I trained as a journalist in London, and worked as a writer and subeditor for magazines and newspapers including the Guardian, Observer, Evening Standard, Classic FM Magazine, The Times, The Sunday Times and the Times Online. At The Times I worked as a classical music critic and arts writer, and a subeditor covering the arts, features and opinion pages. After moving north I continued as a Times music critic, and also freelanced in copyediting (including work with Time Warner Books and the United Nations University), as well as proofreading and freelance newspaper reporting. But my dream had always been to write a novel.
In 2013 I completed my first full-length novel, Dances with the Daffodils. The book takes redemption through nature as its theme, and was inspired by the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth and the poetry of William Wordsworth. I secured a London-based literary agent, but after they were unable to place the novel with a mainstream publisher I found myself at a crossroads. Should I abandon the novel I'd put so much love and work into, or should I publish it myself, confident that people would buy it, read it and enjoy it?
I went for the latter. I set up Swallow Books determined to replicate the production quality of big publishing houses at a time when self-publishing was seen as inferior. I wanted to give my small publishing press a classic look and feel, but I knew I couldn't afford to spend the giant amounts of money the big houses could. I found, to my surprise and pleasure, that top cover designers, copyeditors, typesetters and printers within the traditional industry were also keen to tap into the growing trend for quality self-publishing, and were prepared to adjust their fees to accommodate the (fledgeling) Swallow Books.
Dances with the Daffodils has sold well, garnered good reviews, enjoyed numerous print runs, was shortlisted for Lakeland Book of the Year in 2014, and has now been published in two editions. The novel continues to sell, both in Lake District outlets and on Amazon. Spurred on by that success, I'm now completing my second novel (see more below).
I see Swallow Books, with relationships developed with high-quality third parties, as a one-stop shop for authors who deserve to have their voices heard, but not necessarily via the mainstream. Independent publishing has come of age. With Swallow Books, talented writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry can use all the tools of the big publishers – top-quality editing, copyediting, proofreading, typesetting, cover-designing and printing – but also enjoy personal control over copyright, royalties, cover design, distribution and marketing. And, crucially, they won't get their book 'bottom-drawered' in the first place on the say-so of (in some cases) publishing-house sales teams. If your book is, in your strong opinion, worth taking to the next level, and if we agree, and you're prepared to invest your money in its high-quality production, we'd love to help you fulfil your dream of earning the right to be read.
I'm soon to complete my second novel, which is inspired by Emily Brontë's masterpiece, Wuthering Heights. The novel is set in the present day in the Lake District – my other great source of inspiration – and is intended almost as a modern 'translation' of Wuthering Heights, closely following the storyline and characters (renamed) of the original but relocating the setting from Yorkshire (I know! Sacrilege!). As with many people, Wuthering Heights has always haunted and fascinated me, and with my novel I'm attempting to recreate it, for myself and for the modern reader. I plan to publish the novel in 2019.
When writing your book, suspend disbelief that you will ever finish it. The hardest thing on a day-to-day basis can be sustaining the conviction that you will get to the end, not only of the first draft, but of all of them.
Take huge risks. Unoriginality bores readers. Go wild. Think of the most original and unique way of expressing yourself in every sentence. It's exhausting, but you will end up with something that sounds alive rather than dead.
Embrace rejection. The only way over the hurdles is to jump them, even if you get a passing injury to your pride. The only people who succumb to rejection and give in are the writers who don't get themselves published.
some things are better left said