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  • Karen Hamilton-Viall

Neil Storey - Historian & Author

Neil R. Storey is an award-winning social historian specialising in the impact of the First and Second World Wars on British society. He also has a long-standing interest in gothic horror, is the creator of the popular 'Grim Almanac' series published by History Press, and has published numerous works on dark history. He has been in publication since 1989 and now has a canon of over 50 books and has had great reviews in The Times and Daily Mail. A graduate of University of East Anglia he guest lectures for both academic and social audiences across the UK and internationally. He has written countless articles for national periodicals and frequently appears as a guest expert on factual television and radio programmes such as: Who Do You Think You Are?, Classified Britain, The Buildings that Fought Hitler, and Help! My House is Haunted

How many books have you written? Can you tell us a little bit about some of your favourites?

I have written over 50 books and I am still researching and writing. I have always prided myself on my ground-breaking and original research and have loved every book I have ever written. Life is too short to write books that have no meaning to their author.

What’s the latest book you've had published?

My latest book is Faces of the Home Front 1939-1945 (Pen & Sword 2022) which tells some very revealing and human stories, good and bad, from the British Home Front during the Second World War. The book is illustrated with many rare and poignant illustrations in original colour (rather than colourised) and black and white.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

I was giving local history talks based around my family archive of photos since I was in my early teens. The late Terry Davy, the owner of Nostalgia Publications said to me after one of my talks that I should write a book. It had been said before, I had always dreamed of writing but Terry added he would publish it. So I set to with a second hand Remington typewriter and a pot of Tippex and drafted my first book.

Where do you get the ideas from for your books?

It has been something of a rolling ball since my first books that when researching one book I will discover stories and pictures that inspire the next book. Since working on the documentary Hitler's Britain twenty years ago I have researched espionage and collaborators in Britain during the Second World War. So much was still classified but as more material is revealed every time the National Archives release the next batch of files. It's quite a journey of discovery and even revelation.

How long does it take you to write and research a book?

My research has been ongoing for 30 years. Writing time varies, I normally like to produce two books a year so that when I need a break from one I can turn to the other for a while.

Your books have a strong focus on 20th-century history and in particular on East Anglia. Is there a reason for that?

I am a Norfolk man and am very proud to be so. I love Norfolk and East Anglia, it has always been such a rich seam of history and inspiration for me. My early years as a historian focussed on recording the stories of local veterans of both World Wars in my home town and county. My first books reflected this research and it spread from there.

I've noticed from some of your books that you have an interest in the paranormal, where did that stem from?

I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents, uncles, aunties, and their friends. They were wonderful, kind people with all sorts of stories to tell. I always loved ghost stories, folklore, and legends best of all. Those stories inspired me to research their origins and I have been delighted to share my discoveries and stories in several books over the years.

I saw on social media that you've attended paranormal events before. Can you tell us about that? Have you ever seen a ghost?

I have spoken about my research into the paranormal, especially ghosts, the persecution of witches and vampires in fact and fiction at numerous conferences around Britain and in the United States. I have seen several things I really cannot explain, some of them might well have been ghosts or paranormal activity of some kind.

Are you happy being born in this era or do you have yearning to have been born in a different time? If yes, what era would you most like to have been born in?

I think we should really try to be happy in the life we are given, it is a very precious thing and we only get one shot at it. Never give up on your dreams. That said, a bit of time travel would be rather wonderful to just drop in on a few periods in the past. I guess if I had to nail down a time period to visit the dial would be set between 1885 to 1945. But could we really visit some of those time periods and resist the temptation to try to change history?

You've been a re-enactor for many years. How has re-enactment helped you with your writing? (Are there some things you can only find out by living the history?)

I am proud to be one of the founders of living history for education and was a member of the team that created the first residential events for children to experience life in the past. It was the subject of a Times Education Supplement article and even a Radio 4 documentary. That was back in 1989 and I am still meeting the children who attended and have such great memories. Living history should be exactly that, and it is such a great opportunity to experience something of the life, work, clothes, and food of the past. I feel when living history is created to a high standard of accuracy and is engaging, not exclusive, it provides an invaluable learning experience and fosters a great empathy with the period among everyone involved.

Which historical figure from history would you most like to meet?

Without a shadow of a doubt, it would be Bram Stoker, the man best known as the author of Dracula. Sit us down for a dinner of several courses and some good bottles of red wine and we will see you when the morning sunlight light shines under the blinds.

Do you have a favourite place that you like to write? (Either within your house or do you go to different places to write?)

I can write just about anywhere, I love spreading out in dining rooms with long refectory tables (including mine) when I have a lot of books to reference but I prefer to write in my library sat at my old leather topped desk and comfy leather chair.

What's the best bit of advice you can give a new author?

Write what you really want to write, it will give you the passion and drive to stick with it. Write your ideas down, even if it is nothing like what you are working on at the moment. Maybe have an ideas book, keep it and a pen in your bedside draw. If you want to write but are stuck for who to pitch to for publishing your work look in the magazines and books of the genre like yours that you enjoy reading and drop them a line.

What book plans have you got for the future?

I have a book looking at murders in Britain during the Second World War that will be published later this year. I am currently working on a new biography of Bram Stoker.

What events are you attending this year?

I have quite a full schedule of lectures and tv projects in Britain and abroad so sadly I don't have much time to attend public events these days. I will, however, be the guest speaker at the Birthday Celebration for Howard Carter at Swaffham on 9 May 2022 and will be at the Parameet for Paranormal Researchers at Bosworth Hall on Saturday 24 September 2022. Look out for my occasional talks and night of ghost stories throughout the year.

Where can fans find you online?

I have a Facebook page, come and find me :D

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