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Kevin Gerard Neill, LISP 2022Short Story LISP Finalist

LISP 2022Short Story LISP Finalist, 'Beneath the Khamaseen' by Kevin Gerard Neill

- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

I recently completed a 20-year career in public health. Prior to that, my life varied from a period spent in the military as a United Nations Peacekeeper in the Middle East to employment as a refugee relief worker in a camp for Bosnian Muslims in Croatia. All these experiences found their way into the submitted story.

To date, excerpts from my most recent novel, A Cypress Tree Has No Shadow have appeared in the September, November and December 2022 Novel Excerpt section of The Write Launch online literary magazine. Another work of mine (Checkpoint 104, a short fiction set in Israel) has been published online in the Bangalore Review. Previously published works of non-fiction have appeared in professional journals (Cultural Survival Quarterly, the Journal of International Women’s Studies, and Ethnicity & Health) on subjects of women’s health (sexual assault during wartime), and health and human rights.

- When and how did you get into writing?

The short answer is that I've always been an enthusiastic reader and loved the interplay of words, emotions, and ideas. This, and coming from a family that was tight-lipped to the point of being monkish, led me to communicate through words. It allowed me my only real emotional outlet. I wrote my first play as a schoolboy in the 1960s (a Star Trek rip-off). I also went through a stage of many years of writing about me until that became uninteresting and unsuccessful. It was only then I realised that it was my experiences and not me that could be woven into interesting tales and that's been my guiding star since.

- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?

Heavens, not nearly often enough. I've also tried and failed many times to keep a journal/diary. Hats off to those who can. For actual stories, though, my ideal is writing in the morning for three to five hours. Sometimes that is very productive in terms of quantity; more often I get a decent page or two. My inspiration is the need to put something on paper, regardless of whether it's good at the time.

- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

It's glorious and humbling. Glorious to learn that all those hours spent alone pecking away resulted in a reader being moved/entertained by my words. Humbling because I know there are so many others who are writing and putting themselves out there with their work. And submitting a work is a true act of bravery, risking rejection that's akin to being rebuffed in love.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Story?

Getting the first draft done. It's only then that I really enjoy the work, because I love the editing process. That's where I feel like I'm turning a shapeless piece of stone into a recognisable figure.

- How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?

Beneath the Khamaseen comes from my interest in women's fiction and women's issues (see bio bits above), my love of the desert after two years spent in Egypt and the breathtaking experience of being in a Lawrence of Arabia-style sandstorm. I spent perhaps three months writing it. I would edit it again, probably, and turn it into a longer story.

- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?

Get it onto paper, regardless of how horrible you think it is. And give your characters true and observable personalities through their words, actions, quirks, everything. Dialogue and action propel a story, scenery provide a backdrop, but it's the characters who bring a tale to life.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?

The best thing is having a potential outlet for your work, and of course getting listed. Most challenging might be deciding which competition to enter. Prize money is lovely, but I'm drawn to the venue and why it exists.

- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit their stories/screenplays to LISP?

Absolutely. LISP is demonstratively a supporting group, whether one is a 'winner' or not, and support is something writers need as they pursue their lonely art.



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