Friday, 20 August 2010

Just the basics....

A year ago, almost to the day in fact, something rather bloody marvellous happened.
I managed to land a book deal.
With Puffin.
And I’ve been trying to get my head around it ever since.

I could lie to you and tell you that it was a lifelong dream, and that I’ve been writing ever since I was old enough to pick up a wax crayon, but that would be a porkie of epic proportions.
I spent most of my childhood trying (and failing) to be as good as my brother at sport, and had a bloody good time doing it.

I must have liked books (Flat Stanley was a standout) as I chose to study English Literature and Drama at Uni, but I mostly read utter crap as a teenager, film-tie-in novelisations - ‘Predators’ anyone? I even read an adaptation of ‘Auf Wiedersen Pet’! Don’t judge me, I’m not proud of it.

It wasn’t until I got a job in a bookshop though at the age of 26, that I realised what I wanted to do.
I was given the traditional ‘new-boy’ sections to look after at first, sci-fi, true crime, erotica, but after about six months I got moved over to kids books, after everyone else had said no to the chance.
But I loved it.
And was lucky to have a boss, Lesley, who completely lit the fire under me, and fed me the right books to read. I can’t remember what the first book was, I think it was either ‘Skellig’ or ‘Holes’, both obvious but essential, but that was it, I was sold. And I’ve not stopped since. I do read adult stuff sometimes – I’ll drop everything for a new George Pelecanos novel, but largely, 95 percent of the time, it’s kids stuff, Young Adult in particular.
I’ll bore you with the titles I really love some other time...

It was while I was working at Ottakar’s that I decided to give writing a whirl.
I was watching Celia Rees do an event in the shop (she was talking about ‘Witch Child’) when I had an idea, the greatest plot ever dreamt up, and spent the next three years writing it on a battered old laptop during my lunch hour.
It was brilliant, everyone said so, well, everyone except all the agents and editors that I begged to read it. They were very kind, and gave me good feedback, but it was clear it wasn’t good enough.

So I did what any proud wannabe writer does. I stopped writing. Completely. Didn’t write another word for about five years. Went back to reading and selling them instead of embarrassing myself by trying to copy the people I admired.

Loads of good stuff happened then. I got married, got a job in kids publishing, put on some weight, and had two beautiful insomniac children.
It was about three months after Elsie was born that I got the itch to write again.
We weren’t getting much sleep, and were feeling pretty brain-dead as a result. Evenings consisted of getting the kids to bed before slumping on the settee with a bottle of plonk and a box set of 24. This was all well and good, but after 72 hours with Kiefer Sutherland, something had to give.

I’d been carrying an idea around for years, about an angry kid, abandoned both by his mother and the family who adopt him years later, and decided, on the spot that I’d give it a whirl.
It took me about 5 months to get a draft done, and by that time I’d harangued an old friend, who was now an agent, to take me on. With a lot of spit and polish, the removal of a hell of a lot of swearwords, and a month of the most painful waiting ever, I had two offers to choose from…and Puffin it was.

I’m a lucky, lucky man.

I want to use this blog to talk about writing, but not just my own, god that would be dull for me, never mind you…but about good new stuff, a bit about the process of getting published, and general excitement as and when it happens.
Come back and have another read, there’s nothing more depressing than writing for an audience of one…..


  1. Josh loves to read & he is really looking forward to your book Phil. I will get him to review it for you!
    I may even give it a try myself!!

  2. Great first blog - looking forward to more. Five months for a first draft is pretty impressive!

  3. Nice one P, looking forward to reading lots more from you!