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Authors break through

8 March 2004

Two recent instances of authors breaking through against the odds show that, even though it's hard at the moment, it can still happen.

Described by its publisher, the distinguished British house Faber and FaberClick for Faber and Faber Publishers References listing, as 'an exceptional first novel', It's All Right Now has been 31 years in the writing. Its author, Charles Chadwick, is a retired civil servant who started writing it when he was working for the British CouncilThis government-supported body is best-known for its activities overseas, but in fact provides a great deal of information which is of interest to writers.
Their UK Literature Festivals provides a full listing, but this is only as up to date as the information supplied by the individual festival organizers.
in Nigeria. Not only is the author 71 years old, but the novel is also a whopping 300,000 words, making it a pretty tough publishing proposition.

Chadwick is clearly bowled over by the US deal which will bring him several thousand dollars. 'I am utterly astonished. The phrase 'beyond my wildest dreams' has now taken on meaning for me.' The novel may well garner literary acclaim as well when it is published in a year's time - and the author's age may provide the explanation for its range and depth. Jonathan Riley, his publisher at Faber, said: 'As a first novel it is astonishing; as the product of a lifetime's experience it becomes explicable.'

Meanwhile a novel by the wife of a farmer in Cornwall is also causing a sensation. Interestingly Charmian Hussey turns out not to be in the first flush of youth either. A 64 year old whose interesting life has encompassed modelling, archaeology (she was a senior member of St Hugh's Oxford), and bringing the Anatolian Karabash (a type of dog) into the UK, she also has a passionate interest in the world's rainforests. She's evidently not a typical farmer's wife.

The Valley of Secrets was published by Hussey's cousin's small press in Cornwall and has sold 3,225 copies. It's now going for £1,695 ($3,124) if you want a hardback first edition, but you can buy it for £8.99 in paperback. Based on her son's childhood fantasies, it is an adventure story written for teenagers. Described as a modern classic, it's being read by all ages.