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How I wrote and published Mentoring Mr Singleman - Part 1 - the given circumstances.

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

This is the first of a series of three posts adapted from a live talk given to the 2020 Independent Authors Online Festival. The video of the talk itself, which includes me reading the extracts, can be found at Unit 17 of the festival site

What I’m going to do in these posts is to say a little bit about my novel, Mentoring Mr Singleman, how I came to write it, and the role that attending a five day Arvon foundation course played in that process. I’ll read a couple of sections to give you a flavour of the writing, and I’ll talk about how I came to publish the novel independently, and a little bit about what my experience of working with Kindle Direct Publishing has been like. I should perhaps say here that I am new to independent publishing, so I am far from being an expert, and if anybody wants to give me any tips or correct me on matters of fact, then please do so via the comments.

Mentoring Mr Singleman is available on Amazon for £7.99 plus postage, or downloadable as an e-book for £1.99. It's a piece of light romantic fiction, reasonably literary in style – maybe a bit like the work of Alexander McCall Smith, or David Nicholls. So I like to tell myself, anyway. It has been evaluated by Mrs Average, aka Claire Lyons, who set up the online festival, and you can find a review of it on her excellent book blog.

The main selling points that I pitch it on are as follows. It is set in Cornwall, where I have lived for over twenty years. Cornwall is a beautiful place to live, and write about, and generally people enjoy reading about it too. It’s a romance, which I hope we can all get behind, and it’s set in and around a school, which is perhaps a bit unusual for a love story. It’s a third person narrative but the narrative viewpoint is shared between the male and female protagonists, and also at times with the students.

The plot is a simple one. Dave Singleman is an English teacher who has just turned thirty – he’s a chilled out kind of guy, likes his surfing, is a bit disillusioned with the way education is going, and is just beginning to wonder if there isn’t maybe more to life than he’s getting out of it.

A new female colleague joins the department and she both attracts and intrigues Dave. She’s not like him at all – she’s smart, focused on her career, and knows exactly where she’s heading. She has no intention of getting bogged down in a relationship – in fact she’s been a bit put off men by her experience teaching at a boys’ grammar school. The story is basically about the way in which their relationship, both professional and personal, progresses throughout the autumn term, and in best Shakespearean fashion, the course does not run smooth.

I’d like now to read a short section which is taken from about a quarter of the way through the novel. Dave and Kate, by accident rather than design, are living above and below one another in a converted engine house in an idyllic clifftop location. For various reasons they’ve kind of got off on the wrong foot and relationships are a bit frosty. There’s no romantic involvement at this stage, but this does does mark a slight thawing in the relationship.

At this point in the talk I read Extract 1 – Chapter 11

So – how did I come to write the book? Well I’ve always been a writer, and I had some success in my twenties with short stories and journalism. However life and the need for a proper job took over in the way it so often does, and it wasn’t until I retired from teaching that I decided to have another go at a full length novel. I knew I wanted to write something about teaching, partly because schools are inherently interesting and entertaining places, with a complex network of relationships between and among staff and students, and partly because I had some things about education that I wanted to say. Over my career I had observed a number of staffroom romances, some orthodox and others less so, and it always struck me what an extra burden it must present to two would-be lovers to have to conduct their relationship under the gaze of a thousand or so interested adolescents. So I thought I might write a book about a relationship set in and around a school.

The typical novel set in a school has the story told about and from the perspective of the students, with the teachers playing bit parts to support the plot. I wanted to reverse that trope, and to write a story that was primarily about teachers, with a few kids thrown in to offer a different angle on events. I set about writing the students, who are all fourteen years old, with some trepidation – my own children are now well past that stage. In the event they all really developed as characters, ending up with their own storylines, and many readers have said they particularly enjoy that aspect of the book.

So I had all these ideas and good intentions for my retirement, but it always seemed easier and more appealing to go up to the golf course than to sit down at my laptop and get the damn thing started. Then in the course of a house move I found myself without any fixed abode for a month in the summer of 2018. I did consider just taking a prolonged camping trip to France, but in the end I opted to spend part of the time on an Arvon course, of which more in the next post.

©Kim Sancreed 2020

See the second blogpost in this short series for more information about Arvon courses, and how one of these courses helped me to write Mentoring Mr Singleman. Information about my experience of using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing programme can be found in the third blogpost.

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