Music and written art has long been at the centre of Manchester’s illustrious heritage, producing many legendary figures.
One Mancunian has entered this roll call by writing a semi-autobiographical novel, with a title inspired by one of Manchester’s greatest sons, Morrissey.
Neil Calcutt’s recently released book Reader Meet Author offers a light-hearted and humorous coming of age story, set against the backdrop of the rapidly changing Manchester of the 70s and 80s.
However Neil never intended to write a book for public release, with the text inspired by his own life in Manchester, and personal issues such as the death of his mother.
— ReaderMeetAuthor (@ReaderMeetAuth) April 2, 2016
“Originally it was just written for my eyes only, six or seven years ago I just started writing,” the 44-year-old said.
“There was never any intention of it being in a position for anyone else but me to see.
“That probably helped it in the end, how honest it is, how believable the character is.
“I just essentially started writing not 100% sure what I was writing about, but wanting to do something about my mum because she passed away when I was relatively young.
“Then it started to take more shape from various things that have happened during my life growing up in Manchester.
“You don’t think that somewhere can have much of an influence on the way you turn out.
“But as you get older you look back and realise being surrounded by certain types of people, buildings and even the weather effects the way you see things and see life.
“So Manchester was a huge influence on the book.”
Manchester music is one area in particular which Neil has a passion for, influencing both his literary work and his other ventures.
The book title itself, Reader Meet Author, is actually the name of a Morrissey song, from his 1995 album Southpaw Grammar.
“The book is full of references to the city, people, places and music,” the New Moston resident said.
“I always wanted to make some kind of reference in the title to Morrissey.
“[Reader Meet Author] seemed to fit quite well in terms of what the actual book was, it’s all about me so it worked quite nicely.
“I help run the Morrissey and Smiths disco that we have every month at the Star and Garter in Manchester, with my friend Dave who started it a long, long time ago.
— ReaderMeetAuthor (@ReaderMeetAuth) March 31, 2016
“Morrissey is a huge influence in my life, shown by the amount he’s mentioned in the book along with The Smiths and Manchester based music.
“Obviously the book is about me, but I suppose we’ve got the same background, growing up somewhere where it’s pretty rainy and a bit miserable.”
Alongside the city of Manchester, the other dedication Neil lists at the start of the book is to his late-mother.
This plays a large part in the construction of the book’s narrative, and raises the issue of the dealing with hard times.
“I’ve always found it quite difficult speaking to people about personal things, especially about my mum,” the financial services worker said.
“I think it was also going to be a cathartic process just writing about her.
“Even in the way I wrote it I struggled to talk about certain things.
“I think in the end that’s why it’s not just about her, it ended up being about other topics as well, because I couldn’t concentrate straight away on that issue.
“I also didn’t want it to just be all ‘woe is me’ and banging on about miserable times, because lots of people experience them.
“Even the most depressing situations, I’ve always written about with a bit of humour, otherwise it just wouldn’t work.”
The book has now evolved from being a private piece of work to being released nationwide.
Neil ultimately decided that he had to push his novel to find out its full potential, and he has already had some great praise for it.
“I think it’s something that everyone who starts writing will recognise,” the University of Bristol graduate said.
“Once you start doing something that you feel may have some artistic quality to it, you’re desperate for someone else’s opinion to reaffirm your thinking.
“So I started first of all to show it to a few friends and then I was getting quite a lot of positive feedback from them.
— ReaderMeetAuthor (@ReaderMeetAuth) March 16, 2016
“But after a while you start questioning whether maybe they’re just being nice.
“It got to the stage where I was getting more people looking at it that I didn’t know and who didn’t know me and it was still positive.
“Then I just decided one day to push it and try and get it published and see where that would take me.
“I think it was just the thought of getting old and looking back and wondering whether anything could have come from it, but at least now I might find out.”
Neil already has plans to continue his journey into the literary world, but remains grounded in regards to what the future holds.
“I’ve already written another book which was probably more difficult as it wasn’t autobiographical it was fiction,” the lifelong Manchester City fan said.
“My aim is to just see how this one does, typically if reviews are positive then I’ll push on with the rest.
“If not then I’ll just lock the door again and continue writing for myself.”