disruption prevail.
What was your writing catalyst?
Ever a voracious reader, it is hard to define what gives me the boldness to write. My desire to write goes back to childhood and a fascination with authors and the power of imagination. Space and time are immediate and patent catalysts for my writing. I left my job in 2009 and wrote a novel, sadly unpublished but a source of satisfaction over a five year period. The COVID pandemic hit and had us diving for cover in 2020, and I joined my writing group to discover a joy in writing short stories that has only grown with time. My sense of how stories can captivate and how the power of imagination can bring us into new realities, emotions and insights are an ongoing catalyst for my writing.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process.
The writing is provoked by a place experienced, a moment that happened in daily life, or an issue touched on that angers or inspires. It starts from getting a first sketch down on paper, even if somewhat crudely. Then there is the whittling away at that, over weeks usually. This is a process that draws from my mathematical training, seeking to put a shape and order on the story that is smooth and convincing. Character then requires exploration and questioning, demanding constant evolution and refinement. Through it all, there is a search for phrase and word, seeking a language that engages and, if at all possible, sings.
What would you say is most fulfilling about writing?
Catching that first idea for a story is the most exciting part. I know the journey is finally about to begin, appreciating how elusive that first idea can be at times. However, the most satisfying part is the process of whittling away at that first sketch of a story once I get the idea down on paper. This is the period of creation, the part of the writing process that captures my complete attention, takes up hours and days, and is almost never really complete.
Does the addition of imagery help to tell your story?
Imagery, specifically in the choice of phrase and words, plays the particular tune that I seek to thread through each of my stories. It gives life to the particular story, captures the reader in its intricacies and music, and turns a tale into a story.
What is your favorite reading genre?
Fiction in its broadest sense, and, at times, historical fiction in particular.
What human being has inspired you the most?
Samora Machel, first president of independent Mozambique.
What message would you have for the Spillwords Press community that voted for you?
Gratitude is my message. Thanks for the vote and the encouragement that holds. Thanks for finding pleasure in the story and the stimulus that holds. Thanks for populating this space for writers and writing that we all enjoy and draw sustenance from.
What would you like your legacy as a writer to be?
The concept of legacy suggests an ending, a fate which I prefer to leave for consideration by those that populate my stories. The ambition in legacy suggests a quality and a standard that I dare not claim as such vanity would cloud much needed hard work. My hope as a writer is that the stories could be good enough to be made available, that the readers are out there and willing to give these stories a chance, and that their reading might be a source of enjoyment, release and stimulus.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My appreciation and praise for Spillwords Press itself and all who make this space possible, and for doing so with such creativity, energy and generosity.
Niall Crowley is an independent consultant and believer in equality and human rights, working in Ireland and places across Europe. He is part of a prose collective in West Cork, a space that stimulates a passion long forgotten but returning to life. He is author of ‘Empty Promises: Bringing the Equality Authority to Heel’, published by A&A Farmar in 2010, a story of public policy sabotage.