My first published book came about as a bit of a surprise. I had been touting my forest book around publishers but no one was interested, it was considered not commercial enough. Then Amberley Publishing suggested I produce a book about Horsham in their Secret Towns series. Of course, I jumped at the chance although there were quite tight restrictions. I was to take no more than a year, and have a word count of only 20,000, no references, there were to be Did You Know boxes and 100 illustrations. I signed on the dotted line and then wondered how I would go about it.
There was no set format, or advice, about what to include and what to leave out and so I went with what interested me. With only 20,00 words (most books are around 85,000) I had to be very selective. I decided on 8 chapters in all. First was Early Beginnings which was geology and archaeology, then Markets and Fairs, which have always been hugely important in Horsham. Industry and Trade was next, followed by Forest and Commons, well I had to get a bit of St Leonard’s Forest in there. Myths and Legends was quite a fun chapter, all about the dragon and other ghosts. Arts and Culture was important as it was Horsham’s Year of Culture when the book came out, then Crime and Punishment, the gory bit, and finally War and Peace. It was reasonably well rounded but I could not include sport as I had reached my word limit. The 100 illustrations were quite a challenge as I only had my trusty iPhone for photographs and the weather was not always kind.
I was very aware that I was not Horsham born and bred but came to the town in 2000, so there was quite a bit I did not know. I raided Horsham Library, online sites, my forest thesis, and listened to local friends tell stories. The first two drafts I passed to friends to check through for errors and comments, then the final draft went to Jeremy Knight, Museum and Heritage Officer of Horsham Museum for his comments and advice. It was important to me that the history was correct and he helped enormously in this. The book was finally ready for publication in the autumn of 2019 and I had my first ever book launch at the Olive Branch public house in the Bishopric.
Secret Horsham is available for £14.99 RRP at Waterstones, W.H. Smith and the Museum in Horsham, and of course through Amazon as well. If you would like to buy direct from me please use the contact form. I hope you find it as fascinating to read as I did to write.