Neil's Back Story. First Cut
*Thanks due to Waterstone's store managers and all staff, as well as to many independent booksellers, who have taken to Neil's books and given tremendous support. Thanks for all the encouragement, as always from libraries.
It is a true honour to be invited to a book shop and to chat directly to readers.
NOTE: All comments or praise for books on this website are genuine.
Neil Hope Rowland was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, where he was suckled on stout and prunes. He attended Stopsley High School and Community College, as well as Luton VI Form College. From an early age he developed an enjoyment for words, reading and books, as well as tropical fish and dogs.
Combined with a talk by Stan Barstow, at school, Neil was also hugely inspired by his friends' enthusiasm for movies, cult books and music - particularly the story telling, poetic and narrative aspects of film and drama. A sense of humour, a passion for telling a story and the emotions and experience of life - read and judge for yourself ))
From here he wrote for the school and college magazines. At Six Form College he had a job in the library, despite being banned as a student for talking (he was a quiet lad really).
Neil and his mate Simon would discuss novels and writers while out jogging through the fields, at the edge of town.
He studied journalism and became a regular contributor to Melody Maker and to Blitz magazine. He was lucky to interview many top rock music artists, including New Order, U2, Paul Weller, and numerous others. During all this period of music writing there was always an instinct for stories and for novel writing.
After gaining a degree in English literature in Newcastle (as a mature student) he went to work in Bristol, to research and write articles for inclusion in programmes for major theatrical productions, both in London and touring.
This period inspired the novel Noah's Heart, based on people he met in the city: Noah came from an overheard cafe conversation (if you are interested).
Several years later he took an MA in Commonwealth Literature at the University of Leeds. He worked in the University of Leeds library to help pay for living expenses. His final dissertation was on the novels of Michael Ondaatje.
It was definitely one of the happiest and most creative periods of his life.
Soon he spent a period in Cork, Ireland, to see more of Irish friends from Uni. Neil attended the inaugural Frank O'Connor International Short Story Festival, and was the first journalist to cover the programme in the media. He repeated this for the festival's second year and was fortunate to meet and to converse with a lot of estimable writers at events and readings. On return to England he became a regular reviewer of fiction for Time Out, London.
Neil remains a big music fan and likes to hear people's recommendations. The rhythm and structure of music has influenced and enhanced his writing.
It has taught him about connecting with an audience and the balance of ideas with feeling.
Punk and New Wave first got him into music, and these movements helped him to recognise bullshit and hype; the difference between producing something you are passionate about, or just exploiting human foibles and stealing money from people. Is that the X factor?
At Newcastle he co-edited a university poetry magazine called Under the Bridge, which gained support and contributions from Blood-Axe books. The magazine was sold in bookshops and the money went to numerous charities.
By the 2000s he worked as Literature Development Officer for Northamptonshire, employed by Arts Council. The role involved organising three big literary festivals every year. As well as working with many new novelists and poets, he was fortunate to rub shoulders with many established names. These included great poets such as Peter Porter and Michael O'Donaghy, as well as Salley Vickers, Jill Dawson, and celebrities such as Barry Norman (RIP) and Dan Pearson.
Neil married and was blessed with a daughter during this period.
He has also helped to establish writers' groups and has been active with reading groups.
Friends and colleagues pressed him to finish The City Dealer, after which he was asked to publish the title. This was a great relief as it has taken him many years to be published.
May you find The City Dealer as exciting as many readers have reported.
The financial setting is authentic, drawn on the experience of family and friends in that sector, yet the story excites and the reader will not require a degree in economics to enjoy.
The publication of Noah's Heart is a further step forward for the author. An earlier draft was read by Jill Dawson - herself a fine novelist and a tutor on UEA Creative Writing Course - who added her positive and encouraging description of the novel as "fresh and cliche-free". She said "I always like to see good writing succeed." Readers decide!
Punk Story was closely inspired by his own experience as a teenager, and a wish to remember and celebrate the incredible people who made such a sharp impression on him.
Against typical life adversity something of that love passion and urgency has hopefully gone into his writing. Perhaps that is the true role of art - to give the strength and depth to recovery from adversity and find a renewed identity.