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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Neal Moss talks about the inspiration behind his new book, Letters To Penweth.
Written by JJ Barnes
Interviewed Neal Moss about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the story of his new book, Letters To Penweth.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I was born in the 1950’s into the heartlands of the Yorkshire mining industry, my younger sister and I were raised by our mother alone. Our childhood, like many others, had difficult times but we were also fortunate that our mother had a huge imagination.
I fondly recall many a morning with the three of us being entertained, enthralled and excited by tales from her stories and the ‘magic carpet’ which took us anywhere and everywhere.
I left home at the age of seventeen to work, which allowed me to live in many locations across the world, and never actually returned home as I married and finally settled in Devon over thirty years ago.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I think it has been ingrained in me forever, there has always been an idea looming in my mind and I believe I knew that at some point I would really focus on writing a book.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I have always written, though in the main, it had always been centred upon poetry or short stories, the latter of which were mostly aimed at children. I am sure that this stems from those childhood memories that I have with my mothers tales. Some of the poetry has been published over the years in magazines and I have a collection, which I self -published, “ Inside Shadows Out”.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Though the idea came to me over twenty years ago and has stayed with me ever since. Whilst I continued to write poetry, there was a constant niggle which never went away. It finally, began to come into fruition around three years ago and words were actually begun to be written.
What made you want to write Letters To Penweth?
Over twenty years ago I was attending a family christening in Cornwall at the Parish Church of St Columb Major. After the ceremony I took a stroll around the churchyard, which I often do. I noticed a particular headstone which intrigued me.
The inscription, where legible is:
This stone marks the grave of Mary Mill and is erected in grateful recollection by
She died of consumption on the 14 May 1824 in the spring time of life and having borne her painful illness with singular composure
************ her spirit **************
In humble confidence to her god-
– not legible due to erosion
For many years the word, Master, resonated with me and eventually after many dead ends, he became Brendan Kearney – the master that features in Letters to Penweth. The only connection, is indeed the word master itself.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Letters To Penweth?
Urgency, once I had an outline, I had a rush to set things down and I became rushed. Thankfully, the need to research facts and events around the dates upon which the book is based created a slower pace – the only issue then became the research itself which led inevitably to going down roads which eventually had no place with the book itself. The research challenge became a brake upon the writing and allowed the story and characters to develop at a much better pace.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
The same answer can be applied to both the protagonist and the antagonist question, it was simply the human needs and actions, in the main of the principal character Thomas.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
See previous response.
What is the inciting incident of Letters To Penweth?
I find that difficult to respond to and in the whole think that within the story, it could be construed to be that of the enduring relationship between Thomas and Brendan for some readers. Other may dwell upon the relationship that Penweth Farm has with the surrounding sea. Perhaps there are many and that they will be different for different readers, a very interesting point to ponder over.
What is the main conflict of Letters To Penweth?
The conflict always centres around that of decision, it’s an aspect that impinges upon several if not all of the main characters. The impacts of those decisions or lack of are then seen from both sides and creates the energies to overcome obstacles, much like we all face in our own lives.
Did you plot Letters To Penweth in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I created a loose framework, with particular emphasis on the timescales and periods of history the book would cover. I generally planned each stage during walks and often recorded passage and themes, character development onto my phone as I walked – it possibly created the odd look or two from passing walkers.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Letters To Penweth need?
Yes, and delighted to have done so, a great editorial team at the publishers Cranthorpe Millner. the process was more of a series of challenges which enabled myself to clarify aspects of the story.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Just have a try.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I have two outlines that I am presently engaged upon, both require elements of research. The beginnings for each are very roughly written out, but I have as yet not decide upon which outline will get priority.
Though before I do any further work on either outline, I feel the need to revisit the place where it all began and the headstone of Mary Mills, since I have completed Letters to Penweth I have attempted a small amount of research to see if I could ascertain whom the Master was. I have stumbled across Kresen Kernow https://kresenkernow.org/ who have provided an insight to my query, though as yet have not been able to identify the Master but have managed to provide the following:
“Although we have not been able to find the name of the master, my thoughts are she was obviously apprenticed to someone who thought very highly of her. She may have been employed by them after the age her apprenticeship ended and may have been unwell for sometime and cared for by her master.”
Mary also had four siblings and I fully intend to research further about her family and hopefully delve deeper into their lives.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Most definitely, yes.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Twitter Neal Moss @FremFlyer
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