Interview with Neil Alexander

Today, I am talking to poet and novelist

Neil Alexander,




You are a freelance writer. Tells us a little bit how you go about finding work?

Well, as a poet, I wouldn’t really call myself a ‘freelance writer’. Most poets have day jobs too (poetry doesn’t generally pay enough to cover the mortgage!) But as someone who has been published in magazines and journals, I find most of my ‘work’ through researching the publications in question and then submitting to those who I think might be interested in my poems. It’s usually a long, painstaking process and you need to be able to put up with a lot of rejection and not take it personally. This is obviously very difficult for poets, who are reputedly very sensitive souls, with very fragile egos!


Do you have a routine when writing, or do you write when inspiration strikes?

A bit of both really. Inspiration is rare and often comes at inconvenient times, e.g. 4am the night before a really important job interview. I recently drafted an entire poem at the gym (it’s just about to be published actually) and you wouldn’t be able to tell by the subject matter that I’d written it on a cross trainer while listening to Rhianna – it’s a very depressing one! For the most part though, routine is vital. You can’t simply rely on the muse to strike.


What genre in writing appeals to you most, novel or poetry?

Well, in recent years, I’ve been focused mostly on poetry, but I’m just about to embark on a novel writing course with Faber & Faber, so maybe I’ll be in a better place to answer this question once I’ve finished that.  I do think that generally speaking poetry requires a lot more precision. Every word counts: often one word needs to do the job of two or three words.


What do you find most challenging in novels and in poetry?

Getting started is the most challenging thing and that’s why having a routine is important. Persistence is key. Sometimes I’ll be on the verge of leaving a poem to ‘rest’ for the day, but instead I carry on working and end up finishing the draft. Being able to push yourself to work through those moments when you feel like giving up is vital.


Do you have a particular genre that appeals to you? ( murder, gothic, romance)

I’m a big fan of detective novels and psychological thrillers, but I’ve never attempted to write one myself. I like dark, visceral work and lots of black humour; the poet, Catherine Smith’s ‘Lip’ is a good example of poetry that I like. I’m also drawn to the Gothic genre, the richness of it’s aesthetic and it’s potential for symbolism.

Thank you very much for this great interview.

‘9 Blows’  Neil’s poem will feature in the next issue of The Interpreter’s House , coming out at the end of October.



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