How I got my book
An interview with
author, Stephen Nuttall
Stephen Nuttall recently
acquired a publisher using firstwriter.com's database
of publishers. We asked him about his writing, and how
he found success.
fw: Thanks for
taking the time to talk to us, Stephen. Could you tell us
a little about the books you've been writing?
I have written three books so far, more in the pipeline!
Harry and the Hens
- Harry and the Policeman
- Harry and the Little Dog
All the Harry books are about the everyday adventures of a young boy and his granddad, based around everyday life. They are illustrated, and hopefully will be the kind of book that parents will want to read to their children, and children will want to read for themselves.
Harry is in fact my grandson, a little ginger haired five-year old and I started to write the books in order to encourage him to read and to enjoy books. I think far too many youngsters watch far too much television and play endlessly on computer-type games today and sometimes don’t get the opportunity to use their imaginations and discover how exciting reading can be.
did you get the ideas for the books from?
I used situations and ideas from my life experience and knowledge, things that were partly true but embellished so as to make a story.
For instance, we have fifty hens where I live, and I used my knowledge of keeping them in
Harry and the Hens.
The inspiration for Harry and the Policeman is the fact that I was a police sergeant for 30 years.
The inspiration for Harry and the Little Dog is my little black cocker spaniel. He’s actually an explosives search dog, which is what I do
fw: How did you
go about turning those ideas into stories?
SN: I just got on with it. That might sound a bit arrogant, but what I mean is that in the past I spent so much time pondering over what I had written, correcting grammar and re-writing the first few paragraphs, that nothing ever got finished. Now I write the whole book, leave it for a couple of weeks, and then look at it with fresh eyes. Then I correct spelling, grammar and re-write as necessary. This way I find that once the writing is underway, I don’t interrupt the flow every few minutes to correct the inevitable mistakes that creep in.
Each book is around 1,800 words, so quite small. The writing process from beginning to end
takes a couple of weeks.
fw: Do you have
any history of writing, or is it something you've come to
My first published story was in my school magazine way back in 1969! My first payment for a published piece was in 1979 with an article in
The Lady Magazine about police dogs (I was a police dog handler at the
time). Then I wrote an article about an historic police station for what was then
Essex Countryside magazine, in 1981.
For some reason – probably too much work –
I didn’t get back into writing until 2007 when I wrote a 115,000 word Christian novel entitled
Jeremiah Man – Rumours of Angels It was published in the
United States. I am currently working on the sequel, provisionally entitled
Pillar of Fire.
fw: How did you go about trying to get
SN: About a year ago I sent
Harry and the Hens to an agent, but it wasn’t of interest to them. I then used
firstwriter.com and found Sunberry
fw: Were there any particular features of
firstwriter.com that you found useful?
SN: Being able to refine my search so that I could target the exact type of publisher I was looking for was invaluable. And the emailing update service. It was through this that I found Sunberry.
fw: How did you
go about approaching publishers you identified as possible
matches for your work?
I read very carefully the submission guidelines on the publisher’s website and made sure I stuck to them! I then outlined a brief history of myself, the book that I had written, and asking if they would be interested in seeing the manuscript.
Jo Holloway (who is the MD of Sunberry Publishing) answered within days, asked a few questions and requested to see the work. I sent it straight off, and she then contacted me within a very short space of time and said
I didn’t want to flood all the publishers with my manuscripts in the hope that one would like them enough to offer me a contract, although I can understand that writers want to get published as soon as they can and the delay can be considerable if one waits for a rejection before sending work to another publisher. But I honestly thought that the best way for me was to deal with one publisher at a time, and let them know that I hadn’t sent my manuscript anywhere else. I’m not saying that everyone should adopt that approach; it’s just how I felt.
fw: Did you get a lot of rejections?
SN: Not with the Harry books, but when trying to find a publisher or agent for my novel, which was my first major piece of writing, I got many rejections. All of them were polite, and it was never personal, but it was sometimes difficult to pick myself up and re-submit my work. But I did, and I eventually found a publisher in the
United States who loved my book and I got into print.
The hardest thing for me was actually sending it off to a publisher for the first time. I had spent two years writing the novel, and then had a bit of a panic that after all that time publishers would think it rubbish!
Spending two years writing and wondering whether anyone would ever read it was quite tough.
fw: What do you think was the reason
your publisher chose to take you on?
SN: I think a combination of good fortune that my publishers were looking for writers at the particular time that I had written the Harry books and my style of work matching what they were looking for.
It was important for me that the ideals and ethos of the publisher matched my own. I felt very comfortable dealing with this publisher because it was a good match.
fw: Do you have
any tips for other aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! If you believe in your writing, and you can write, there will be someone who will want to publish your work. I confess that
there were times when I wondered if "Harry" would ever get into print, and it is just so exciting for me to have the books accepted by a great publisher and have the opportunity of working with Jo and her staff.
I really hope that other aspiring authors using
firstwriter.com will get to experience this thrill.
fw: What next?
SN: I don’t want to run before I can walk, and will take my
publisher's advice. But I would like to write more Harry books if people like them (and buy them!).
I also have a book developing in my mind about a man called William Hunter who was burnt at the stake as an heretic in Brentwood, Essex where I live, in 1555. It would be an historical fiction written from the first-person point of view, something I have never done and will find quite challenging. It is provisionally entitled,
Committed to the Flames.
fw: Well good
luck with everything, Stephen – and thank you again for
taking the time to talk to us!
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Bicentenary Writing Competition
Entries are invited for a Creative Writing competition for short works of poetry or prose inspired, broadly or otherwise, by any character from a Charles Dickens novel. The competition is open to all writers and international submissions are welcome.
As a Canterbury based writing group, SaveAs Writers considers Dickens to be very much a product of Kent and there can be no denying the influence the county had on Dickens. Moreover one only has to skim through David Copperfield to grasp the significance of Canterbury in his work. Therefore we want to take this opportunity to celebrate and commemorate the 200th birthday of a truly great writer, much in the same way that our successful ‘Siege of Canterbury’ Millennial Competition did last year.
The idea for this competition to focus on a character from Dickens came from a rereading of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem wonderful, and in this case certainly, truly inspirational poem, ‘Havisham’. This poem seems a great starting point if anyone is struggling with the competition! However the entries will not be judged on the entrants’ knowledge of Dickens-it might even be non-existent-but on the quality of the writing.
Poetry entries will be judged by David Nettleingham and prose entries by Marilyn Donovan.
All entries will be judged anonymously. Each piece will be seen by the judges – there is no sifting beforehand. The only requirement in terms of existing work is that it must have not been placed in the top 3 of any previous competition.
Deadline: August 15, 2012 (entries postmarked this date will be accepted)
The shortlist and winners will be announced on October
27, 2012, at a special event in Canterbury as part of the Canterbury Umbrella Festival.
Shortlisted entries will also be published in a pamphlet form later in the year.
Poems maximum length 50 lines; short stories maximum length 3,000 words
First Prize = £30
Second Prize = £20
Third Prize = £15
Entry fees - £2 per poem, £3 per prose piece
Your name must not appear on your hard copies but please include a covering letter with your name, contact details, and titles of the entries.
Entries can be either hard copy or electronic. Hard copies should be posted to:
Chairman, Save As Writers
35 Spillett Close
Electronic copies should be sent to
and headed "poetry" or "prose". In
either case all monies must be sent to the above address with cheques payable to
"Save As Writers".
For more information go to http://www.saveaswriters.co.uk
For details of over 160
other current writing contests, click
Idol style writing competition
An American Idol style
contest is being held to look for the next great novel.
The contest will begin with around twenty hopefuls and the public will whittle them down to one winner through a series of
writing challenges. This last author standing will then receive a publishing
The contest is available as a free app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users
It can also be found on Facebook through the community page:
where you are right now
When I started writing many years ago, before I could afford a
computer, everything was written longhand – it was easier because my typing
ability was anything but good. One of my neighbour friends typed my stories
for a small fee in her spare time. Later on, when I finally saved enough for
a new computer, it took me at least a year or two before I felt comfortable
enough to write using the computer. Now I wouldn't write any other way.
My notes are always written longhand; ideas are jotted down on anything
and everything. in order to write in longhand, it has to be with my
kind of pen and on paper that feels comfortable to my touch.
Writing comes easy to me even under pressure but I am a procrastinator
in every sense of the word. Staring endlessly at a blank computer screen
drives me nuts, and in all honesty, nothing is accomplished at that moment.
Then there's the place – that special place where I want to sit down
and let my words flow easily. Sometimes, if I can't be in that special
place, inventing a similar space helps me be creative. A peaceful and
scented place smelling of fresh cut flowers or maybe
freshly cut grass – a place smelling of berries or some other fruit and
comfortable where one can relax is all it takes for me to let my creative
juices flow. And then there are those times that that doesn't help.
The sound of a fountain overflowing with water trickling down into a
tiny stream is soothing especially with birds chirping away in the
background. An early Saturday morning with the distant smell of bacon
simmering on a hot stove sure makes me want to sit out on the patio and
write like there is no tomorrow. Sometimes it helps me clear my head where I
am ready to face my blank computer screen.
I prefer my old metal writing desk over the newer ones with its file
drawer all neat filed in alphabetically order – with no scratches or ink
smudges anywhere. The old metal desk is huge – I bought it over twenty years
ago at a rummage sale for $15. It once belonged to an elementary school
teacher – I can easily imagine the piles of graded school work, the apple
sitting in the corner and pictures of students scattered across the top –
magnets holding coloured pictures stuck on the sides with first scribbles
saying things like "my favourite teach" or
"I love you". When I sit down at
this desk to write, I am comfortable and at ease as the teacher who once
owned it must have been when she sit down to teach.
Writing is a large part of my life – though my reasons for writing have
changed drastically over the years, I still have that yearning to just sit
and write something that is close to my heart or something that appeals to
me and that is not work-related.
Whatever it takes for you to write, by all means do it. Let the words
flow. If it's not the scene you prefer to create in, create one on paper –
just write! Write where you are right now!
About the author
Marcella has been writing for many years and has hundreds of published
credits in several hundred small press publications. She is working on
several romance suspense novels at this time. She is a member of the
Shreveport Writer's Group and is the webmaster/owner of World of Travel
writers at firstwriter.com
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