It’s a sad commentary that we rarely pay tribute to someone except when he or she has passed away, and this is the situation for me with William Neale. I had tentatively scheduled an interview with him for the fall of this year (I usually plan my interview schedule 3 – 6 months in advance) and I was going to contact him about it in August. Unfortunately, that interview will now never take place because Bill passed away unexpectedly in March, so instead I’m writing what I hope is a fitting tribute to a man who many in the M/M community hold in high regard, especially his colleagues at MLR Press.
There is a note in his last book Hope from his partner of thirteen years Marty that showed what a wonderful person Bill was. Here’s an excerpt:
After thirteen years together and having seen William through the demands of corporate advertising and public relations, this was like candy to him. His eyes were bright and smile full again.
When William smiled you couldn’t help but smile along. With the memory of his bright smile, and with the help of Kris and Keith, I asked MLR to release his last book, Hope. I’m not ready to say goodbye. To all the friends and supporters of William Neale that feel the same, this will give us a little more time.
To all the authors, fans and friends that supported William, he enjoyed you more than you could ever know, I am grateful.
Laura Baumbach, Publisher of MLR Press offered this comment about William:
William Neale was a unique man — successful, driven, savvy and shrewd. At the same time, he was kind, thoughtful and generous. These are not traits one often sees together in the same person. As I grew closer to Bill over time, I saw all these qualities shine in him. He approached his writing with the same drive for excellence that his marketing career had been blessed with, he examined and evaluated the romance community and market with the seasoned eye of a professional and he treated every worthy person he met at events and online with a consistent element of grace and insight.
I watched him spend hours with readers and fellow authors, making them each feel special while they were with him, basking in his focused attention and interest. He was a true people person, a gentleman and a gentle man. All our lives are lessened with his passing. I believe a part of Bill will always live in his writing because it reflects that same wonderful combination of personality traits– driven, savvy, kind and thoughtful characters and story lines. Like all skilled and successful authors, Bill gave a piece of himself in his books.
William’s Editor at MLR Press Kris Jacen said this about him in his last book Hope:
William Neale passed away unexpectedly just a day after he finished Hope. But he’s not completely gone for any of us. He left us a legacy of his words that we can read time and time again.
I felt honored that he trusted me with his words but more importantly he gifted me with his friendship. You’ll be missed my friend.
Bill’s last project was being part of the organizing team for the GayRomLit Retreat 2012 and sadly, he will never see the results of his hard work. Ethan Day had this to say about him in a post about the Retreat on this site:
Bill came on board with fresh eyes following New Orleans, and was full of great ideas and a real passion for all we’d initially wanted to accomplish with GayRomLit. I’m happy to say that was something that never changed.
Bill’s unexpected passing last month was a huge shock to all of us who both knew and/or worked with him. I believe I can safely say that all of us organizing this year’s GRL are deeply saddened that Bill won’t be there to enjoy the amazing retreat he helped plan. Our time is the one thing none of us has the ability to replicate, and we’re so thankful that Bill was able to devote some of his to GayRomLit. His generosity of spirit and uniquely suited background in marketing will be sorely missed as we move forward. His cheeky little grin, good humored disposition, and friendship will be sorely missed by me.
I hope everyone attending GayRomLit in October will think of him and send a little love and a thank you his way.
In my own small way I felt I knew a little bit about William from our various emails and on-line chats about his books as well as from his comments on my reviews of two of his books which I absolutely loved: Got Your Back which is mostly about a dog, and he confessed the story was therapy for him when he lost his own “Grady;” and Christmasing With You, a holiday story that made me shed countless tears. Most of Bill’s books are reviewed on the site and I will be reviewing his latest, Hope, in a few days.
In honour of William who was a kind and gentle man, a quality that came through in his stories, I have decided to post his photo on the site with two of his faithful companions, quite a departure for me since I have never done this before but he had given of that most valuable commodity, his time, to his community and I know he loved finding a second home with his new friends at MLR Press and in the larger GBLTQ community. William wrote with heart and I don’t think I can pay him a more sincere compliment. My biggest regret is that I won’t meet him at GRL 2012 if I do make it to Albuquerque.
RIP William Neale. You will be missed!