Impact speaks to one ex-University of Nottingham student, Oliver Ross, who has managed to become a full-fledged author just three years after graduating; his first book was released in early October this year.
A Year in the Life of Some Guy is the title of Ross’ recently published novel. The book quite simply does what it says on the tin. As Ross states “there is no thick plot to it; it literally follows a year in the life of this guy”. The ‘guy’ in question is Tim Calgon, a thirty year old haplessly in-love Northerner, who lives and works in London. Spun by his publishers as a lad-about-town’s answer to Bridget Jones, this novel perhaps falls into the ‘dick lit’ genre of literature. Therefore be warned as “it can be quite crass and rude”. Ross feels that the book’s humour has an “Inbetweeners kind of vibe”, and speculates that some of the funny tales Tim Calgon encounters have actually happened…though to whom we wonder? Whether to himself or his friends, Ross won’t let on!
Ross’ route to becoming a published author is testament to the fact that there is no one way of doing it; after graduating from Nottingham he moved to London for five months to intern at a number of Sports Agencies and at the Publishing House, Quercus. Neither were right for him, and at the end of the year he moved back home to Leeds.
Ross wrote his first book during his degree whilst on his year abroad in Brazil. It was a young adult fantasy novel, and he described it as “a way to test out my skills and see if I was any good at it”. Graduating in 2008, with a degree in Spanish and Portuguese under his belt, Ross made a start on A Year in the Life…
“In one way [‘A Year in the Life…’] was easy to write,” claims Ross. “It took about 18 months in total”. However, the slightly blasé attitude of a published author is checked by his slightly embarrassed confession that he spent quite a lot of time on different forums whilst working on the book. Ross used Authonomy, which is Harper Collins’ online writing community for unpublished writers. “It was a bit geeky…but it was a good way to get feedback [on my writing]”.
Ross knew he was onto something with A Year in the Life… when it reached number one in Authonomy’s top comedy list, which along with the comments of other users, gave him further encouragement to complete the book.
As might be expected, the task of finding a publisher wasn’t quite as easy. Despite having some interning experience in the area, with no proverbial foot in the door, Ross received many rejection letters from the 40-50 publishing houses he’d sent transcripts to. Ross admits that although the first rejection hurt quite a bit, after a while he got used to it and it wasn’t until 8 or 9 months later that he received a positive response from Austin & Macauley. Ross says that by this point he’d forgotten about it and almost given up when they came back to him. Following this, Ross was asked down to Austin & Macauley’s offices in London to meet them and, according to him, “It all went from there!”
Ross’ continued commitment to his work is impressive; he has recently quit his full-time job in Leeds in order to devote himself to promoting A Year in the Life… and to writing his next book. Ross explains, “I figured that if I didn’t give publicising A Year in the Life... my all, I’d always regret it…and I’m young enough to give it a go”. His tactics so far have been to hit social media hard; Oliver Ross is on Twitter (@TheRossman) and Facebook, and he has also launched his own website and conducted interviews with the local press, including BBC Radio Leeds. Although, perhaps the biggest PR opportunity is yet to come; Ross will be doing a book-signing at Leeds Waterstones on December 3rd and will be sharing the store with comedian Lee Evans. “I’m hoping to steal some of his traffic!” he quipped.
What’s next for Oliver Ross? At the moment, as well as working as a publicity-monger for A Year in the Life…, Ross has also started writing his next book, Sex, Drugs and Camelot. “It’s going to be a lot more Monty Pythonesque, British slapstick humour in style,” Ross explained. As the title suggests, it is to be set in Camelot and will centre on the personal quest of Lancelot, a people’s hero turned fraudster. As far as aspirations go, Ross would love to see A Year in the Life… turned into a film, “I may be a bit biased, but I think it would make a really good film…I can see Simon Pegg playing the lead!”
Roseannagh English and Melanie Solomon