Samuel Burr

Q&A with City Lit Creative Writing Student Samuel Burr on his Debut Novel

31 August 2022
Posted in: Stories, Humanities

— City Lit catches up with student turned writer Samuel Burr

  • We find out more about his time at City Lit and his debut novel The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers.
 Portrait image of Patricia Sweeney - Literature and Culture Coordinator at City Lit Portrait image of Patricia Sweeney - Literature and Culture Coordinator at City Lit
Patricia Sweeney - Literature and Culture Coordinator at City Lit

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Q: What writing courses have you studied at City Lit?

A: I enrolled on the part-time Writing Fiction course in 2019 which was the perfect introduction to novel writing. I was a freelance TV producer at the time, so what I loved was being able to fit in my studies around my full-time job. The central-London location was perfect for me. 

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Q: What role does writing play in your life?

A: It plays a huge role in my life right now, as I am currently editing my debut novel and my deadline is fast approaching, so it’s all I’m thinking about at the moment. Writing has been a hobby for a while, but now I’m lucky to call it my job. During lockdown, when this was something I did in my spare time, I loved disappearing into the world of my book, immersing myself in the characters and the story that was slowly immerging on the page. It was the perfect distraction to the chaos of what was happening around me. I really got lost in it all.

These days, what I love most about writing is how I’m able to express certain ideas – feelings, fears, dreams – in ways I might otherwise struggle. It’s a great outlet for all of that, but it can also be a real slog and demands a certain resilience (which I probably picked up in my TV career). Writing a novel is an endurance sport. It demands all the same self-belief, grit, and determination as running a marathon. Sometimes the end feels so far away you’re not sure you’ll ever make it, but if you keep the faith and keep plugging away, you’ll get there in the end. Every word is a step closer.

Q: How did writing courses at City Lit helped you achieve your goal?

A: The course really whetted my appetite for more. It got me excited about the creative writing process and encouraged me to think about what sort of long-form story I might like to produce myself one day. Our tutor, Tasha Kavanagh, was brilliant at covering all the fundamental elements of fiction: plotting, characterisation, dialogue, pacing.

I love how the course combined theory and workshopping and we all got the opportunity to read published extracts with a critical eye, to share our own work and read each other’s, and learn how to give constructive feedback. There was a really friendly atmosphere and Wednesday evenings quickly became a highlight in my week. 

Q: Any exciting writing projects coming up?

A: I’m thrilled to have recently signed a two-book deal with Orion Fiction and my debut novel, The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers, will be published in early 2024. It’s the story of Clayton Stumper, a young man abandoned at birth on the front steps of a commune of puzzlemakers, who must use his clue-solving skills to uncover the mystery of his past and find his place in the outside world.

Anchor Books/Random House will be publishing it in America, and a dozen other foreign publishers have acquired the translation rights, in Italy, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Sweden, Brazil, Greece, Croatia, the Netherlands, Finland and Portugal. It’s all a bit mad and very exciting.

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Q: Would you recommend City Lit's creative writing courses to others?

A: I’d recommend City Lit to anyone who’s wondered about dabbling in something new – whatever that might be. Like so many people, I can be self-critical of my own efforts, and this is such a hurdle when trying something new. We all put so much pressure on ourselves to be brilliant at something straight away. Like anything in life, developing a skill takes time and practice.

What’s most important is finding something you enjoy, because then the learning, the honing of the craft, the process itself, becomes the thing you take pleasure from. That becomes the reward. I think that’s what is great about signing up for a course at City Lit – you’re all in the same boat, learning and making mistakes together. There’s really nothing to lose. 


Follow Samuel on Twitter and Instagram - @samuelburr

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Learn more about the fantastic accomplishments of City Lit's writing students!

City Lit's writing students frequently go on to further study or publication. Below, you can read a selection of our students' many and varied accomplishments.

If you have a success story of your own, we'd love to hear from you! Let us know more at writing@citylit.ac.uk.