In August 2007 I attended an Arvon Foundation novel writing course at Totleigh Barton. I took with me as an example of my writing an intense, powerful short story about my late brother, Mike. A little nervous about its quality, I carefully scheduled my tutorial and workshop sessions to what I hoped would be to my best advantage: tutorial early in the week; workshop as late as possible. In this way, I reasoned, I could build on any feedback from my tutor and improve the piece before sharing it with my fellow students. That was my plan but, as Burns pointed out, the best laid schemes do indeed gang aft agley! My tutor clearly hated the piece. Although he was far too polite to rip it into the pieces it deserved, he did give me some gentle, developmental criticism and sent me back to my bedroom to think again. What I thought was that I couldn’t possibly present this sentimental load of tosh to the rest of the group.
Fortunately, I had taken with me a folder containing all the other failed attempts at literature I had accumulated over the previous few years. Before I went to bed that evening, I read through them all, identifying a couple that weren’t too bad and upon which I might possibly build a reasonable example of my writing to share with the group. I am not a religious man, but I do believe that some kind of miracle occurred that night in the depths of the Devonian wilderness. Relaxed by copious amounts of alcohol, I slept on all that I had read and during the night my sub-conscious produced a story. At 4.30 the next morning I was up and at my desk (another minor miracle after all that beer and wine) and writing away like a Booker Prize-winning Dervish. Later, I read out what I had written to the rest of the group, received a fantastic reaction from them and, more important, the motivation to carry on.
Almost exactly seven years later – in August 2014 – Katie Espiner of The Borough Press said the immortal words: “I want to publish your novel”. The road from one August to the other had not been without its twists and turns. Having completed a first draft in roughly thirteen months, I received numerous rejections from agents and had to revise the manuscript many times (including, at almost the final stage before publication, dropping the Prologue that had been so well received by my Arvon group). Finally, and with much trepidation, I hurled my manuscript through The Borough Press’s open submission window and was one of just two authors out of more than 400 to be taken on.
Ordinary Joe is a fast-paced comedy about what happens when the worlds of Hollywood and accountancy collide. Joe West does something that most men could only dream about – and turns his life into a living nightmare.
Publishing date: 16th July 2015.
Pre-order today here.
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