First of all Paul, Tell us about how it all started and what gave you the idea of writing a book?
The first book idea I had was a story I initially called “My Dad and me and a ham and pineapple pizza”. I was out of work and needed something to do to fill my time. The story centred around a motherless girl who needed to talk to Dad about problems at school etc with takeaway pizza the common link to get them talking. It’s currently entitled “Amy Pineapple” and may still get published one day.
And why a football one? I know your passions lie heavily with Chasetown FC and Liverpool. But you first began writing poetry – so did it just lead from there?
Every time I re-read “Amy Pineapple” I was unhappy with it (and still am) so I thought why not combine what I do in my spare time with Chasetown FC and try a football story. I knew a girl footballer who was always quite tom boyish and wrote “her” into a boys’ team and it lead from there. My brother in law Nick White has written a couple of poetry books and helped my sister Jen Mullins get her book on careers advice get published, so I sent him “Amy P” and “Girls Can’t Play Football” and he said the football book was better.
Releasing the first book which was eventually re-titled Leah and the Football Dragons. Must have been a great feeling when it was officially released in 2014?
When the first paperback proof copy arrived, it began becoming a reality. Once my long-time friend Jane Blair provided the illustrations and the Dragons logo became the book cover it felt like it was all meant to be. To sell the first one was a strange feeling, as was the first time I signed some for people – I was sat in a beer garden with former Chasetown Manager Charlie Blakemore after a football tournament and he told me to get some books out of the car and he would persuade parents to buy them! To sign a book to a nine year old who thinks you are famous is a surreal experience!
You then followed this story up with Leah and the Waiting Game last year and now Leah and the Final Whistle has just been released. Do you plan to make any more?
I certainly plan to write more books – it’s very therapeutic. Whether there’s another story about Leah out there I don’t know. Those who were kind enough to proofread “Final Whistle” for me said they can’t wait for another book and I have jotted down some ideas that may or may not develop into something. I have constricted myself a little with the “Leah and the… something something” title format if I do write another Leah one. So, I might have to break that tradition.
Can you give us a little insight to any of the stories? Give us a taster of what it’s all about?
“Leah and the Football Dragons” has a moral dilemma. Right versus wrong, justice versus injustice.
“Leah and the Waiting Game” is about patience. That sometimes, no matter how hard you try, outside influences can impact on what you do and sometimes life is about waiting for the right doors to open – and sometimes watch them closing too.
“Leah and the Final Whistle?” is difficult to describe without a spoiler. But, let’s just say that nothing goes on forever!
Going back to being a poet, you have also written a book called "Recollections of you" with poems from 1991 to 2015. Tell us a little about that too?
I first wrote a poem in 1991 during a boring University lecture about someone I was keen on back home, looking at a grey Liverpool skyline wondering what was going on back in Chasetown. Over time, I wrote more, accumulating on my PC sitting there doing nothing. A couple of penfriends I had back then said some were very good but I did nothing with them.
“Recollections of You” only really got released because I was waiting (ironic) a long time for the illustrations for “Leah and the Waiting Game” and wanted to get a second book out before Christmas 2015 if the “Waiting Game” wasn’t finished. Some friends read all 143 of my poems and picked out the 90 or so they liked the best – and that became the anthology.
Where do you find the time to write these books? Being the Press officer at Chasetown along with a full-time job?
If I have an idea, I jot it down on a piece of paper or make a note on my phone. If I am on the laptop anyway doing something for the football club, sometimes I just stay on the computer a bit longer and type the idea until it has run its course. The time consuming part of the writing is putting it to one side for a few weeks, re-reading it, editing it and, hopefully improving the content until the story flows naturally. As I’ve got older, I’ve needed less sleep and rarely watch TV anyway, so there’s a few hours in an evening available if I need it!
Finally do you ever see this becoming a full-time career one day or is it all about the fun aspect?
I really do enjoy it and I would love to make a career out of it. At the moment though, I see each sale of the book as one step in “Six degrees of separation” – one step nearer, maybe, to a newspaper article about me, a publisher taking me on rather than self-publishing my books, or a TV producer reading it and deciding to make a small series about it! I’m comfortable with how it’s going as a hobby and I am a strong believer in the quote, “If the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door.”