Author Q&A:
Nicola Mostyn

The Love Delusion
(Pikatus, £8.99) 

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The follow up novel to Gods of Love, The Love Delusion follows Frida, who is a dedicated member of a movement determined to rid humanity of its obsession with love – until she finds a picture of herself with a mysterious man and her life begins to unravel. Nicola Mostyn is a Manchester-based author and former Big Issue North columnist.

Your first book took a while to get out but it’s only been 18 months between publishing The Gods of Love and The Love Delusion. Have you opened the floodgates?
I’d love to say yes but, due to how publishing schedules work, I was writing The Love Delusion 18 months before Gods was launched! Also the core idea (a movement that denounces the existence of love) was in the original drafts of Gods but I took it out because there were too many concepts jostling for position. So in some ways The Love Delusion has been over a decade in the making! Yikes. However, I’ve also self-published a non-fiction book about creative writing this year, and am working on my third novel, so I’m going to optimistically suggest that the floodgates are, if not wide open, then certainly ajar.

What is the love delusion in the real world and what kind of battle do we need to have to undermine it?
The love delusion is the result of wanting certainty so badly that we’re willing to give up reality to have it. In Gods I explored obsessive love. In Love Delusion I’m looking at the opposite – what happens when people renounce love (or indeed anything else), believing this course of action to be the Answer. What I’m interested in is how these opposing positions are two ends of the same stick: an attempt to gain control.

The battle we have is against our own intolerance for uncertainty. Being human is hard. Life is complex and changeable and confusing. Sometimes it’s just too much. We’re exhausted. We don’t want nuance and paradox – we want one simple position we can stand by forever. And if it can be conveyed in Gif form, so much the better.
We’re seeing this a lot right now of course – black and white thinking, polarised opinion, social media pile-ons – when it seems that, often, the only true thing that can be said is “it depends”. Are romantic relationships good or bad? It depends. But “it depends” is useless as clickbait and refuses us a self-righteous pedestal from which to attack the enemy, so you probably won’t see it trending anytime soon.

Why do you think the Greek classics continue to inspire writers?
I think it’s about the power of myth as a metaphor for the human experience. Mythologist Joseph Campbell said: “Mythology is the penultimate truth – penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words”. What myth – and, I’d argue, all fantasy – does is zoom out from our lived experience to tell broader stories about gods and monsters and heroes that are analogous to the smaller (but equally dramatic to us!) trials we face in everyday life. I think we’ll always return to the classics. Like Jung’s archetypes, I believe myths are innate to us – our true universal language. Plus you get snake-haired women and flying horses. Who doesn’t love that?

Which writers do you consider literary influences?
All my favourite writers are either funny ha ha or funny peculiar or both. In the peculiar camp, there’s Stephen King, CS Lewis, Margaret Atwood, John Wyndham, Ira Levin. In the ha ha corner, we have David Sedaris, Bill Bryson, Cynthia Heimel, Tina Fey. In both (here the field narrows), Douglas Adams and Joss Whedon. Right now my novels are in the both camp, which makes them pretty niche, but I suspect I’ll write in all three areas eventually.

Is regional diversity in publishing improved since you first set out to get published? 
I didn’t consider that my northernness might be a barrier when I began pitching out 10 years ago. I knew fellow Mancunians who’d got book deals, so I thought I probably could too. And I did. My location hasn’t been a massive problem for me but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been for others.

I’m in a Facebook group with a lot of traditionally published authors from all over the country, so I put this question to them. Some felt their novels with regional locations were rejected by the Big 5 publishers because the London-centric editors were unfamiliar with the settings. Others felt the regional aspects of their books (and themselves) were deemed a plus (#itdepends).

One very common issue was that the cost of travel to meetings, events and networking opportunities in the capital can prove prohibitive to writers on a tight budget – which is most writers.

But there are some amazing initiatives these days to bring publishing to the regions, from literary agencies and writing associations purposefully holding pitch days and conferences outside London to widen accessibility and discover regional talent, to amazing homegrown events like New Writing North and their Northern Writers’ Awards, and the Northern Fiction Alliance, founded by Comma Press, which aim to show that publishing doesn’t begin and end in London. These opportunities to get immersed in the publishing world are so important for regional writers. Theoretically anyone can be a writer, but seeing someone like you achieve that dream makes you understand that it really is possible.

Do you have any writing rituals?
Sadly I don’t have any weird superstitions like “I can only write when my lucky Gonk faces NXNW” but I do always write in the same way: in the morning, ideally after journaling for half an hour to clear my head. I have coffee. I listen to music with earphones to create a sort of sound cave for myself, but only albums I know inside out so they’re more like white noise. I ban myself from the internet until lunchtime (important). I tell myself I don’t have to do anything amazing – I just have to show up at the page and do my hours. I always wonder how the hell the idea is going to turn into a novel and it never feels like it will, so half my job is reminding myself not to panic, that I’ve been here before and it all worked out okay.  Somehow over time the writing becomes a book and it’s hard to believe that it was ever not a thing. And then? I start the whole process all over again…

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