York Literary Review: Neil Hudson

Published by Jessica White on

Neil stands in the centre of the image in an all black outfit, complete with black buckled boots, and a black brimmed hat. He stood in the entrance/exit to an exhibit mentioned later in the text. This entrance is curved, as if going round a curved wall. This exhibit inspired his writing.

Introducing Neil

Where are you from?

A small town near Reading originally. I then escaped to Norwich, and now have a leg in York and a leg on the North York moors.

What did you study at YSJ?

I did the MA in Creative Writing.

Who is your favourite author?

I suppose the one who most inspired me to start writing was Ray Bradbury. I used to read bizarre stories like “The Skeleton” or “Kaleidoscope” when I was a kid and wish I’d written them. Nowadays I suppose my favourites would be Angela Carter, Christopher Priest and China Mieville.

What are you currently reading?

The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel. Last year I read Station 11, which was about a flu-like pandemic that destroys civilisation. That helped to take my mind off things, so I thought I’d read her other books.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love all kinds of weird art, music, theatre and performance. My idea of heaven would be an eternal Edinburgh fringe, but with a better diet.

Where is your favourite place in York?

As you might expect from my story, I love the Art Gallery – they always seem to come up with the unexpected.

York art gallery, as seen from the front. The image is taken looking up somewhat s that the building and statue in front are clearly visible, if slightly looming. 
The building is in an orange sandstone colour, discoloured with carbon particulates (soot) in places, like many other old buildings. The gallery has many arches and columns.
In front of the gallery is a recently cleaned statue of a man, with a water feature beneath. Neil said he likes the unexpected that the gallery exhibits, so it is a potential source of inspiration for his writing.

YSJ Questions:

Why did you choose to study at YSJ?

I went to a couple of events at the university and met a few people, and felt as if I could fit in there. When I read up on the MA programme it looked as if it might be the boot up the arse I needed.

How did the York Centre for Writing/ creative writing team help you develop your writing?

It was mostly down to being immersed in an environment where we were all taken seriously as writers (which doesn’t usually happen in the real world) and were spending as much time as possible thinking about how to develop it. A few chance comments dotted through the course led to various chains of thought that led to my current writing. These thoughts and comments would never have arisen in the outside world.

Did you enjoy the workshopping available during creative writing seminars and is this something you continue to try to do now?

I don’t mind being workshopped, but I was terrified at having to comment on other people’s writing, particularly when it was so much better than anything I could do. I don’t seem to have lost friends through it though. I do have a small workshopping circle now, and try to make it easy for the others by writing as badly as possible.

What’s your favourite memory from your time studying with us?

There were loads, but I particularly remember wandering round the living quarters of a future Martian colony at an exhibition we went to for Terra 2.

Neil sits in an exhibition about future living quarters for Terra Two. Again in all black with a hat, he sits on a chair made of clear material - almost quartz like in it's look. There is a table next to him, upon which he leans an arm, again of the same white quartz material. There are two other, empty, chairs. Behind him is a vista window looking out to other 'bubbles' or pockets lit up in blue. Neil attended the exhibit as part of his creative writing MA.

Where was your favourite place on campus?

We found a pre-seminar conference room with refreshments. I think it was called “the bar”.

Writing Questions:

What sort of thing do you like to write? Please give as much or as little detail as you like.

I usually describe myself as writing “unrealist fiction”. I’m more interested in the metaphorical and imaginative possibilites of story-telling rather than depticting reality. I get enough of that without having to depict it as well.

How did you find out about the York Literary Review and why did you submit work?

I submitted because it had the words “York” and “Literary” in the title. I think the link was shared by one of my fellow graduates.

What did you submit, and did the team suggest any edits to it for the anthology?

I sent a short piece that I wrote after seeing a large Bridget Riley exhibition in Edinburgh, and wondering if the strong after-images I saw on the wall should be considered part of the artwork. I don’t think the editors suggested many changes, although I’d already workshopped it as part of the MA. Incidentally, I don’t know of any artist who works in the way described and there’s probably a career to be made out of it. I want ten per cent.

How did you feel when they said they were publishing your submission? Did you celebrate?

Obviously I was delighted, especially because this kind of short piece is still a bit of an experiement for me, so any kind of vote of confidence is welcome

An image of Low Petergate looking up towards the Minster. It is spring or early summer, as the street is relatively empty, the sun shining despite a large cloud in the sky. Shops and restaurants line the street, including Bella Italia and Poundland.

What do you think of the anthology itself?

You’ve got to be impressed by the quality of the work in it. I’m also old-fashioned enough to like having a physical book in my hand, even though the next problem is to figure out where to put it.

Have you been published anywhere else?

I’ve had dozens of short stories published in various sf and fantasy zines, both real and online. There’s some info on my website at neiljameshudson.net.

Are there any publications you’d like to be published in?

In all honesty, just the ones that would publish me. I’d rather find the editors who actually like my work than try to get through a door that just isn’t going to open.

What’s your writing process? For example, do you plot everything first, write for 15 minutes a day, get frequent workshopping etc.

I always like to sketch out a plot in advance, just for the fun of watching the actual writing completely diverge from it. Otherwise I just try to write when I can. If the government would oblige me by ordering another lockdown, I’d be very grateful.

Next steps:

Are you writing anything currently? If so, where do want the writing to ‘end up’?

I have two projects on the go. I’m now working on the third draft (I can’t believe I’m even using the phrase) of One Hundred Pieces of Millia Maslowa, a story cycle of which “Beautiful Things” is one per cent. While taking a break from that I wrote a (very) short novel called Belkot, about the real inhabitants of an imaginary city. I would be very happy to see both of these incarnated as a real book with my name on the front cover and glowing but out-of-context review snippets on the back.

Do you work a ‘day job’ alongside your writing career? If so, what do you do and did your time at YSJ give you skills for the role?

I manage a charity shop in York, which isn’t really relevant to writing but does provide a fair degree of random input.

An image of a quieter street in York, Grape Lane. Again the sky is overcast, but the street is bright. There is no-one about and the sunlight shines off the cobbles and paving slabs.

Do you have any writing advice you’d like to share?

Learn to love rejection. It sounds a bit cheesey and self-helpy, but rejections really are just steps towards success. In fact a rejection is a success because it proves you did everything you need to get published – after that it’s just a measure of the odds, which are against you. You beat the odds by staying in the game and making more submissions. So rack up as many rejections as possible, and sooner or later you’ll get published.


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