Our first Open Coop novel!
A couple of years ago we held our first Open Coop – a one-day amnesty in which writers could send their stories directly to us. From the huge amount of submissions we received, we discovered a brilliantly funny and quirky novel centering around the horror of all horrors: a chocopocalypse! Written by debut novelist Chris Callaghan, The Great Chocoplot is the first Open Coop novel to be published and is available to buy now. Here, Chris tells us about his publishing experience ...
I’ve scribbled stories all my life. In some old French and maths school books I found recently, stories and ideas had been scrawled into the back, presumably during lessons. No wonder I didn’t do well at school! Even during my training in the RAF, my notebooks about hydraulics and pneumatics had the occasional ‘once upon a time …’ in them. For decades I squeezed tall tales into everyday life – until I became a Stay-At-Home-Dad, where stories became a natural and vital part of my role. One idea – about chocolate becoming extinct – was intriguing enough to spend some proper time on and I thought it would make a unique Christmas present for my daughter. Luckily she loved it, and although it was far from the story I had in my head, I felt it was worth developing further.
Then I noticed a news item: a publisher asking for unpublished manuscripts suitable for children in a one-day amnesty. Initially I dismissed it, thinking my story was not quite ready. But on the day of the Open Coop, as they called it, I saw the advert again. After a little pondering, an email with the first three chapters went whizzing to the premises of Chicken House.
Life continued as normal, until I received an unexpected response. They wanted to read the rest of my story. I was delighted and eagerly sent it off, eventually leading to a further email saying they would like talk to me. A proper publisher wanted to talk to me. About my story. They wanted to talk. To me!
Once the world had stopped spinning uncontrollably, they explained how they were very interested. No promises were made but I was happy enough to be discussing characters, plot, motivation and all manner of imaginative stuff with the wonderfully creative Chickens. Having never studied creative writing, I felt like I had my very own tailored training led by the best tutors in the business. It was a stressful time, I’ll be honest. I was so incredibly worried I’d mess things up, until eventually they offered me what every scribbler dreams of: a book deal.
I wasn’t ready for what happened next. I’d assumed a few months of putting all those ideas we’d discussed into place and I’d be done. But no. A year and a half later of effort, excitement and some anguish – we got there. It was a team effort. Editors/publishers are a strange lot, I’ve found. They have a concept of time which even Einstein wouldn’t understand, and a level of patience that defies rationality! But two years after clicking ‘send email’, The Great Chocoplot is being released into bookshops. It’s all because Chicken House reached out and pulled this scribbler of stories into the real world of books. As I type this, it still feels like I’ve made it up. Just another story I’ve scratched into the back of a school book. But it isn’t. It’s really happening!
We're throwing our doors open once more: the Open Coop is back! For one day only, we'll be accepting submissions. Find out more about how to submit here.
Follow Chris Callaghan on Twitter: @callaghansstuff