As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, being shortlisted for Lancashire Book of the Year 2019 with my debut novel, The Disappearance of Timothy Dawson, was one of my proudest moments to date. A boy born and bred in little old Blackpool, self-publishing his first book to accomplish a speckle of a pipe dream, getting recognition beyond his wildest beliefs.
It opened doors to opportunities that ordinarily I would have struggled to find with a SatNav, never mind somebody handing me the key to take a look inside.
Not least, the night before the actual event itself.
I arrived at the Preston International Legacy Hotel at around 6:30pm on 4th July, having driven the 13 miles down the m55 straight after work – a day which had consisted of not one, but two pretty hefty presentations.
But here I was, I’d made it; checking into a fancy hotel, all expenses paid with a lovely room, dinner and not forgetting breakfast of course – this was a first time thing for me and I would love to say that I was bouncing with excitement. However, I was carrying something more than my overnight bag; a crippling dose of Tonsillitis!
Nightmare. Not only was I set to stand up in front of about 300 people tomorrow and talk about my book and myself as an author (at which point was still a very fluid concept!). Perhaps more pressing, I also had plans to dine with my fellow shortlisted authors at the hotel this very evening – what an opportunity, I croaked to myself, gargling with whatever codeine infused seltzer the chemist had given me.
I quickly freshened up and headed back down to the bar area to meet up with the rest of the LBOY gang. Ordering myself a medicinal beverage, I took a pew in the seating area and waited for my fellow authors to join me, unsure what to expect but feeling very much as though I didn’t belong in such prestigious company.
One by one, they arrived and absolutely blew me away with their humility, friendliness and conversation.
I went into this feeling inferior. I was the only self-published author. It was my very first novel. I wrote my book in the evenings, or before work, or on the bathroom floor whilst my pregnant wife was having contractions in the bath (I’ve never lived that one down, I’m sorry to my wife and mothers everywhere!). I never imagined in a million years that my book would take me here, with multiple award winning authors, who had sold millions of books between them, compared with my 372 at the time!
Yet within ten minutes, I felt like a peer, simply because I was treated as one.
We sat down to dinner and ordered our food. We chatted about books and writing, our families and politics, inspirations and challenges, plus plenty of funny stories. These guys were amazing, it’s over 6 months on and I still feel humbled by how well I was treated.
Two things stood out for me the most:
The first, was how interested my new found author friends were in my writing and my experiences. Asking genuine questions and making a real connection. Maybe you might be reading this thinking that is a given – that’s called humanity. But my experience and my inner critique tell me that many people listen so they can wait for their turn to speak – but not these guys.
The second was how helpful and forthcoming they were with advice, tips and encouragement for me to further develop my identity and productivity as an author. Not just during the meal, but ensuring I was comfortable throughout the whole of the following day’s event, taking time to recognise this was my debut in such an arena.
The award went to Sarah Crossan’s wonderful book Moonrise, and fully deserved it was. Although, I believe the award could have gone to any one of the authors on the shortlist and it would have been deserved. Despite not winning, I left feeling like I’d won the lottery. I’d spoken to an incredible group of young people (my voice remaining in tact), whose passion spurred me on with writing the second book in the Granville Series: The Rise of the Chemist (2020). I’d signed books, posed for photographs like some kind of rock star (crazy right?), met some wonderful teachers and librarians and of course, not forgetting, I’d spent the day with some amazingly inspirational authors (real ones).