Katherine Neville’s early career as an international consultant in computers took her to live and work in multiple countries on three continents, and half the states in the US. She numbered among her clients and employers IBM, OPEC, the Bank of America, the Algerian government, and the US Department of Energy. Between jobs, she supported herself in a bevy of professions, including commercial photographer, portrait painter, waiter, busboy, and fashion model.
Neville’s colorful, swashbuckling adventure novels, in the epic “Quest” tradition, have graced the bestseller lists in forty languages. But her books remain hard to pigeonhole:
Neville herself has been dubbed “the female” Umberto Eco, Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, and Stephen Spielberg. Her work has been reviewed and has received awards in categories as diverse as Mystery, Thriller, Historic, Romance, Science Fiction as well as classical literature. Publishers Weekly described Neville’s works as having “paved the way for books like The Da Vinci Code.” In a national poll by the noted Spanish journal, El Pais, her novel, The Eight, was voted one of the top ten books of all time.
Neville has been an invited speaker at many universities and other venues around the world, including the Today show; National Public Radio; the Voice of America; the World Affairs Conference in Colorado; The Georgia Tech Women’s Leadership Conference; the Idaho Writers Rendezvous; the Orkney Science Fair in Scotland; the Ateneo de Madrid; the University of Menendez & Pelayo in Spain; the First International Mevlana (Rumi) Symposium in Konya, Turkey; the Turkish Culture Ministry in Ankara; The James River Writers’ Conference; the Smithsonian Associates lecture series; and The Library of Congress.
Katherine Neville is honored to be the first author chosen to become a member the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, DC. As a great devotee of reading and research herself, Neville has co-created several awards and grants, including most recently: Art in Literature: the Mary Lynn Kotz Award presented by the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Neville-Pribram Mid-Career Grant presented by the Smithsonian Libraries.
Neville resides in Washington DC and Virginia, where she is restoring a fabled Japanese house from the 1960s while writing her new novel set in the art world of the 1600s.
Katherine Neville was born in the midwest and attended school there and in the Rocky Mountains, spending summers in the Pacific Northwest. She developed an early interest in the myths and tales of other cultures like those of the Native Americans and the Mountain Men of the Rockies. From childhood she wanted to be a writer, and began writing by the age of eight. After college, Neville went to New York City and entered the new and fast-growing computer field. Over the next five years, her work was diverse; she wrote programs for the stock exchanges and for the transportation industry, developing systems for railroads, motor freight and ocean shipping. Her career in computers and subsequent interests would take her, over the next twenty years, to countries on three continents, as well as half of the United States.
In New York, Neville was inspired by her African American colleagues to learn more about African cultures. Among her other interests, she worked mornings for the Black Panthers’ breakfast program and began studying and collecting African art. She still has her first two acquisitions, a hundred-year-old Mende female dancing mask from Sierra Leone and a hand-woven tapestry from Ivory Coast. While continuing in the computer field, Neville did her postgraduate work on “Form in Black Literature in French and English, in Africa, Europe, and America.”
In the 1970s, Neville went to North Africa as an international consultant to the Algerian government, and was living there when the OPEC petroleum embargo took place. These experiences–her first-hand view of global turmoil caused by the shift in economic power from the Cold War confrontation toward the Third World–would provide the fodder for her first published novel, The Eight (1988), a story revolving around a chess game plot set in two different time frames: the French Revolution of the 1790s and the OPEC embargo of the 1970s. In the twenty years since its publication, The Eight has become a cult classic translated into 40 languages.
Whenever in school or between jobs, Neville often supported herself as a portrait painter or a fashion model. These activities, and working with photographers over the years, helped her develop her own photography skills. Upon returning from North Africa and finding computer jobs scarce, Neville started her own photography business with the aid and support of male photographer friends, and operated for several years as one of the early female commercial photographers in Colorado.
In the late 1970s, thanks to her previous work in the energy field, Neville was called to Idaho at the Department of Energy’s nuclear research site in the high desert where she helped develop automated methods to identify, track, and manage toxic, hazardous and transuranic waste materials. This experience — along with her re-acquaintance with the northwest of her youth and a year spent in Austria and Germany — would provide the core of her book The Magic Circle (1998), a novel about Uranus, uranium, the Rockies, the Russians, and the millennium.
In 1980, Neville moved to San Francisco where she worked for the next ten years, becoming vice president of the Bank of America. Having initiated her career on the stock exchanges of New York and finding herself now, twenty years later, in the world banking arena inspired her international caper, A Calculated Risk (1992), a tale of high-stakes intrigue and skullduggery in the world of international money markets, a book that provides eerie premonitions of what is transpiring in today’s global economy.
At age forty, Neville left the computer world behind and moved to Europe with her best friend and “significant other,” Dr. Karl Pribram, the world-famous brain scientist renowned for his holographic theory of memory storage and for his discovery of the functions of the brain’s limbic systems and frontal lobes. After living for some time abroad, Neville and Pribram settled in Washington, DC — where Pribram’s research was honored (February 2009) by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, on the occasion of his 90th birthday.
In 2008, Neville’s long-awaited sequel to The Eight — The Fire — was published to international critical acclaim. It spent more than six months on bestseller lists around the world, and it has already been translated into nearly 20 languages.
Neville now lives in Virginia and Washington DC and is writing and doing research for her forthcoming novel about painters.