John Alex Taylor

Choosing to publish myself.

I have been writing for nineteen years, although the first five or six years were strictly a learning experience. Eleven years ago, a book of mine gained me an enthusiastic literary agent and interest from a number of commercial editors. I was bemused – I didn’t set out to write ‘commercial’ fiction – I wanted to write what was on my heart. I wasn’t surprised when the commercial interest dried up. The agent had several best-selling authors keeping her busy, and we parted company on good terms without the book making it to publication.

The writing itch didn’t desert me. I kept honing my skills, and had a short story published in Stories For Homes, published in aid of Shelter in 2013, a project I’m still proud to have had a part in. Several more novels followed, including one so experimental that I wrote myself into a dead end and didn’t finish it, but that project gave me a whole host of new ideas and a bunch of vibrant new characters. My lesson from that: no writing is ever wasted.

Periodically, I have submitted my work to agents and competitions. Highlights here have been getting my books longlisted for the Bath Novel Award three times, in 2016 for A Policy on Kissing (which might still see the light of day), in 2019 for Apples in the Dark and in 2022 for Apples in the Dark 2: Angels and Blackbirds. I also got the chance to read out an early version of the opening of Apples in the Dark as a finalist in Friday Night Live at the Festival of Writing in York in 2019 – great fun, with lots of friends in the audience.

I know I’ll never be a commercial author: my writing is too personal and awkwardly involves neither murders nor battles nor dragons (although there is a possible angel – Mathilde isn’t sure herself what manner of being she might be).

I also know, from much feedback from many people, that I have an original voice and plenty of stories to tell. And I’m getting older: 69 later this year, and with no sign of writing inspiration drying up. I’ve decided that it’s time to stop bothering the gatekeepers with my work and simply put it in the hands of readers. If you love it, I will be very pleased. And if you hate it, at least I will have given you something to grumble about. I do hope you will take the journey with me, and please tell me what you think.

26 Responses

  1. I’m excited about reading your books, John! Even the brief synopses have hooked me. New voices should be celebrated. I’m ready to celebrate yours.

  2. Having beta-read Apples a little while ago, John, I can say with confidence that your future readers are in for a treat! You write skilfully and with heart and soul. Your representation of invisible disabilities is so touching, it’s clear you’ve written from a place of knowledge and great empathy. I can’t wait to see your work published – about time too, and so well deserved!

    1. Thank you for all your hard work and perceptive comments, Janette. You’ve helped shape this book, and I couldn’t have written it alone.

  3. I love apples and I am sure to enjoy your two varieties as well. Congratulations on the website and publications to come.

    You are a ‘writing inspiration’ – glad there’s more to come.

  4. I’ve always enjoyed your winter writing challenge short stories in the past and look forward to reading a full novel. Good luck with the project.

  5. Dear John, I just love reading about your life experiences and think your website is such a great link to any would-be writer; even your outline in your early emails on Townsend I found myself twitching with curiosity. So well done and I so wish you great success in the future. I like you have started writing seriously when preparing for retirement from teaching, although I have written since I won a writing competition at the age of 11yrs. I met an amazing woman in my 20s who was an artist who suffered from epilepsy named Allie from Australia. She gave us a signal that we needed to recognize when she knew an attack was imminent; by sitting very still and just raising her little finger on each hand. We then helped her lie down in a room quietly, making sure there was nothing near her that could hurt or fall. We then would keep watch over her till it was over.

    1. Thank you, Babs. I’m glad you enjoyed the website. I don’t know Townsend – do you mean Townhouse? I never really developed a signal, because my daytime seizures were so irregular. I knew I would get two close together every fortnight at night in my sleep, but I could go months between daytime seizures and then have a whole cluster of them.

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