Everything comes to those who wait – certainly applies to author, Paul Forrester-O’Neill, who, after forty years of writing, had his novel, Mission, published in April by Hookline Books. Not only that, but the publisher has submitted the novel for the Booker Prize and the Costa Book of the year Prize.
Paul has lived and worked in North Staffordshire for most of his life and his passion for writing began when he was 20.
“I’d always loved stories as a child. At a young age you just want to get your ideas out,” he said.
Paul has had a varied career working in various roles, including as a meals-on-wheels driver, quiz setter and working with the homeless and disadvantaged until finally working as a Specialist Skills tutor.
He never stopped writing and as well as three plays written and performed at Stoke Rep, the novels kept on coming.
“You need a thick skin,” Paul said
“All the rejection can be tough to take. It’s about resilience, really. You have to want it enough.”
In 2012 Paul came across an advert for an MA in Creative Writing at MMU.
“It felt like a last chance, to see if I was any good or not,” he says.
What followed was Mission, a father-son story of revenge set in small-town America, which won the Michael Schmidt Prize for the best novel of the year at MMU – something Paul was and still is very proud of.
Even after the success of Mission at MMU, Paul still faced barriers with his writing and sent the book to a number of publishers and agents without success until, in the middle of pandemic, he was offered publication.
“I’d almost given up,” he said, “I was in Scotland and my wife and I had just had a walk on the beach and when we got back, there it was. I couldn’t speak.”
With the help of his three children, Paul learned the art of using social media to market his book – Mission and reaching family and friends in America and Australia.
“It’s great to see my book in small, independent American bookshops,” Paul said. “Hopefully, people like it. It doesn’t get more complicated than that.”
On persevering with his passion for writing Paul added: “You just have to keep going and I have had amazing support from family and friends.
“For me, things came together at the right time. It was just a long wait, that’s all. But it’s been worth it.”
Article with Uzair Hussain