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Paul Neilan: On Implementing Dark Humor

In this article, author Paul Neilan explains how he came up with the idea for his mystery and dark comedy novel The Hollywood Spiral.

Paul Neilan is the author of Apathy and Other Small Victories. He lives in New Jersey.

Paul Neilan

Paul Neilan

In this post, Neilan explains how he came up with the idea for his mystery and dark comedy novel The Hollywood Spiral and much more!


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Name: Paul Neilan
Literary agent: Simon Lipskar
Book title: The Hollywood Spiral
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release date: June 15, 2021
Genre: Mystery/Dark Comedy
Elevator pitch for the book: Anna swiped an AI and went off-grid in LA. Harrigan doesn’t want to find her, but they don’t give him a choice.
Previous titles by the author: Apathy and Other Small Victories

The Hollywood Spiral by Paul Neilan

The Hollywood Spiral by Paul Neilan

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What prompted you to write this book?

The jokes came first—Schrodinger’s daughter, hospice confessions, dying alone—but I had no idea why I was writing them or where they’d go. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and I didn’t have a car so I did a lot of walking around, thinking about the kinds of characters who’d say these things and why, and the story spread from there.

(Thrilling Humor: 5 Tips for Incorporating Humor into Thriller Novels (and Other Serious Fiction))

How long did it take to go from idea to publication?

It was about four years, with a lot of stops and starts and restarts in between. I was originally picturing a rotation, like an orrery, but then it turned into a spiral.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

Copyediting is always a surprise, learning how little I know about grammar.

(5 Features for Writing Psychological Thrillers: A Checklist for Writers)

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

It didn’t happen often, but sometimes I’d write something for one character and another would butt in and say, “Nope. That’s mine.” And they were always right.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

A laugh. Not just “Hmm, that’s amusing” or “Oh, how humorous” but an actual out-loud laugh. If I’m being greedy, I’d hope someone would like a sentence enough to make it their yearbook quote, or whatever the grownup equivalent is.

Paul Neilan: On Implementing Dark Humor

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

I don’t know if this is true for anybody else, but if I catch myself saying, “This line/scene/story works because—” that means it really doesn’t. If it did, I wouldn’t have to convince myself. It would already be done and I’d be onto something else. If it needs to be justified, it isn’t, so I try to listen for because.

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