When Jodi Taylor was working in a Yorkshire library she dreamed of one day having her own book on the shelves. Now she has as Catherine Scott discovers.
Jodi Taylor doesn’t do things the conventional way.
Having worked for North Yorkshire County Council for nearly 20 years, retiring to the sun didn’t mean putting her feet up and lying on a beach. Instead she fulfilled her lifetime ambition of becoming a published author.
But she didn’t do it the traditional way. After receiving knock back after knock back from literary agents, a friend persuaded her to self-publish her first novel Just One Damned Thing After Another.
“I had always wanted to be a writer and was fascinated by history but I just never got the time. I worked and brought up my son but when I retired from the council seven years ago I decided to move to Turkey where my brother lives and then I had the time to write. It took my more than a year and I wrote far too much, but I sent a copy off to the Writer’s Workshop. They liked it but gave me lots of notes on how to improve it. I slashed reams of my best prose and then sent it off to lots of agents but they all ignored it. It was disparaging. I waited for a year but still nothing,” says Jodi. “But my friend convinced me to self-publish and so I did and I couldn’t believe the results.”
She invested £150 in creating an ebook and put it out on the website Smashwords.
And the novel about a team of fictitious time-travelling historians at St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research caught the public’s imagination getting tens of thousands of downloads and leaping to the top of the Amazon Kindle free download chart, although Jodi at first didn’t realise her success.
“Amazon send you a report every week of how many copies have been sold. I looked at what they had sent and I thought it said I had sold seven copies. I was actually quite happy with that. Before I published it I thought that if all my friends got a copy then I would reach double figures.”
But when Jodi started getting scores of five star reviews she contacted Amazon to see what was going on and was shocked by what they told her.
“They were terribly nice and explained that I was actually looking in the wrong column. I had sold 20,000 copies which was amazing and it just grew from there.” In the end more than 64,000 downloaded a copy of Jodi’s book.
Jodi, her pen name, wasn’t the only person who noticed how successful Just One Damned Thing After Another was becoming. Award-winning publishers Accent Press contacted her and offered her a three book contract.
“I couldn’t believe it,” says Jodi. “I had struggled for months and failed to get any interest in my book and then they rang me.”
Normally authors are accepted by a literary agent who then manages to attract a publisher for their work. But not Jodi.
“I still don’t have an agent,” she says. Just One Damned Thing After Another was launched in paper back this month, and will be followed by A Symphony of Echoes and A Second Chance). She has just completed her fourth book in the St Mary’s series as well as her first romance due out next month
The way she writes is pretty unconventional as well. “I have to know how my books are going to finish before I start. I just find it easier that way. I really struggle with the beginning and so I tend to start in the middle although I have a clear idea of how it is going to end.” Jodi writes all her novels in longhand first in scores of notebooks she has around the house. “It would make sense to have one notebook for each novel but it just doesn’t work out like that. I never know when I am going to get an idea and if I don’t jot it down immediately I will forget it. Also while I am writing one book I tend get ideas for the next and so I jot those down too.”
She then types it up, editing as she goes.
Having retired to Turkey Jodi has the joy of writing on her balcony in the sun, although she admits that most of her inspiration comes in an unusual place.
“I tend to get a lot of my ideas when I am in the bath,” she says. “I am definitely best in the mornings, and absolutely useless in the afternoons. And I always need a cup of tea.”
It is all a far cry from her years working in local government in Yorkshire.
“I grew up in Bristol, but moved to Yorkshire with my husband who was in the RAF. He left, I stayed. I worked at County Hall in the County Secretary’s department and then I went to work for the County library service. As the Facilities Manager I shifted dead dogs, fell out of mobile libraries, and spent too much time in the gents’ toilets..”
Although Jodi had enjoyed writing as a child it didn’t prove particularly successful.
“I was persuaded to enter a poetry competition and then got into trouble for writing about cannibalism.”
It was to be a fair few years later that Jodi was to see her first book in print.
“A lot of the comments I have had about the book is that people who have never been interested in history now are, which is a great compliment.”
Jodi, who returns to turkey next month, was back at Northallerton Library last week, but this time to do a book signing of her novel.
“It did seem strange to be back and there were people there who remembered me which was lovely.”