Alumni Services

Joel McIver

Author Joel McIver takes a refreshingly candid look back at his time as an Edinburgh student and his path to a career as a writer.

Name Joel McIver
Degree Course MA Honours German
Year of Graduation 1993
Joel McIver

Your time at the University

My four years at Edinburgh, which included a year in Vienna, Austria as part of my German degree course, were largely devoted to irresponsible activities at various scurrilous drinking holes across the city.

I did manage to get some work done, though, most of which took place in the library on the tenth floor of the David Hume Tower, where I spent a lot of time poring over 19th century German fiction. The staff, as you’d expect from a centre of learning as prestigious as Edinburgh, were unparalleled in their research and subject knowledge.

Less savoury memories include working as a bouncer at a pub in Bristo Square, where I narrowly avoided death several times (I think the locals objected to an English person stopping them getting into a Scottish pub); frequenting Potterow and Teviot rather too often for my own good; and occasionally exploring the rest of Edinburgh, which is still one of my favourite cities anywhere.

I lived in Pollock Halls for my first two years and, although I didn’t grasp at the time quite how easy student life is compared to the actual working existence which follows, I made a point of enjoying the moment whenever I could. Walking to the top of Arthur’s Seat was always amazing.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

Like many arts graduates I spent a couple of years travelling the world and generally wasting time after I graduated.

After that, with stunning originality I decided to teach English as a foreign language, which I did for four years in Italy and Germany. By 1999 I was 28 and it was time to grow up, finally, so I got a job as the production editor on a rock magazine, learning to edit, subedit, proof and all the other stuff that the role requires.

I’d got to know too many clever, hardworking people at the very top of their game for a solid work ethic not to develop.

Joel McIver

The Edinburgh experience hadn’t been wasted on me: I’d got to know too many clever, hardworking people at the very top of their game for a solid work ethic not to develop.

I was keen to make up for lost time as most of my friends were now in management and doing mature things like buying houses, so I pitched a book idea to various publishers and got my first book out in 2000.

The floodgates opened and I kept writing a couple of books a year until I scored a bestseller in 2005, whereupon I promptly quit my job and began working from home, which I’ve now been doing for nine years. It’s been great for me because our kids have come along in that time and I’ve been around for them, which most fathers are not. I’ve written 25 books in 15 years and if my typing fingers don’t fall off, I’ll just keep going

Alumni wisdom

Appreciate the fact that you’ve landed a place at one of the world’s most prestigious centres of learning. The facilities and staff at Edinburgh are among the best in any country, as international studies consistently show, so don’t mess about. Get the work done before you go to the pub.

Also, and I’m sure I won’t be the first or the last person to tell you this, but life gets much tougher when you graduate, so make sure you get the best advice you can about what to do next.

Finally, I’m sure I lost a pound down the back of the washing machines in Holland House in 1990: keep an eye out for it, will you?