Hold back the Night is a 1999 film by writer Steve Chambers

The Writing Desk | Steve Chambers | Scriptwriter

by | creative, scriptwriting, Storytelling, The Writing Desk

Share Share Hello, Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of The Writing Desk blog. Imagine I’m…


Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of The Writing Desk blog.

Imagine I’m about to introduce you to an auditorium, filled with the smiling faces of folks fuelled by caffeine and an eagerness to learn. What would I say?

“Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce…

Steve Chambers – Writer and teacher

steve chambers

Steve is the co-writer of the Radio 4 comedy drama HighLites with Phil Nodding. He’s the author of GLADIO – ..we can neither confirm nor deny.. and his feature film, Hold Back the Night, starred Sheila Hancock (Parallax Pictures, dir. Phil Davis), opened Critics Week and won the Prix du Public de la Ville de Cannes and he was the brilliant programme leader on my Creative Writing MA at Northumbria University.

Here’s the part where we’d sit down and try and look comfortable next to the microphones. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…

Can you name the business book that’s always on your desk? (I’m talking about the one that’s covered in pencil marks, coffee stains and has turned down corners…)

I don’t really have one. If it’s teaching I’m thinking about, it’s likely to be John Yorke’s ‘Into the Woods’ but if it’s writing, then it could be any number of things.

What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?

He does if he’s drinking Carling Black Label.

“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?

“The secret to good writing is passion, persistence and talent.”

If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?

Don’t give up at the first hurdle. I would urge people to read John Yorke’s ‘Into the Woods’.

Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?


What are your top three novels of all time – and why?

  • ‘Waterland’ by Graham Swift because it’s so brilliantly atmospheric and an extraordinary feat of imaginative story-telling
  • ‘Empire of the Sun’ by J.G.Ballard because it’s true and alarmingly moving
  • ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck because it bears witness to a tragedy like an old testament prophet

What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?

My feature film ‘Hold Back the Night’ because it won Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999 and did well, if briefly.

hold back the night

What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.

A packet of chocolate biscuits.

Who was your teenage crush?

A girl at school – Francesca Annis on the tele.

Describe the best meal you have ever eaten.

Five courses in a restaurant in Normandy, very slowly over three hours.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Good French red wine.

If I were to give you a private jet, David Attenborough as a tour guide and a month off work – all expenses paid – where would you go and what or who would you write about – and why?

I would go to the Himalayas and write a thriller set there.

What’s in your pockets?

Money, keys, inhaler.

Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?

Notes in pen on paper – writing on a keyboard when ready.

Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on your desk and recycle?)

I read the Crime Writers Association newsletter and the WGGB (Writers’ Guild of Great Britain) and New Writing North online updates.

Tea or coffee?


Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?


What was your most adored children’s book? And character?

Toby Twirl (very young) and Just William.

Your favourite word?


Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?


Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?

Browsing online.

Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?

‘When Will I See You Again’ (Three Degrees) It always makes me smile.

Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.

The Four Tops.

Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?

Cleaning before I start – I need external calm for the inner turmoil.

What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?

Ideas for a novel sequel and ideas for a stage comedy.

Describe the last photograph you took.

The dining room with two women at the table as seen from the garden at night.

What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?

If it’s not right, don’t write – 50% of writing is thinking.

What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?

Shopping list.

What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?

‘Nobody knows anything’ William Goldman (on what works).

Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?

Joe Pesci’s character in ‘Goodfellas’.

Name your favourite film.


Which book or books is/are by your bed today?

‘Berlin Noir’ by Philip Kerr, ‘Selected Poems’ by Tony Harrison, ‘Thin Paths’ by Julia Blackburn.

Who was or is your greatest teacher?

Shaun Prendergast?

Who is your favourite artist?

Uccello, Turner, Van Gogh.

Where do you like to work best – is it at a desk, in an office or in a coffee shop? 

In my room.

And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?

Nowhere in particular – online.

Thanks, Steve. Coffee at the coast on me next time 🙂

Past episodes of HighLites can be found on Radio 4 iPlayer

Hold back the Night and Gladio: We Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny are available on Amazon.




Written By Katherine

Katherine Wildman is a copywriter for creative agencies and multinational brands – and the Creative Director of Haydn Grey.

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