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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Sam Dennis talks about what inspired him to write his memoir, Nosedive, and his creative writing process.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Sam Dennis about his life and career, the experiences with relationships and addiction that inspired him write his memoir, Nosedive, and the work that went into it.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Sam Dennis. I was born in the UK but raised abroad, namely in Hong Kong, Jakarta and Spain. I returned to the UK when I was sixteen to go to music college. I have always been creative, whether it’s music, writing, acting, anything really. My dream has always been to be an author. Fiction, if I’m honest, but I am very proud to have had a non-fiction book published as my first work!
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I started writing short stories and screenplays in my late teens. My head was constantly swimming with ideas for character-based stories, even as a young boy. I found that I have to get them out onto paper, or else they plague me! I first considered writing a novel in my mid-twenties (I’m in my mid-thirties now…). I have since written three fictional novels but am yet to seek any form of publishing for those.
When did you take a step to start writing?
In earnest, it was during the first Covid lockdown. I was struggling with the boredom and free time, so I decided to start writing something. I had no idea how it would turn out, though!
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
All in all, start to finish, it was a little over three years.
What made you want to write Nosedive?
The initial idea was to write a fictional adaptation of what I experienced in my early twenties. However, as I began writing, it felt odd to write it in the 3rd person. So, I began writing it in my own voice instead. That sort of removed the shackles really. I felt that my story, what I went through, was somewhat relatable. I never set out to write a self-help book or something that would provide advice for other people, it was merely to provide an insight. It was even an opportunity for me to deal with some of the things that I hadn’t fully processed. I hoped to find a healthy balance between funny and eye-opening.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Nosedive?
Being fully honest with my story. Due to the nature of what happened, many people in my life (particularly my parents) weren’t necessarily aware of the details. I made a conscious decision, around halfway through the writing process, that if it was going to work, I had to be completely transparent and lay it all bare. I struggled because I knew some of the stuff I did and said hurt people and my putting it out there may drag up some difficult issues. But, without the full picture, the story wouldn’t fully flow. I definitely cringed a lot when writing some of the passages!
What was your research process for Nosedive?
Minimal, to be honest. As it is a memoir, I had to double check a few things with friends and family to make sure I didn’t get anything wrong. Other than that, it was all just from my own memory bank.
How did you plan the structure of Nosedive?
Before I began writing it, I planned out each chapter in bullet points, detailing the anecdotes I wanted to include and how they fitted into the story. I then decided on both the starting and ending points and got cracking. I referred to the chapter plan a lot, but I didn’t always stick to it. Occasionally, other memories came to me as I was writing and I had to work to include them somehow – slightly off-piste.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Nosedive need?
Some support, yes. But nothing major. I received some advice on grammar and the general flow of certain sentences/paragraphs. But the publisher made it clear that they liked the overall structure of the story, so no wholesale changes were made there. Together, we went through three rounds of editing, which took quite a while.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Take your time and don’t let anyone read the first draft (it’s always rubbish!).
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Absolutely. The novel I am currently working on is about a curmudgeonly elderly gentleman who sees it as his duty to call out other people’s shortcomings. He feels that interpersonal kindness and consideration are dying, and he must try to improve society while he still has the chance. He sees so many indiscretions, however, and because his memory is waning in his later years, he decides to write a journal to remind him of the complaints etc. he must make.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I can’t describe how proud I am of the achievement. The feeling of being told that a publisher believes your work to be commercial enough to release is something I will never forget. Pure vindication. The self-doubt I experienced when I was writing my memoir in my little bedroom during Covid was very difficult at times. Now, three years later, I am a published author. It’s mind blowing really.
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