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Feather's Miscellany: How I Came into Publishing

John Waddington-Feather’s account of how he ventured into publishing is an inspiration to authors who find it difficult to get their work into print.

Please do visit John’s Web site www.waddysweb.freeuk.com

When asked how I came into publishing, the answer is simple: frustration, frustration at my first children’s novel being rejected time after time in the 1960s, the age of ‘realism’ and post modernism; the age when no children’s book should have a moral. It was the last straw when one editor turned down my environmental novel, “Quill’s Adventures in the Great Beyond”, because the sentences were over ten words long and the language too mature for 11 to 14 year-olds! I’d been teaching English to that age-range for ten years in a Grammar School by then and refused to write down.

The novel had been written a year or two before “Watership Down” which, I believe, was published in the USA before it made its mark in Britain – and it was self-published. Another reason given for my own novel being turned down was that my characters were “anthropomorphic”. Put more simply, they were animals with human personalities, and that sort of novel was not in vogue then until Richard Adams’ book appeared.

So, the novel was rejected on animal grounds, Quill Hedgehog being the central character, surrounded by a whole host of friends: Hoot Owl, Brushy Fox, Bill Badger and, of course, Horatio Augustus Fitzworthy, the aristocratic cat. That was another reason the novel didn’t find favour. It was based on a class system and had upper, middle and working-class characters in the Animalfolk World. When I wrote the novel, egalitarianism was all the rage.

Those editors who rejected my novel missed a vital point. The novels were more realistic than they thought, because they were gentle satires on the human condition. The ideal Animalfolk World lived alongside the flawed Humanfolk World, the two rarely meeting. The notable exception was Mungo Brown, the greedy, ambitious alleycat, who managed to enter the Humanfolk World and came back infected with the twin vices: ruthless ambition and greed. These were quite unknown in the peaceful Animalfolk World and the innocent Animalfolk had to coin a new word for the condition: mungomania.

That first novel set the pattern for the rest with Mungo in each one as the anti-hero determined to over-run and rule the Animalfolk World with his factories and industry, despoiling it in the process; hence the environmental theme running through the series.

I’ve written seven Quill Hedghog novels. The first was published in the late sixties by a small publishing firm, which specialised in diaries and stationery and for a while dabbled in children’s books. My novel sold well but went out of production when the company abandoned its children’s list. I was in the wilderness again.

In 1984 I had enough capital – and faith – to launch the first three Quill Hedgehog novels and that’s how Feather Books came into being. In 1987 the third one, “Quill’s Adventures in Grozzieland”, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and was well placed. As far as I was concerned that vindicated my writing and publishing.

Since them I’ve written romantic historical novels, mystery novels, short-stories for various magazine, drama, essays and poetry. I’ve also liaised with the composer, David Grundy, to publish three collections of hymns under the imprint of Feather Books. In addition, Feather Books publishes the Christian poetry quarterly “Poetry Church” which has an international subscription list. More recently, my writing has found an outlet in Eastern Europe in translation, and is now published regularly in the Ukrainian literary magazine “Vsesvit”.

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