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When he was ten years old Niel made a long list of things he hoped to achieve later in his life. One of his main ambitions, lodged in between becoming an astronaut and drawing comics for a living, was to write a novel.

The plan was to do this before he turned thirteen, but it’s taken him a little bit longer than that. An early love of comic books eventually took Niel in a slightly different direction: a career in animation. Niel worked as an animator on several features films including Space Jam & Lost in Space, computer games like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Driver, and television shows such as Tracy Beaker Returns and Hyperdrive. He recently co-produced two episodes of the lost Doctor Who adventure The Ice Warriors for DVD release.

But Niel continued to write until his first novel, Sorrowline, was completed . . . some decades after his thirteenth birthday. He’d like to take the credit for it, but he swears there’s something living under the stairs that whispers secrets to him when no one else is around.

Niel lives in his native north-east England, where the voices under the stairs continue to influence his career path. And he still plans on becoming an astronaut and setting foot on Mars, but it might take him a few more decades to tick that one off his list.



Twelve-year-old Jack Morrow is used to life being complicated. His mother died five years ago, and his father is now headed for prison. But then Jack discovers he’s a Yard Boy – someone with the ability to travel through Sorrowlines, the channels that connect every gravestone with the date of the person’s death – and he is quickly pulled into an adventure beyond anything he could have possibly imagined.

Finding himself in 1940s war-torn London, with his then-teenage grandfather, Davey, Jack soon realises that his arrival in the past has not gone unnoticed. The evil forces of a secret world are determined to find him – and to find out all he knows.

As Jack struggles to survive, he comes ever closer to unlocking the dark secret at the heart of his family, and to – just maybe – changing his own destiny.


Thirteen-year-old Jack Morrow is haunted by the past. For Jack is a Timesmith, someone with the ability to travel through Sorrowlines, the channels that connect every gravestone with the date of the person’s death.

Desperate to help his family, Jack finds himself in a secret world deep under the streets of 1940’s London. Hunted by the undead knights of the Paladin, Jack must find the fabled lost sword of Durendal before it can be used to resurrect the Paladin’s evil master, Rouland.

Planning out my talk and the vocal warm-ups were very useful.