Best-selling author and all around Barrington Stoke pal Jonathan Meres takes a stroll down memory lane and recounts the beginning of our beautiful friendship.
Sometime at the beginning of this century, I received a letter. That’s right, kids. Not a text, email, message on Facebook, Snapchat, or an invitation to join someone on Tinder. I mean, Linkedin.
Obviously. No, this was an actual letter. Delivered by an actual postie. And it was from a publisher, asking me if I’d like to write a book for them. Which was nice. And I’ll be honest, also quite flattering. Because my first two published books, were picture books, called Somewhere Out There and The Big Bad Rumour, respectively. The Big Bad Rumour did relatively well and still gets borrowed between four and seven times a year, from libraries in the UK alone. In contrast, Somewhere Out There, sank without trace. In fact, the last time I saw a copy, Tony Robinson had just dug one up, on Time Team. But my point is, I wasn’t exactly setting the world of publishing, alight. (Yeah, I know. Some things never change, eh?)
I had, however, also written a book, called Yo! Diary! which some older listeners may remember. Anyone? No? Fair enough. Published in 1999, by Piccadilly Press. Followed, in successive years, by the imaginatively titled, Yo! Diary! 2 and then, Yo! dot UK. (And yes. That does date it a bit, doesn’t it?) Anyway, they did reasonably OK. For me, anyway. Seven or eight foreign rights, I think. Oh and it got adapted for TV. Two series on CBBC, to be precise. 26 episodes in total. Which I wrote. And also acted in. Megalomaniac? Moi? (If they’d let me direct and do costumes and make up as well, I would’ve done.)
All to say, if it hadn’t been for Yo! Diary! I probably wouldn’t have received the letter that day. Because crucially, it wasn’t a picture book. It was a book for teens. Sorry, I meant to say. And it was teens back then, by the way. ‘YA’ was just something people said, when attempting to do a Geordie accent. (Try it. You’ll see what I mean.) With the great benefit of hindsight, it was really a bit too young, to be proper teen/YA/whatever. By today’s standards, anyway. But hey. Mustn’t grumble. And I mustn’t keep digressing, either.
The point is, I wrote a book and I got a letter from a publisher, asking me if I’d like to write one for them. And the name of the publisher? Barrington Stoke. Now, I must confess, that at the time, I hadn’t heard of them. Then again, they’d only been going two or three years. Much like myself, come to think of it. Long story short? I went to meet them. They were lovely. So, I wrote a book, called Clone Zone. And another, called Love Dad. And another, called Fame Thing. And then one, called Diary Of A Trainee Rock God. Brilliant. My only regret? That it would be ten years before I finally got around to writing another one. Why? Because I’m an idiot, that’s why. Well, that’s being a bit harsh on myself, I suppose. We talked about it, from time to time. But, what with being a Jack-of-several-trades and reasonably competent at a couple of them, I’d been pretty busy doing other stuff, in the meantime. Which I’ve talked about before, so if you already know this, just fast-forward a bit. But, stuff like writing for TV & radio. Stuff like doing hundreds of voice-overs. Stuff like acting in a series of zombie movies. Consequently, the book side of things took a bit of a hit. It wasn’t really until 2011 – and again, please bear with me if you’ve heard this before – when The World of Norm May Contain Nuts, was published, that I really began to focus on authoring, once more.
Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to have had a number of other books published, besides the 12 Norms. But I have to say, the one that’s probably given me the most pleasure – and if you’re one of my other publishers, look away now – is, Grandpa Was an Astronaut. Closely followed by Mint Choc Chip at the Market Café. Not only because the subject matter of both books, is particularly close to my heart, but because they’re published by a publisher close to my heart, too. Apologies if that sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s true. And the difference between my fourth book for Barrington Stoke and my fifth and sixth books for Barrington Stoke? Nowadays, everybody’s heard of them.* So you don’t need me to tell you how amazing they are and what an incredible job they do, getting dyslexic kids into reading. And not only dyslexic kids, but kids, who, for a whole bunch of other reasons, wouldn’t normally touch a book, with a barge pole. But that’s another story. And I was supposed to be cutting this particular one short, wasn’t I? So, I will now. The end.
*OK, so technically, not literally everybody. But it’s only a matter of time.
And click here for more about his Grandpa was an Astronaut and Mint Choc Chip at the Market Café illustrator, the absolutely fab Hannah Coulson.