Write On! interviews author Richard C McSteff
Richard says, “I was born in London but lived all over Britain when a child. This was because my dad, who was also called Richard, was a repertory theatre actor who went into film and television. Lynne Munn, my mother, was a Liverpool-born poet and artist. After studying English at Sussex University, I spent several years abroad, mainly in Spain. I’m also the author of Aleister Crowley MI5 (Mandrake of Oxford) and the Brexit satire, The Dream Of Boris. My memoir, With Barry Flanagan: Travels Through Time And Spain (the Lilliput Press), grew out of curating shows for the internationally recognised sculptor. I’ve contributed to the Guardian, Fortean Times, and Boulevard Magenta. I’m based in London but spend a lot of time in Andalucia.”
WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?
RCM: I like the borderland between fact and fiction, researching historical figures and times and then animating them on a page. I like to forge unexpected liaisons, events and might-have-beens around such figures, but hopefully ones that seem authentic to the reader.
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book, Aleister Crowley MI6: The Hess Solution?
RCM: Ian Fleming of Naval Intelligence takes up Aleister Crowley’s offer to interview the recently captured Rudolf Hess. The magician aims to wrest the Nazi leader’s secrets by capitalising on their mutual fascination with the occult. In 1945, Crowley retires to a Hastings boarding house. The young handyman Will wants to be a priest. Crowley tutors him in Latin. Soviet agents blackmail Will into stealing a file that details the devastating consequences of Crowley’s encounter with Hess. After the magician’s death in 1947, the file takes Will to California and Jack Parsons, a rocket scientist and follower of Crowley. In 1965, a chance encounter with Crowley’s controller ‘M’, the spymaster and naturalist Maxwell Knight, raises questions about the authenticity of the file. Events lead to ‘M’ disclosing the true identities of the reception committee awaiting Hess in Scotland.
WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?
RCM: I come from a family of writers: my mother, my father and an uncle all wrote profusely. I was a great reader as a child, and so enjoyed the rich worlds of the imagination I encountered, I wanted to create my own. Over time, writing becomes a habit, like drawing breath. You enter a zone, at times highly satisfying, at others frustrating, which you can’t access by any other means.
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘Literary Passions And Guilty Pleasures’. With that in mind, what would you say fuels your literary passion in terms of both reading and creating? Do you have a bookish guilty pleasure you’re happy to share?
RCM: What I look for when reading is a voice that draws me in, whether in fiction or non-fiction. By the same token, I hope my own voice appeals to the reader. I increasingly prize economy. Because of this, I’m addicted to Georges Simenon, not just Maigret, but his psychological novels as well. Some might find it odd, but I still regularly re-read the books that captivated me in childhood, such as The Chronicles Of Narnia or The Wind In The Willows.
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
RCM: Persevere. A true writer can’t help themselves and will keep writing despite every hurdle and rejection.
WO: Question from Twitter user: @madeleinefwhite Do you hear from your readers much? What sort of things do they say?
RCM: It’s very gratifying to receive unsolicited feedback. Recently, on Amazon, I came across a very positive review of a previous book, Aleister Crowley MI5, titled ‘Clever invocation of a time and place and a strange man’. The book received a good response from The Independent On Sunday and Fortean Times, among others, but this gave me more pleasure.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
RCM: A novel moving between contemporary times and that of Ancient Rome. A time slip narrative largely set upon Ibiza, where I lived for several years.
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
RCM: The lion Aslan, king of the talking beasts in Narnia. But never as a pet. I think he would make an excellent guide.
You can find out more about Richard C McNeff here: www.richardmcneff.co.uk and connect with them on YouTube: youtube.com/results?search_query=Richard+McNeff, on Instagram: @richardmcneff, Facebook: facebook.com/richardcmcneff, Linked In: linkedin.com/in/richard-mcneff-45489521/ and Goodreads: goodreads.com/search?q=Richard+C+McNeff&qid=VW1YCrqvWD
Aleister Crowley MI6: The Hess Solution available to buy here: mandrake.uk.net/aleister-crowley-mi6-the-hess-solution/
You can hear great new ideas, creative work and writing tips on Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo, or find us on Podcasters.Spotify.com.
If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for information, advice and support: https://pentoprint.org/about/advice-support/
Over time, writing becomes a habit, like drawing breath. You enter a zone, at times highly satisfying, at others frustrating, which you can't access by any other means.