Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Painter and decorator is finalist in book awards

Painter and decorator is finalist in book awards

A PAINTER and decorator has reached the final of a national children’s fiction writing competition.

Jeremy Smith is one of 20 people with a chance of winning a £10,000 publishing contract out of 2,000 who entered.

The 52-year-old, of Grove Road, Sonning Common, learned he had made the final on Friday, the same day that he published his Tilly Hart trilogy.

The first of the three stories, A Rhyme of Dark Words, is the one he entered in the competition run by the Times and publisher Chicken House, whose founder Barry Cunningham discovered Harry Potter writer J K Rowling.

The story is about a girl who moves to a new village when her mother dies and finds a legend of a beast that stalks the moor and a place where magic and demons exist.

Mr Smith said: “I’m quite chuffed. This competition has been running for about 10 years now and is quite a respected international competition.

“It’s nice to have a little bit of recognition for some of the hard work and typing away in my bedroom for years and years.

“If you get into the final five then I think the chances are that a publisher will want to pick you up. I am just over the moon to have made it into the longlist — it’s quite an accomplishment.”

Mr Smith lives with his wife Alison, 50, their son Ben, 18, who goes to The Henley College, and dalmatian Jack. Their daughter Madeleine, 22, lives in Canterbury.

He said: “My family couldn’t be happier. I’m always driving them crazy, getting them to read my books.

“I originally started to write for my children as they were growing up but they are getting a bit old now for my particular fantasy books.”

He has written nine stories so far and hopes to publish two more Tilly Hart books by the end of the year.

His main genre is fantasy but he has also written detective stories.

Mr Smith said: “I have always enjoyed writing, starting when I was at school. I remember always inventing stories and jotting things down.

“I have always been that way — a bit geeky and nerdy — and I liked the fantastical side of things.

“It’s a compulsion, a madness. You are not happy unless you are writing or creating a story. I have created a whole world and it just makes you feel good to be creating something.

“I go up into my bedroom, shut the door and if I can get a couple of hours done I’m happy with that.

“I do it as a hobby and the thought of making money and getting a deal was second place to me.

“I’m not going to be rich from this but that is not why I am doing it.

Mr Smith grew up in Henley and attended Trinity Primary School, Gillotts School and King James’s College, which is now The Henley College.

He only began writing properly in his mid-twenties following a spell as a fashion photographer in London.

The job bored him so he came back to Henley to work as a builder for his father Peter Smith, of P A Smith in Greys Road.

After suffering a back injury, he focused on painting and decorating for the business.

In 2010, he enrolled on a creative writing course for adults at The Henley College. It was run by former Guardian journalist Elizabeth Leigh and he attended for about six years.

Mr Smith said: “We would go as friends and bounce ideas off each other and see what could be improved. You had to be thick-skinned! I still keep in touch with them and I got an email from Liz at the weekend and she was absolutely thrilled to bits for me. She couldn’t be happier and it’s the same with everyone else in the group. We all support each other.

“Everyone is after just a bit of recognition. It’s just like a pat on the back every now and then.”

Mr Smith said it was hard to find time to write.

He said: “I grab what time I can and try to do a little bit every day. It’s a little bit of a juggle between work and family life but it’s easier now the kids have grown up.

“I haven’t got any spare time at all. I’m just working or writing.”

His wife will often proof-read his work and he receives plot suggestions from Two Hoots, his quiz team that meets fortnightly at the Butcher’s Arms in Blounts Court Road.

He is looking forward to celebrating his achievement with his friends.

“To go any further would just be amazing,” he said. “There will be a couple of bottles of wine to open if I can win.”

His books are all available through Amazon. The paperback edition costs £7.50 or 99p on Kindle.

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