So, you have three CafeLit serials now. Are they all connected?
Yes and no! They are connected in that they all started life in the same way. In addition, they all appeared as individual stories on CaféLit and they are all now published by Chapeltown Books. They are also all written in the same humorous style. However, the content of each book is very different and it doesn’t matter which order you read them in.
The first book that was published was The Basilwade Chronicles which tells the story of colourful individuals who live in the fictitious town of Basilwade and the madcap escapades in which they find themselves.
The second book, The Macaroon Chronicles tells the story of a band of anthropomorphic animals. They live on the fictitious Isle of Macaroon, where the scenery is edible such as the Cheese Mines, the Meringue Mountains and the Custard River. The main character is Eddie the Bald Chicken who has delusions of grandeur and tells everyone he’s a Bald Eagle. He and his band of friends lurch from one disaster to another as they travel about the island causing chaos.
The third and latest book in the Chronicles is The Crispin Chronicles. It’s set in the grounds of a stately home where the garden ornaments – the Gnomes, Elves and other creatures – live together ruled by self-appointed Head Gnome, Bartrum. Crispin is a Marble Elf who longs for a quiet life but being one of the few sensible garden ornaments, Bartrum relies on him to organise all his self-aggrandising schemes – and then to clear up the mess.
What made you think of this particular one?
I mentioned previously that the three books began their lives in the same way – the first chapter of each book was written as a short, self-contained story, with no intention of writing any more. Each one resulted from a writing prompt given out at one of my writing groups, the Basildon Writing Group.
The first story in The Basilwade Chronicles was written in response to a prompt where a story was to be written about a socially inept man. In my story, Derek Carruthers is a rather tactless and ill-mannered man who goes speed dating. He blunders his way through the entire session and not surprisingly, does not come away with a perfect match. However, I grew to like Derek Carruthers despite his lack of social graces and decided that perhaps he should have a second chance at love. I wrote him another story. A character in that story appealed to me and I wrote a story for her. After that I kept taking one or more characters and writing them their own ‘episode’.
The Macaroon Chronicles came about in a similar way in that there was a writing prompt. It consisted of a list of disparate items from which we had to choose five and then include them in a story. I selected: a ballpoint pen, a pair of fisherman’s waders, a Hawaiian shirt, an electric guitar and a billboard.
After I’d written my story with Eddie and his two friends, Brian, a monkey, and Colin a lemur, I decided I wanted to see what happened to the next instalment and I carried on writing adventures with those characters – introducing more as I went.
And similarly with The Crispin Chronicles, the writing prompt was a list of items from which several were to be included in a story. I selected: a sombrero, a child’s tractor, a raincoat, a pair of flip-flops and a fishing rod – and Crispin the Marble Elf and his friends were born. I loved them so much that I carried on writing stories about them. And once I’d read out a story to the Basildon Writers’ Group, I submitted it to CaféLit and Gill published each one. When all the stories I’d written had been published on CaféLit, I submitted the entire manuscript and Gill published each as a paperback and e-book. In addition, The Basilwade Chronicles is also available as an audiobook narrated by John Guest.
Are there any advantages or disadvantages in publishing them as a serial first?
The only disadvantage I can think of is that the book isn’t published until each story has appeared on the CaféLit website. But patience is a virtue! And each time, it was well worth the wait to hold the books in my hand!
As for advantages, I’m not sure. I have no idea whether having read some or all of the stories, anyone went on to buy a copy of the book. It would be interesting to find out if that was so.
All three have striking covers. Can you tell us a little about them?
Before the first book, The Basilwade Chronicles, was published, I gave a lot of thought to the cover. I remembered that David O’Neill, a fellow member of the Basildon Writers’ Group, had a book with a cover that I liked. He’d asked Neill C. Woods, an artist friend of his, to design the cover and I also approached him to ask if he’d be able to design something for me. Neill read the book and came back with a cracking design illustrating many of the characters in the book. Gill liked the cover too and so, I asked Neill if he’d design the artwork for the other two books when they were being published. I love the way Neill not only takes note of the appearance of the characters but also portrays some of their activities and even their expressions!
They have been on the radio and one of them has been made into an audio book. Can you tell us something about that?
Sylvia Kent, a member of the Brentwood Writers’ Circle, the other writers’ group that I belong to, introduced me to Jacqui James who is the chairman of Basildon Hospital Radio and I was invited onto the station to talk about my writing. BHR 87.7FM often joins up with local radio station, Gateway 97.8FM and Jacqui started to present Good Afternoon on Wednesday afternoons. I was invited on there to speak about The Basilwade Chronicles when it was released. Afterwards, Jacqui said that she thought one of her regular guests would do an excellent job of reading the stories as he has an amazing repertoire of voices and accents. Appropriately named, John Guest was a vicar at the time although he was preparing to retire and intended to become an audiobook narrator. It was a match made in heaven! John read one chapter of The Basilwade Chronicles out each week live on Jacqui’s Good Afternoon show. He offered to record the stories and Gill agreed that John could narrate the audiobook. He’s currently reading out one story from The Macaroon Chronicles on the last Wednesday of the month on Jacqui’s show. Not surprisingly, his career as a narrator has taken off and he’s currently quite busy.
Do you have anything else in the pipeline? What’s next?
I’m currently writing what I hope will be my fourteenth My Weekly Pocket Novel. I’ve set myself a challenge of writing it within a month and so far (day 21, I have 43,000 words written out of the 50,000 words that I need). After the Pocket Novels come off-shelf, they have so far been published by Linford Romance Library as large print paperbacks which you may find in the Large Print Romance section at your local library. The other rights revert to me and recently, I’ve got together with another fellow Basildon Writer, Paul Burridge. He formats the manuscripts and has designed some beautiful book covers for me for the first set of books that I’ve self-published – The Lady Amelia Saga. The books are set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. All involve characters who are somehow linked to the fictitious ship, the Lady Amelia which transports female convicts to the newly-established penal colony in New South Wales. The other series of books which Paul and I are currently working on are set in the early 20th century and many take place just before or during World War Two. That series will be called The Heart of Plotlands Saga.
I’ve also been having a bit of fun writing fractured fairytale drabbles for CaféLit just recently and have had about a dozen published so far. I have lots more ideas for others.
Paul Burridge – PublishingBuddy https://www.publishingbuddy.co.uk
Neill C Woods – https://northeastgifts.co.uk/artists/neill-c-woods/
Lady Amelia Saga books on Amazon:
The Duchess of Sydney: http://mybook.to/TheDuchessOfSydney
The Finding of Eden: https://mybook.to/TheFindingOfEden
The Other Place: https://mybook.to/TheOtherPlace
The Dolphin’s Kiss: https://mybook.to/TheDolphinsKiss
John Guest: email@example.com 07710 353461/01795 469188
First stories of each book on CaféLit:
A Question of Timing – First chapter of The Basilwade Chronicles: https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2017/09/a-question-of-timing.html
The Macaroon Chronicles Prologue and the Three Wise Monkeys – First chapter of The Macaroon Chronicles: https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2020/01/the-macaroon-chronicles-prologue-and.html
The Crispin Chronicles 1 Her Ladyship’s Garden – First chapter of The Crispin Chronicles: https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/04/the-crispin-chronicles-1-her-ladyships.html
Basildon Hospital Radio: https://www.bhr877.com/listen-online.html
Gateway 97.8FM Local Radio; https://www.gateway978.com/listen-again