How to get your first novel published - while studying at LJMU

Confidence, creativity and contacts are three things any student of Creative Writing will need once they embark on a career. Fortunately, LJMU graduate Mike Hollows found them all during his studies here... 

MJ Hollows
LJMU graduate and published author Mike Hollows

“I wanted to write a novel for a long time, but lacked the confidence. Gaining an MA in Writing from LJMU was definitely a catalyst for doing it. The course taught me a lot.” Mike Hollows, a PhD candidate (Creative Writing) at Liverpool Screen School, has just released his first book – and he wrote it while studying at LJMU. 

A Londoner, Mike moved to Liverpool to study in 2010 and has been writing his book (Goodbye For Now, out now) for the past few years. “The first thing that the MA in Writing gave me was the confidence to attempt writing a longer piece of fiction – meeting tutors and work-shopping with my peers has been hugely important, too.” The published author is keen to stress the importance of his studies in making his writing dreams come true and how the practical aspects of the courses he’s been involved in at the University have impacted his journey: “The workshops are an essential part of improving one’s writing, while the consideration and exploration of the craft during the course taught me a lot.”

Mike’s book was published last month by HarperCollins imprint, HQ, so we had a chat with him about the paths he has chosen to help him take a big first step on the publishing ladder… 

Was the MA a catalyst or has writing a novel always been a goal?
Before studying the MA I mainly wrote short stories, to practice and try things out. I was always trying to learn how to write and when the option of an MA in Writing presented itself I couldn’t resist. The course definitely gave me the confidence to do it. 

When did you first start writing Goodbye For Now?
I first started writing the novel around 2014. I’d had the idea and had been researching it prior to that, but as part of the MA I wanted to go outside of my comfort zone (mostly writing science fiction pieces) and get some feedback and advice on a different, longer piece of writing. 

"One of the most useful practical parts of the MA was learning how to pitch your novels or other work to agents and publishers. We even had to do this live in front of invited agents and publishers... "

You’re working towards a PhD in Creative Writing, how has that influenced your work?
Directly! As the PhD in Creative Writing is practice-based research, I am writing a novel primarily and then researching for a thesis on its themes and story. The research is directly influencing the novel I am working on now. The lesson learnt during that writing will help me towards the next novel. 

How has your study at LJMU helped your research for the book?
Being around the university has helped in many ways, but being able to discuss plot and themes with tutors in the department has been incredibly useful - as well as discussing idea with other departments and being able to learn from others. 

What kind of practical things have you learned studying for an MA?
One of the most useful practical parts of the MA was learning how to pitch your novels or other work to agents and publishers. We even had to do this live in front of invited agents and publishers - as well as other authors. It was excellent experience, which is hard to get elsewhere, and it certainly helped me to get Goodbye For Now picked up by a publisher. 

Tell us about the book…
It’s a story of two brothers set during the First World War. The younger brother, George, has had enough of the poverty of the Liverpool docks, and signs up as a boy soldier and heads to war. His older brother, Joe, objects to the war completely as a pacifist and as the war goes on he becomes a conscientious objector, refusing to fight, or even aid the war effort. The novel shows us the hell they both experience… and only one brother will survive.  

Hear more from Mike about the themes of his novel, and how studying at LJMU helped him get published, on our new 1823 Podcast on Spotify.

If you’re interested in English and Creative Writing, browse the courses available to you at LJMU.




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