Nathan O’Hagan Guest Post

Hi everyone,

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Nathan O’Hagan to my blog. Nathan has kindly written a couple of posts for me today so without further ado, I’ll hand you over to him… πŸ™‚


 

After spending most of his teens and twenties in various unsuccessful bands, Nathan eventually turned his hand to writing.  In 2013 he self published a short fiction collection, “Purge”. “The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place” is his first completed novel, though he has since completed one more and is in the late stages of a third. He has also written a screenplay and another series of short stories which he may self publish in the future. He regularly writes features and reviews for God Is In The TV and Sabotage Times.

Nathan grew up on Merseyside, rarely venturing away other than a brief stint in Carlisle. He now lives in Northamptonshire with his wife and two children, and works full time for the NHS.

 


 

I have developed a detachment from the rest of the human race. I don’t fear them. I don’t consider myself above them. It’s just that I genuinely loathe them. There is no reason. I wasn’t abused as a child. There were no traumatic events in adolescence, no heartbreak or rejection in early adulthood. Nothing to account for the person I have become. I shall offer no explanation, no mitigation for what I am. But whatever the reason, I have come adrift from mankind, and that is where I intend to stay.

Welcome to Gary Lennon’s world. It isn’t a cold dead place. You’ll like it there. You’ll see things his way and you’ll want to stay. But Gary’s therapist has other ideas. He thinks Gary should get a job, meet people and interact with the real world. Look out, people. Look out, world.

“Gary is an anti-hero for our times, Everyman and the Outsider rolled into one, and his zeitgeist will explode off the page and roll down your chin with each mounting episode.” John Lake (author, Hot Knife)

 

“Nathan O’Hagan is a very talented writer.”

Kevin Sampson – Awaydays, Powder, The House On The Hill etc.

 

“Dark, funny, shitty, violent and moving. A Birkenhead OCD sufferer is forced to work in Call Centre. If you want a book that will make you laugh throughout try this.”

James Brown – Sabotage Times, talkSPORT, founder of Loaded.

 

Check out Nathan O’Hagan’s book here: The World Is {Not} A Cold, Dead Place

Facebook: Nathan O’Hagan

Twitter: @NathanOHagan

 


 

 

When I eventually clicked ‘save’ having completed my first novel, I thought the hard work was done. I’d been through edits, re-writes, re-drafts and title changes, eventually arriving at what I thought, or at least hoped, was a pretty decent novel. Now, all I had to do was find a publisher. I wasn’t naive enough to think this would be simple. The novel I had written, which I had eventually entitled “The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place” wasn’t a particularly  easy sell; set in Birkenhead, it tells the story of a misanthropic loner, Gary Lennon, struggling with OCD and various other anxiety disorders and mental health issues. Gary has very few friends (and seems intent on alienating those), strained relationships with his family, and explodes when his carefully honed routines and rituals and disturbed by the few social interactions he is unable to avoid. When he is forced off benefits and has to take a job in a local call centre, his world is turned upside down. Although there is a lot of humour in Gary’s outbursts, his rants also take the reader to some fairly dark places, and I knew that, while some would relate to him, others would find him very hard to like or even empathise with. The dialogue is also generously seasoned with the kind of language that might make Irvine Welsh blush. As I say, not an easy sell.

I was well aware that the publishing industry had become more risk averse than ever, and knew I would receive plenty of rejections before that one acceptance. I just wasn’t quite prepared for how many rejections. For the most part, given the swiftness and generic nature of the rejections, I was pretty sure many publishers weren’t even reading past the synopsis, if even that far. I had a niggling suspicion that many were simply seeing an unknown name and throwing it straight onto the ‘reject’ pile. I also had a feeling many of those who did bother to read it weren’t even getting past the word ‘Birkenhead’. Of the few that gave me any genuinely feedback, it was, surprisingly, universally positive. I received praise for the grittiness, the truthfulness of the characters, and particularly for the dialogue. The novel was compared in various quarters to the aforementioned Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk and Brett Easton Ellis, three of my favourite writers. ‘You write well’ one London agent told me, which, for some reason, stood out to me amongst the name checking and comparisons. A major international publisher, based in London, asked to see the full manuscript. When they eventually got back to me, they emailed me a few pages of more praise, some notes and suggestions, but at the end of the message was the dreaded phrase ‘but it’s not quite right for us’. I had now heard variants of that phrase several times. ‘Not quite what we’re looking for at the moment’ and ‘a little too dark’ also cropped up, along with one credible indie publisher telling me it was just a little too similar to something they’d published the year before.

This was all incredibly frustrating, far more so than if they had simply told me I was crap. That I could accept; knowing that I written something that seemed to be genuinely pretty good, but not being able to get anyone to bite, that was harder to take.

Still, it was enough incentive to keep going, but repeated rejections had certainly dented my enthusiasm for the pursuit, so I started work on a second novel, occasionally sending off another submission for ...Cold Dead Place but almost being beyond caring when the rejections trickled through.

Then, purely by chance, I happened across some bloke called Mick McCann on Twitter. Someone I followed had retweeted a post of Mick’s, saying he was actively seeking submissions for his indie publishers Armley Press. Looking into it, Armley Press, based in Leeds, described themselves as ‘Northern, punk publishers’. Well, as a Northerner (albeit one by now living in Northamptonshire) and a punk, this instantly caught my attention. They were also looking for gritty, sweary, realistic work, and I felt my novel fitted the bill. Armley Press had been set up by Mick a few years earlier to publish his own book “Coming Out As A Bowie Fan In Leeds” and his encyclopaedia of Leeds “How Leeds Changed The World”. Mick then also published a novel by his friend John Lake, who had had similar experiences to me when trying to get his own novel “Hot Knife” published. “Hot Knife” is a funny, violent and searing tale of drugs and gangs in Leeds, and the first part of an eventual trilogy. Mick couldn’t believe John’s London agent hadn’t managed to find a publisher, and offered to put the book out for him. John then joined forces with Mick to re-launch Armley Press, and to widen their remit and find more original writers who had been overlooked by the mainstream, not because of lack of talent, but because they didn’t fit the safe, no risks model the industry now seemed, for the most part, to be following. I contacted Mick via twitter and he told me to send the manuscript to John, who selected what they wanted to publish. John instantly responded well to it, sending me emails about passages he had enjoyed, and within a couple of weeks had told me he wanted to publish it. Better still, beyond having done a bit of copy editing and reformatting, he didn’t want me to change a single word.

We published on 21st August last year, and I couldn’t believe the response. Within a few weeks we had far outsold my expectations, thanks in no small part to some very generous promotion from media figures such as James Brown and James Endeacott, and writer Russ Litten.

This word-of-mouth factor has maintained a slow trickle of sales. Clearly two blokes from Leeds will never have the marketing reach of the big boys, but by trying to get the book into the hands of people they think will like it, they’ve tried to be creative to offset that disparity. I won’t be giving J.K. Rowling any sleepless nights in the bestseller stakes, and I certainly can’t afford to give up the day job, but what Armley Press have given me, and several other writers since, is a voice. When people like John and Mick, in their own rights superb writers, experts on pop culture, and all round raconteurs tell you, in all sincerity, how much they love your work, you get something you may well not get with a large publisher (not that I’d know, of course). They were willing to put their name to my book, and to put it out there. That, and the feedback I’ve had on Twitter and Facebook, from people I’ve never met who have enjoyed the book, some voraciously so, has made the struggle to get published worthwhile.

 


 

Huge thanks to Nathan O’Hagan for taking the time to do these guest posts for Bibliophile Book Club! πŸ™‚

One thought on “Nathan O’Hagan Guest Post

  1. Great article, Nathan. I recognise your journey and share your frustration. I went the self-publishing route with Rowan’s Well and haven’t regretted it though it’s not a process for the faint of heart. I’ve ploughed a new route for my second novel Fitful Head: I entered it in an international novel-writing competition and came second. That got the attention of a London agent and a regional indie publisher. We’ll see what happens next…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s