Back in 2018, Conor Sneyd took City’s Novel Writing and Longer Works course taught by Martin Ouvry. 2023 sees the publication of his debut comedy novel, Future Fish. Read on to find out more about Conor’s writing journey.
Conor Sneyd was born and raised in Dublin, where he studied English Literature at Trinity College. After a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he spent several years working as an environmental and animal rights activist. The larger-than-life characters he encountered in this field served as inspiration for his debut novel, Future Fish. We caught up with Conor to find out more about his experience on the course and his subsequent publishing deal.
How did you find the Novel Writing course at City?
“I really enjoyed it. The instructor was enthusiastic and encouraging, but also very laid back about homework and assignments, so it never felt like I was back at school! Every week we’d do a mixture of reading, writing and giving each other feedback, which meant each lesson was nice and varied, and the two hours always flew by.”
How did the course impact on your writing journey?
“I started writing my novel Future Fish as one of the assignments for the course, so it definitely had a big impact on my journey. Besides all the technical advice and feedback, I think the most valuable part of the course was just being in an environment where I could start to take my writing seriously. Up until that point, it had just been a hobby, but suddenly it felt like finishing a novel and getting it published was actually an achievable goal.
Did you stay in touch with your classmates and continue to give each other feedback on your work?
“Yes, a group of us continued to meet up regularly for several months after to share feedback and moral support on the lonely writing journey. The instructor Martin joined us on several occasions too.”
How important do you think these kinds of courses are in a writer’s evolution?
“I think there are several different elements a writer needs to be successful, including technical skills, motivation, and feedback from readers. There are lots of different ways you can go about getting these, but the great thing about a writing course is that it brings them all together in a neat little ten-week package. The feedback I received from my classmates was particularly valuable. It can be scary sharing your writing with somebody you’re just getting to know, but the fact that we were all in the same boat made it a lot less daunting.”
What was the process of finishing the novel like? How did you motivate yourself and how long did it take?
“It was a long old process – about three years from starting the novel to sending it out to publishers. Then there was several months of waiting, followed by more editing work once it had been accepted. Writing the first draft was definitely the hardest part. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and that everything I wrote was crap. But I knew I just had to keep going, and so I pushed myself to plough through it without worrying too much about the quality. Once that first draft was done, I was able to go back and polish it up on later drafts. There was still a lot of work to do, but at that point, I’d come too far to give up!”
Can you tell us a bit about your publishing experience, both pre and post publication?
“It was a difficult experience, I can’t lie. I’d worked so hard to finish the book, and now the final step – actually getting it published – felt like it was out of my hands. All I could do was send out my synopsis and sample chapters and keep my fingers crossed.
I initially approached a few agents, but the feedback I received from them was that although they liked my writing, they thought the book was just a little too weird and wild for a mainstream publisher, and so they weren’t able to represent it. Eventually I changed my strategy and started approaching smaller publishers directly, figuring they’d be more willingly to take a chance on something outside the box. Lightning Books caught my eye as they’d published some similarly absurd comedies before, and I was delighted when they said they were interested.”
What’s it like to be a published novelist?
It’s exciting, but surreal! The process of getting the book out into the world is so long, there’s not really one single moment where it all hits you. I’m currently in this strange in-between stage where the preview copies have been sent out, and people have started reading them, but the book hasn’t officially been released yet. Maybe once launch day arrives on March 9th, and I see it in a bookshop for the first time, it will finally feel real!”
And what are you working on now?
“I’ve just started working on novel number two – a modern retelling of King Lear, with an absurd comedy twist.”
Thanks so much, Conor, and very best of luck with publication day!
Future Fish is available to pre-order here.
City’s Novel Writing and Longer Works short course runs every evening for ten weeks and takes students through the building blocks of writing a novel from creating characters through to developing plots.
For more on all our creative writing courses, visit our home page here.
And if you’re already a current or past writing short course student, why not enter our City Writes competition. See here for more details.