Nigel McDowell - Author Picture

Nigel McDowell - Author

Nigel grew up in County Fermanagh, rural Northern Ireland, and as a child spent most of his time battling boredom, looking for adventure - crawling through ditches, climbing trees, devising games to play with his brother and sister, and reading. His favourite book as a child was The Witches by Roald Dahl.

After graduating with a degree in English he spent almost two years living and working in Australia and New Zealand. With him he took a small notebook containing notes about a boy called "Bruno Atlas", and a seaside town called "Pitch End". When he returned to Ireland after his travels, one notebook had multiplied into many, and eventually his notes for Tall Tales from Pitch End filled a large cardboard box... Tall Tales from Pitch End was Nigel's first novel, followed up by The Black North.

Nigel died in 2016, aged thirty-four, and his final novel, The House of Mountfathom, will be published by Hot Key Books in 2017.

Q & A with Nigel

What inspires your writing? Difficult question to answer - I’m not sure there is such a thing as “inspiration”. Writing feels closer to something I must do, rather than something I feel inspired to do. And it’s hard work. Though when I find it difficult to write, what keeps me going is the work of great writers. Seeing what can be achieved with smart storytelling, language that makes me see the world anew, and being swept away by an author’s imagination - that’s what makes me pick up the pen again and persist. Perhaps that’s where “inspiration” comes into things - finding something to aim for, wanting to do better, and sticking at it!

What has been the most exciting moment of your career so far? Honestly, every single step of the publication process has been something to be excited about - receiving such wonderful editorial feedback, seeing the progression of the stunning cover art, receiving the first proofs...all these things and countless others are memories I’ll always treasure. Chief of all though was being accepted by Hot Key Books for publication, and being able to share such news with my partner, family and friends - the best moment, the best day.

How did you first become an author & What was your earliest career aspiration? Sounds so very corny and precocious, but since childhood I wanted to be a writer; since I knew that books were written and didn’t just appear. I can remember being eight and completing a project in Primary School to investigate which famous people we shared birthdays with. As soon as I discovered that Charles Dickens was also born on the seventh of February, that was it: ‘My name is Nigel, and when I grow up I want to be an author.’

What are you reading right now? I tend always to have a few too many books on the go at once - so at the moment (for the commute) I haveThe Story of the Night by Colm Toibin, and for these cold winter nights I love a good ghost story, so on the bedside I have Dolly by Susan Hill. Another love: the ever-present totter of books on fairytale and folklore, including Angela Carter’s Burning Your Boats and WB Yeats’ collection, Fairy & Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry - both invaluable to me, never failing to inspire!

What advice would you give to budding writers? Read as much and as widely as you possibly can - anything at all, forgetting things like genre or age-range, and whether best-seller or obscure translation, just read. Live and experience as much as you can...and finally, write. Write only what you want. What you can write and what you need to write. And keep at it!

What was your favourite childhood book? The Witches by Roald Dahl. I loved my copy to tatters and - very shameful admission coming up - I used write my own stories inside the book, in blue biro, between the lines of print. I loved opening the book and seeing something I’d made up flowing alongside Roald Dahl’s words, my stories tucked close to his. (Though I of course do not condone book vandalism of any kind).

Where is your favourite place to write? On (or in) bed. I can’t do desks.

How do you read - print, digitally or both? I swore I’d never want to read a book except in print, then I won a Kindle in a raffle and had no choice, and then discovered I loved reading on it! Then it got stolen, so now I’m back to print...until I buy another Kindle.

Who do you most admire? My partner, a Zoologist, who encourages me to look more closely and carefully at this world; who finds perfect beauty in all things plant and animal, and who perseveres tirelessly in trying to enthuse me about it all.

Are there any books you wish you had written? Not really - the books I love most are books I could never, ever have written, like Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, or John McGahern’s The Dark. Though there are individual ideas I wish I’d come up with: the alethiometer in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy; the subtle knife in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy; the whole concept of “demons” in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy...okay, perhaps I wish I’d written His Dark Materials.

Featured Books, with extracts, by Nigel McDowell

Reader ReviewedThe Black North
Nigel McDowell
Chock full of mysticism and dark magic this enchanting new fantasy set in The Divided Isle, once a place of peace and tranquillity, that has been ravaged by war...
Lovereading Price: £5.59 - Saving £1.40 (20%) Featured in: 11+ readers | 13+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 05/06/2014
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Reader ReviewedTall Tales from Pitch End
Nigel McDowell
This is a great, imaginative debut from a new Irish author. A rich gothic tale of friendship, loss, rebellion and adventure with a teen hero determined to save his...
Lovereading Price: £4.79 - Saving £1.20 (20%) Featured in: 11+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 06/06/2013
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