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Guest slot 3 - Iain Rowan, award winning writer, and fellow lover of the sea!

For today’s guest slot we return to local writers and welcome Sunderland based Iain Rowan to tell us about his work. Having been shortlisted for a number of awards, Iain is at an exciting stage in his writing career having just joined the portfolio of an international literary agency. I’ve no doubt publication and success beckon in the future, so keep a watchful eye out for Iain and his forthcoming novel, currently entitled Going Under. In the meantime, Iain continues to write and work on his other great passions supporting local writers, cleaning local beaches, and protecting marine life. Over to Iain to tell us more!

1. Tell us about yourself

I'm a writer from Sunderland who works in higher education and has lived in the NE for over thirty years, but originally grew up in Kent. My crime novel One of Us (Infinity Press) was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger a long time back, and I've had quite a few short stories published. I came second in the 2020 Costa Short Story award with one of them, won a Northern Writers Award and was previously shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award. Just a week before writing this, I was thrilled to become represented by my agent, Tom Drake-Lee at the DHH Literary Agency, on the strength of my new novel, Going Under.

I've also been involved in building a supportive community of writers in Sunderland and have run a writers’ group in the city since 2014, produced two month-long festivals of creative writing, fostered collaborations between creative writers and visual artists, and am currently running an Arts Council funded programme for developing playwrights from the city. Helping other writers find their voices and progress is as satisfying as my own writing.

Outside of work, writing and writing development, I spend as much time as possible by, or in, the sea, and am now a trained marine mammal medic and a volunteer for Sea Shepherd. I'll keep a special place in my heart for anyone reading this if next time you go to the beach, you spend just two minutes taking rubbish off it. Thank you!

2. What are you writing at the moment?

I'm working through editorial notes from my agent on Going Under. Some line edits, some continuity issues, and strengthening the final third so when it gets to the end the reader has a better understanding of where that is and why it's happened. It’s great getting insightful notes that help you bring the best out of what you’ve written.

3. What’s been your proudest moment as a writer?

There have been a few fun moments that I mentioned in the about me bit above. But I think the one I'd pick happened when my novel One of Us was shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award. The long and short-listers all read blind, so it was only at the awards ceremony that they found out who the author was - and a couple of them - both women - came up to me and said that they were astonished to find out that Anna, the first person protagonist, had been written by a man. As a writer, there's little more satisfying than that.

4. Who are your heroes in real life and in fiction?

Not a big fan of the heroes thing, as we all of us have feet of clay. I like to write characters who have little power, who live in the margins, just about holding things together, but who somehow find it within themselves to do something they thought they couldn't. So I guess, the people in real life who do that.

In fiction, Quoyle from The Shipping News for just keeping on regardless, and Arkady Renko from the Gorky Park onwards novels for doing the same while being charmingly world-weary and cynical.

5. If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Hunter Thompson, for a night out. I reckon I'd be done after about forty minutes.

6. What’s your favourite part of the creative process - and your least favourite?

My favourite is that white heat of first draft when you're on it and the words are flowing, and it feels like the easiest thing in the world.

My least favourite is the way that an idea that in your head is sparkling and the best thing you've ever come up with settles into being pedestrian and unsatisfying when you write it down. Also, writing a synopsis. I hate writing a synopsis.

7. When you are not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

On a beach. Not in a white sand and sunshine way. In a north-east way. I want to be sand-scoured and wind-blasted and wave-washed. Big skies, far horizons, big waves making the land shake. That.

8. What is the one book you always recommend to people and why?

Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History', because I love it very much and I struggle with a world in which others don’t so I’m going to evangelise for it. Oddly, none of my friends mention it in front of me any more.

9. What is next for you?

Hopefully completion of the revisions to Going Under means it will go out on submission from my agent, so at that point it's all about forgetting about it and not checking email four hundred times a day and throwing myself into the next novel. Whatever the outcome of the submissions round, that’s what I’ve got to do.


Iain's website is at and you can find him on Twitter @iainrowan.

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