A writer's new life of dreams and nightmares

Four years ago, Graham Taylor was the vicar of Cloughton, scraping together a living on £16,500. Today, GP Taylor is a millionaire writer of children's fiction dubbed 'hotter than Potter'. Catherine Scott met the man who says it is time to give something back.

Graham Taylor had a dream.

He dreamed he would sign a book deal with Faber and Faber for his first novel Shadowmancer – which would then be bought up by Universal Studios for a six-figure sum.

He dreamed he would live in a particular house in Scalby and that he would go on to collect a golden award in America.

The ending of the dream, however was more sinister. During a book signing in New York he would be shot and killed.

Worryingly for Graham Taylor, the first two parts of his dream have come true.

In 2003, he signed an 11-book deal with Faber and Faber for the book he originally self-published after selling his beloved motorbike. He has since sold the rights to publish in America and scores of other countries, including Japan.

A year later he received a six-figure sum from Universal Studios to turn Shadowmancer into a blockbuster.

The script has just arrived, and names such as Johnny Depp, Michael Caine and Sean Bean are being bandied about.

Taylor, 48, tosses the script to one side casually.

"It is a fine script, and it's going to be a very exciting film, but it doesn't really stick to the story at all. And they seem to have moved Robin Hood's Bay and Whitby to be closer together and joined by a bridge for some reason," he laughs.

He is pleased, however, that they have promised to do much of the filming in his beloved Yorkshire.

"I think Yorkshire will come out of it looking very well. It should really help the tourist trade."

Taylor apologises for the state of the house he shares with Kathy, his wife of more than 20 years, and their three daughters Hannah, 18, Abigail, 15 and Lydia, 8.

They are in the process of moving, he explains, to the house in his dream.

It is an impressive Victorian semi with a beautiful garden, where he plans to erect a 20ft tepee.

The house is around the corner from the modern house on an estate in Scalby where he has lived since retiring as a vicar two years ago.

It all sounds rather fanciful and more like something from one of Taylor's supernatural children's books, but in his case truth is truly stranger than fiction.

He was born to a working-class family in Scarborough. As a child he was always searching for the meaning of life and flirted with the occult and witchcraft as possible explanations.

He turned his back on education and worked in a local nightspot before heading to London.

There, Taylor admits, he didn't become a very nice person.

"I was promiscuous: I was a liar, a cheat and a drunk," he says in his forthcoming autobiography, GP Taylor, Sin, Salvation and Shadowmancer.

Then one day, he says, God told him to go home and He would find him a job and a wife.

Although he was not a Christian at that time, Taylor says the power of the voice was too strong to ignore and within the week he had packed his bags and returned home to Scarborough.

Slowly he started to turn his life around and God fulfilled his promise, finding him a job at the Elder Street drop-in centre, where he met his wife, Kathy.

His conversion to Christianity came slowly during this period, helped by Kathy and some friends.

And after years of fighting God, he says he "gave in and admitted God was God" and started going to church, which convinced him that that was his calling.

During his training to become a vicar, Taylor feared he wasn't ready for the job and once again "ran away" – this time he became a policeman.

He eventually turned back to the Church when Kathy was taken seriously ill during her first pregnancy. Taylor feared he would lose her and the unborn baby and prayed to God to save them.

"God used Kathy's illness to draw me back into the Church. Which is quite sneaky if you ask me," he says.

After nearly a decade with the police, Taylor was violently beaten outside a pub in Pickering. The attack left him with a benign throat tumour and post-traumatic stress disorder, and ended his career.

He forgave his attackers, speaking out at their trial and saving them from jail – something his police colleagues found difficult to accept. Taylor says he was more affected by the attack than he realised and it was only by writing his autobiography that he finally came to terms with what happened.

Having already been ordained, after leaving the police force he was offered the chance to become a curate in Whitby and, five years later, in August 1999, was made vicar of Cloughton.

Due to his former interest in the occult, Taylor was often asked to give talks on the subject.

"I was in Hull one time talking about the growing trends of the occult in children's literature and saying how there was a need for someone to write books that meet our desire for a good story and show a God who is involved in people's lives.

"A woman came up to me at the end and said, 'if you've got so many concerns why don't you write a book yourself,' and I thought 'well why don't I'."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Shadowmancer and Wormwood sold 475,000 copies alone, his third novel Tersias was a bestseller and this month saw the publication of The Curse of Salamander Street, the sequel to his first novel.

Having dropped out of school himself, Graham Taylor is now passionate about the education of children, and believes we underestimate their potential.

When not writing or promoting his books, he tours the country giving talks to children.

"There is nothing better," he says.

He recently hit the headlines after he was "expelled" from a school in Cornwall for his "fruity" use of language.

Since then he has been in more demand than ever.

"Children relate to me," he says. "They get excited about books – what can be better than that?"

From his new house, he plans to run workshops for budding writers on how to get published, and also possibly set up his own place of worship. "Kathy says it is time we put something back and this is one way of doing it. It would be like a breakfast club, where people can come and talk for 10 minutes about where God is in our lives and five minutes of praying and communion."

Although he says he and Kathy have laughed about his dream, he is so concerned about its ending that he has refused to return to New York since then.

"But maybe I should go and see what happens," he says with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "There is a bit of me that wants to know whether the dream comes true. At first I dismissed it, but then the things started to come true. I do believe God can come to you in dreams, and this may be his way of telling me not to go to New York. I do believe I can alter things."

Taylor's view of life and death has also changed since he was struck down by a frightening heart condition just days after Shadowmancer was published by Faber. He was taken to hospital and says that only by praying to Jesus did he avoid having his heart stopped and restarted.

Taylor admits that at the time the heart condition started he was over-doing it, juggling his day job as a North Yorkshire vicar, writing his novels and doing publishing tours. Something had to give, and it was his job as a vicar. In his autobiography, he talks about the guilt he felt giving up the ministry, but then realised that even Jesus had some time off.

He says his illness, coupled with the death of his father, has changed his relationship with his daughters and with God.

"I had a difficult relationship with my dad. He was deaf and as a teenager I couldn't be bothered to communicate with him, so we didn't. It wasn't until he was dying and he said he loved me that I realised what I had missed out on," said Taylor.,

"My health problems have completely changed my life. It has made me realise that every day is important and how important it is to tell my children that I love them every single day.

"My daughter Lydia helped me realise that my view of God was like tunnel vision, now I realise he is everywhere."


The Curse of Salamander Street is published by Faber and Faber (9.99). To order a copy from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop call 0800 0153232. P&P is 1.95.

GP Taylor: Sin, Salvation and Shadowmancer, published by Zondervan, is out later this year.