Ice Cream

Ice Cream

Okay, for those of you who are still here, I caught the writing bug when I was about nine years old, and for many years my greatest source of inspiration came from children’s fantasy books. I used to spend ridiculous amounts of time in my bedroom, scribbling away while other people were out enjoying themselves. I began to notice people giving me odd looks at school and discovered I had a reputation for being a bit weird.

It seemed to me that the best way to stop people thinking I was weird, was to get some of my writings published - then I would be a writer rather than a weirdo. I continued to scribble away through my teens. Occasionally sending books off, and getting polite and kind-hearted rejections. Time passed and school turned to work, and I thought it was time to take getting published a little more seriously.

Long story short, I found a Literary Agent who rather liked my stuff and who made suggestions - the most important being to stop writing all this fantasy stuff, because publishers hated it and were looking for gritty urban realism in their children’s books these days.

I had an idea for a book with three plot-threads. It was a twisted kind of romance - twisted in that the girlfriend (Beverley) of the hero (Michael) gets hit by a car on page one and spends the rest of the book in a coma. The book was to have three time-zones in it. 1. Back flashes revealing how Michael and Beverley got together in the first place. 2. Michael coping with the fact that his girlfriend is in a coma. 3. Beverley in a kind of “Alice in Wonderland” world inside her head in the coma. The Agent told me to dump the “Alice” stuff and get writing.

I did as suggested and presented “The Mole And Beverley Miller”. A publisher liked it and I was taken out for lunch. Success - at last. The editor with whom I lunched said the book needed substantial changes made to it before she could make an offer. I agreed, went away for two months and made all the changes she suggested. I presented the book again, only to be told that the editor was no longer working there and her replacement hated the book and everything to do with it. I ground a few teeth and tore some hair while my Agent started sending the book to other publishers.

The seventh publisher took the bait and I was invited to his office. He said he liked the book but that it needed substantial changes made to it before he could make an offer. I went away for two months and made the changes. He liked it and agreed to publish - and asked what more I had.

Over the next few years, I wrote more books and got them published, at one point having to use a pseudonym “Steven Saunders” for some books, because I was writing more quickly than the original publisher could get them into the shops.

Things trickled along quite nicely, me writing in the evenings and at weekends, and working full time during the rest of the week. Then on 2nd January (Happy New Year!) I got made redundant. Nothing daunted, I used my redundancy pay to buy a Word Processor - the forerunner of modern computers, and at the time little more than a glorified typewriter. (Up till then I had written my books in longhand and then typed them up - now I could write straight onto the machine and make changes much more easily.)

About this time my agent was contacted by a Packager. I pause now to explain what a Packager is. It is a person or company who comes up with ideas for book series and who contacts publishers, offering them a “full service” deal on the series - meaning, the publisher will be provided with (say) six written and edited books - the Packager will find writers and organize time schedules and deadlines and all that stuff. All the publisher has to do then is to hand over some money and organize the printing of the finished books.

Merle and Siouxsie guard my work-space. Note the deadly radioactive eyes!

Merle and Siouxsie guard my work-space. Note the deadly radioactive eyes!

Anyhow, being out of work, I agreed to write a few books for the packager, specifically for a series called The Mystery Club. Now the nature of these books is that they are written by a number of different people, so a collective pseudonym is required for “product recognition”. In this case, the name was Fiona Kelly, even though of the five writers working on the series, two were male - including me.

The next thing to happen was that a publisher read my work on this series and asked me to write a different series for them - which turned into Hunter & Moon Mysteries. About the same time, the original Packager asked if I’d like to work on a series all on my own. The packager was an American living in London UK, and he had an idea for stories about a 10 year old American girl and the trouble she had coping with her older sister. Being male and English, it seemed really obvious that I should write a series about a 10-year-old American girl, so I agreed - and this is the series that became Stacy And Friends.

While this was going on, my Agent came up with an idea for a mystery/supernatural series based around a bunch of English archaeology students. We presented this to another publisher, who loved the idea, and this resulted in the 8 Dark Paths books.

I was also writing more stuff for the Packager as well, a few more Mystery Clubs, a spin-off series called The Mystery Kids and other odds and ends. By this time the Packager was a successful businessman with a company and staff. One of his editors came up with the basic idea for the Talisman series and asked if I would write it for her. Yes, I would! And did. Also, an idea was suggested for a teen police series - and I was asked if I would write the lot - and this came out as Special Agents - but this time the publishers fancied trying a different name on the cover, so although all the books were by me, they were released as written by Sam Hutton.

Then something really cool happened! I was shown a rough storyline idea for a book called “The Seventh Daughter” and asked if I would like to write it. By a wonderful chance, this was exactly the kind of thing I had always really wanted to write, so I jumped at the opportunity. I came aboard, working alongside a team of editors, and I quickly came up with a lot of changes and additions and different ideas. Once everything had been agreed, the idea was taken around various publishers - and Harper Collins in New York loved it. They wanted three books, and I said yes, please! After all, that meant I was finally getting to write a Fantasy Trilogy - exactly what I had dreamed of doing when I had started writing as a small boy. This became The Faerie Path series.

The series did so well, that I was asked to write another trilogy based on the same characters. At about the same time the publishers were being shown a quite different series, a historical series set in Dark Ages Wales and involving the adventures of a 15-year-old girl called Branwen. The publishers thought that this would make a great follow-up to the Faerie Path, if a bit of magic could be added. I was really intrigued by the project, and I added a big dose of the supernatural as well as making plenty of other changes when I came on board. The publishers loved it and asked for four books. I got writing.

Me as Captain Grizzletusk the bloodthirsty pirate

Me as Captain Grizzletusk the bloodthirsty pirate

At the same time, I got a call from an editor I had worked with about ten years previously, telling me about an illustrator called Gary Chalk who had come up with a wonderful idea for a series of children’s fantasy stories under the general title of “The Sundered Lands”. She thought he needed to collaborate on the books with a writer, and arranged for us to meet. I called him on the phone to arrange a meeting. “How shall I know you?” I asked. “I’ll be wearing a chrysanthemum,” he said. We met up a week or so later. “Where’s the chrysanthemum?” I asked, not seeing it anywhere obvious. “Up me bum!” he replied, and we became firm friends from that moment onwards. We plot the books together in lunatic, hilarious and frantic all-day sessions, then I go away and write them up while he goes away and does the drawings. The perfect partnership!

So, here I am right now, writing three fantasy series at the same time and having a ball!

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