A Journey To Coal House

After a few posts where I’ve written about ‘things happening’, I thought I’d write a post based on things that have already happened.

There has been a renewed promotional push for my debut novel ‘Coal House’ in recent weeks, more positive reviews and some developments that have gone further than I ever anticipated. I thought I’d write a little about the journey.

I don’t intend for this to be the ‘most inspirational story’ ever but I was asked to write something about the journey of putting Coal House together, and the first thing that came to mind was how important it is to follow through on your creative ideas because you never know what will come of it, or what it may eventually mean to you.

Having written several books, it still seemed to be somewhat significantly delayed to only begin work on the story for ‘Coal House’, my first fiction story, in December 2014. The main story was laid down pretty quickly and after some revisions it was sent off to only one publisher, Rudling House, in May of 2015 (I had talked to Karen, the owner of Rudling House, regarding the brilliant autobiography of Ally Begg, the former MUTV presenter).

You hear stories of authors sending their work out to multiple publishing houses and while I’m no stranger to that process with the non-fiction works I’d done, back in May 2015 I had written ‘Coal House’ with absolutely no expectations. Off it went to Rudling House, with my hope being that I would receive some valuable feedback about my potential to be a fiction author. I wasn’t even sure if I’d written a story that was interesting to anyone other than me, when one day in late July I received an email from Karen saying she’d read the manuscript and would like to give me a call.

I expected a polite conversation with advice about how I could improve but I was blown away when Karen said she enjoyed the story and she wanted to publish it; her enthusiasm and praise for my writing made it genuinely one of the best phone calls of my life. There have been maybe two or three moments I’ve felt as good about myself as I did then (and even writing this, only really a few months after getting that call, I’m reminded of exactly how I felt).

Things moved really quickly with the publication. It is not conventional to submit a manuscript in May, have it accepted in July and have it pencilled in for release in October. There were truly extraordinary circumstances which surrounded the release, the primary one being the illness of my father-in-law, who did not have long left to live. The book was dedicated to him, and Karen essentially moved heaven and earth to get the book printed in time so that he was able to see it. Words can never articulate how much that means to me; in life, we establish professional and personal relationships, but it’s the things we do as humans (particularly the things that we don’t have to do) that transcend those lines and go a long way.

Of course, then, there was only one place that ‘Mablethorpe’ would be published (if it was good enough) – and while that has been receiving incredible early attention, it is fulfilling to hear the continued positive feedback for ‘Coal House’. There are two types of review I have enjoyed so far – those that say ‘it was too scary to read’ or words along those lines, and those that say ‘I could see this as a film/television drama’.

The exciting news that I’m able to share is that the interest in screen development has in fact extended to professionals; a screenplay was written and adapted from the book late last year and has been requested by a few production companies.

It may well be rejected, and it may well be that nothing ever comes from it, but the fact that in April 2016, there is genuine interest in the screen development of a story of mine which only saw the first serious words put in a manuscript in December 2014 feels like a significant accomplishment for me. That the story ended up becoming my debut fiction book feels like that anyway. If nobody had enjoyed it, if there hadn’t been the interest there has been, then the fact that I was able to have my debut novel dedicated to my father-in-law and he was able to see it (and that was a testament to his strength and courage, as he had already outlived the prognosis given to him) would have made it the most valuable thing to me anyway.

It’s not quite ‘The Little Engine That Could’ but it has taught me a couple of things – one, if you have something you think is a good idea, then just get to it, because if you don’t then you’ll never know. The Texan author and public speaker Brene Brown is quoted as saying ‘Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world’ and that’s something I absolutely agree with.

Another thing is just how valuable a strong support network can be and the truth is that you only really know how valuable it can be when you open yourself up to those possibilities. It’s scary, it takes a leap of faith, but when you have support it can make the world of difference. I have absolutely no doubt that the wonderful comments, praise, feedback and progress made by ‘Coal House’ (which may not be much to some, but has already and continues to surpass my expectations) would not have been possible without each little push from someone and I cannot express just how much that means to me. So thank you!

Oh, and you can get a paperback copy of Coal House for just £5.99 for the rest of April if you go here (shipped worldwide, too, so if anyone has had any problems getting a copy, go here!).

There was a lovely review of the book here (which mentions that it would make a good television drama!).

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