Welcome to my Authors 40+ Series – sharing the stories of amazing authors who published their first book over the age of 40. The series features talented, experienced and inspirational writers who share their (often non-conventional!) writing and publishing journeys honestly and articulately. Next to feature, is Paul Blewitt!
1) What is the title and synopsis/premise of your first book and how old were you when you published it?
‘A Sort of Homecoming’ is the first-person biography of former England Test cricketer, Alan Mullally. It was published when I was 51 (and a half!)
2) Tell me about writing the book e.g. where did the idea come from / how long did it take / what did you learn along the way?
Since I was eight years old I have always wanted to ‘be a writer’. From the age of 19 I worked in financial services; in ever-demanding and time-consuming roles. During my early adult life I wrote…but nothing of consequence: a play for the am-dram group here, a short story (that never saw the light of day) there, internal financial articles for work colleagues (pre-internet days), poetry and songs.
In 2006, I became good friends with a former England cricketer. By then, my financial career was approaching a crossroads and, now being self-employed with my own brokerage in Asia, I had increasing choices about how I spent my time.
On holiday in the beautiful Malaysian resort of Langkawi, as I read Stephen Fry’s wonderful ‘Moab is my Washpot’, I had an idea. I contacted Alan Mullally and asked if I could ghostwrite his autobiography. A year later, he agreed.
In September 2007, I flew to Perth in Australia for the first of many meetings with Mullally across the globe to build the narrative of his eventful life.
Sadly, though, Alan was increasingly dependant on the bottle. This meant months and years passed without any contributions from himself towards the book. As I needed to work on the project part-time (I still had to earn a living) it meant the book took much longer than anticipated to complete. Added to which, I got the length totally wrong. At 473 pages it is far too long.
3) Tell me about your publishing journey step by step – what happened once the book was finished?
In late 2007, Alan’s was still a much-recognised name in cricket (his having retired from the game only two years earlier). However, due to England’s recent Ashes success – and a dozen cricketers eager to sell his story – no publisher I spoke with was prepared to publish our book.
I then decided to go down the ‘self-publishing’ route via Amazon. I set up a company and duly named it ‘Stracotto Books’. Stracotto is a long-cooked – but delicious – Italian beef stew. The name echoed both my love of Italy and food as well as the ridiculously long time it had taken to write my first tome.
Mullally got sight of the book in totality (the text, anyway) and I found an amazing illustrator to add a bit of variety to the innards of the book and also to design the cover. Normally, autobiographies have a genre cut-and-paste headshot photo of the protagonist with a whimsical look on their mush. As Mullally was in Perth, Australia, and I was in England, getting him to sit with a photographer for the required mugshot was like controlling a herd of cats via Skype. Hence using an illustrator for the book’s cover.
Just prior to publication I sent 200 postcards to ‘movers and shakers’ in the media and in the cricketing world, to let them know about the book.
After publication, I sent dozens of copies to some of the same; to hopefully pick up a recent review or two. Most recipients ignored me and the book, with some resorting to immediately selling the copy of the book I’d sent them, on Amazon.
4) Who or what has helped you the most in becoming a published author?
Persistence, reading, bloody hard work, and self-publishing.
5) What are the main obstacles you faced / overcame when writing and publishing your book(s)?
Dealing with the subject matter (a now former friend with a drink problem), earning money to subsidise the writing, and finally marketing. I was stunned that not only did the Guardian/Observer not wish to write a review of the book, but that they wouldn’t even reply to my emails or voice-mails. Word of mouth became key.
6) How do you promote/advertise your book(s)?
‘Sniper marketing’ on social media and by persuading two esteemed journals (The Cricketer magazine and Cricketweb) to review the book.
7) How did you celebrate the incredible achievement of your first book being published?
8) What advice would you give to other authors about to begin their publishing journey?
I’m half-tempted to say ‘DON’T!’ but that would be unfair. I would tell them to write the book that they’d be proud of. Not to write something they think will be marketable. If the author loves the book, then that passion will help its sales.
9) Where is/are your book(s) currently available to read and where can people find you online?
If you search ‘Stracotto Books’ on Amazon you can see both of my published works: A Sort of Homecoming and the Zed Carr short story I published a few weeks before the Mullally book was published – so I could get some experience of the ‘going live’ process. Zed Carr is one of my pen-names and the short story is a well-received tale of a man with learning difficulties who accidentally takes Viagra before visiting some nuns. I wrote that in two three-hour sessions over two days in the summer of 2016.
People can also visit www.stracottobooks.com.
10) Are you working on anything new we can look forward to in 2019?
I have around 21 writing projects on the go at the moment, the most exciting of which may well be the ghostwritten autobiography of a very influential musician. Watch this space! xx
Thank you for taking part in my Authors 40+ Series Paul! If you are an author who published their first fiction or nonfiction book over the age of 40 and would like to be featured in this blog series just like Joanne, Paul, D.P., Reyna, Michael and Christina, please get in touch!