Interview with an author
Nina de la Mer was born in Scotland and now lives in Brighton, England.
In the third year of her undergrad degree she studied in Germany.
It was this experience that inspired her to write her debut novel 4AM, the story of two young soldiers in the early 90s and their struggle to balance the routine of life in the military with hedonistic weekends spent raving.
1. Tell us about life at Sussex UniversityLife at university was a real eye-opener for me: politically, intellectually and socially.
In 1990, when I began my degree at Sussex, students had to study a contextual course called The Modern European Mind, which opened my mind to philosophy, politics and social issues. I loved that about Sussex, because in other universities I would likely just have studied straight languages.
In all honesty though, I found the transition from sixth form to university tough; doing a double-honours degree required many long hours of study and I struggled with my confidence back then so much so that I nearly gave up on my course during my second year. But, thanks to the encouragement of the university, I finished the degree one year later than planned.
Thankfully, because without it I definitely would not be the person I am, or have followed the career path I've enjoyed today.
2. You studied French and German. Did you do any additional creative writing courses?As mentioned, university was quite tough in terms of workload so, though I'd always wanted to write, I didn't have the time. Confidence was also lacking at the point. I didn't really believe in myself at all.
Much later a combination of courage, time and also life experience (which I think is especially important for an aspiring writer) made the urge to write too compelling to ignore. It was then that I did a basic Open University course in creative writing (in 2008).
3. Would you recommend a creative writing course as a route into writing?Much as I think the course I took was interesting, I think it's more important for writers to read widely and to practise their writing every day: writing can be taught, yes, but I think it's more important for writers to feel their way into their own style and to have something interesting to say.
Saying this, creative writing MAs are increasingly popular and are useful for those who lack the self-motivation to complete novels which may otherwise lay gathering dust in a drawer, half-written, for years.
“Writers should have Olympian levels of self-motivation”
4. How did you make the leap into writing?Having worked in book publishing, I was inspired to write myself. The publisher I worked for in 2007 took on my first book, The Modern Maiden's Handbook, a satire on the women's self-help formula and from there I began to get commissions from publishers for further non-fiction titles.
However, my ambition had always been to write fiction so I began work on 4 AM after finishing the OU creative writing course mentioned above: it took over three years to write and I was over the moon when Myriad Editions agreed to publish it last year. Myriad have also recently contracted my second novel, LAYLA.