“Not all who go to Oxford can write, and not all who write go to Oxford.”

Hi, I’m Tommy, author of Homo Nova and founder of Fireside Publishing.

I set up Fireside to take charge of my own destiny. Imagine spending over six years’ hard toil attempting to craft a literary masterpiece, only for the traditional publishers to sentence your manuscript submission to the dreaded slush pile. Well, it happens. You can quite literally be JK Rowling, and it still happens. So I’m hedging my bets. See, writing demands a colossal investment of time, and I’m not about to risk the future success of all I’ve sacrificed and allow something unique to just filter into irrelevancy. In short: Fireside Publishing is an engine, or rather a vehicle to propel my works to greater heights, forgoing the reliance on institutional adoption.

That’s not to say I don’t want to be published by a traditional publisher. That, of course, is the dream, and I’m persevering relentlessly with that. But to depend solely on traditional publication as a route to market would be to relinquish all control and ownership over my future success. Why leave it to chance—to the whims of a traditional publisher, who, standing at the Emperor’s podium, looks down at the manuscripts battling it out beneath him, before giving his eventual thumbs-up or thumbs-down? (Which statistically is more often a thumbs-down—execution by way of the paper shredder.)

Sometimes even critically-acclaimed literature gets the publishers’ thumbs-down in the first instance. Dr Seuss, JK Rowling, Charles Dickens, CS Lewis, and a great many more are examples of that. And after being rejected by six traditional publishers, Beatrix Potter decided to self-publish her first 250 copies (who later went on to sell over 45 million copies of her children’s books worldwide).

That being said, there are times when rejection and failure is a good thing. A necessary evil. Ever since I began my writing journey, I’ve been desperately applying to the University of Oxford for a Masters course in Creative Writing, hoping to one day walk in the shoes of my idol, Professor JRR Tolkien who both taught and studied there. Although, I’ve subsequently faced annual rejection and incurred the expense of £75 per annum for the bloody privilege. I get prickly heat when I think about the volume of flaming hot Monster Munch I could’ve devoured for that amount. So, this is my £75 bookmark, one of my rejection letters from Oxford. I use it as a bookmark because it serves as a sobering reminder every time I open a page when I’m reading a book; a reminder that I have to work harder, faster, stronger, and longer than anybody else; otherwise my works of fiction will be destined for literary purgatory—written but never read, recorded but never remembered.

Deep, I know. But I used to take rejection like that to heart. Nowadays I use it as fuel. See, not long after that round of rejection, I happened to cross paths with a professor of education at Oxford. We got talking, and after a while he offered me some profound yet obvious wisdom: “Not all who go to Oxford can write, and not all who write go to Oxford.” And that really resonated with me. Indeed, there are a great many authors who’ve never even set foot in a university, let alone Oxford. I’ve since adopted this as my literary mantra and have gone on to redefine what it means to be successful. It’s no longer about prestige or the attainment of academic credentials. It’s about finishing what I started, holding that final printed copy of my debut novel in hand, the creation of something tangible. Moreover, it’s about fulfilling my creative intention: to explore the dark side of religion, unapologetically, through compelling fiction. (Further detail on that in subsequent blogs.)

I suppose, like other authors, I ought in this section to enter into personal details about myself; should probably give you a little history; should probably brag a lot; tell you the names of my children; my hobbies, favourite Netflix series, the university from which I graduated, my spirit animal, blahdy-blahdy-blah. But it’s taken over six years to carefully craft Homo Nova (book one), so it would be remiss of me to squander this opportunity to acknowledge the sole reason for my journeying thus far: my better half; my foundation; my editor-in-chief: Maisie.

“It’s about fulfilling my creative intention: to explore the dark side of religion, unapologetically, through compelling fiction.”

This is just as much about you as it is about me. Without you, my ideas, stories, and dreams would’ve wilted long ago. You gave me hope; you gave me reason; but most of all, you gave me time; time which, when chasing around our first hobbit and pregnant with our second, you had so very little of. You even postponed the launch of your own business venture to support mine. And I’m sorry—sorry because you’ve left me in an impossible situation in which the ledgers can never be balanced. I’m in arrears. Overdrawn. Riddled with a debt that I can’t repay. But because of your unconditional affection, I’ve been compelled to carry on when at times I wanted more than anything to delete all trace of my writing. But I didn’t quit because you were you. I didn’t quit because on those freezing-cold December mornings when that sodding alarm rang out at 4:45am, you kicked me, dragged the covers away, and propped me up at the centre of the bed so I couldn’t hit the snooze button on my dreams—before proceeding to press your forehead to mine while forcing me to repeat “We’re gonna do this”.

“I’ve been compelled to carry on when at times I wanted more than anything to delete all trace of my writing. But I didn’t because you were you.”

Well, here we are. We did do it! A printed copy in our hands, smelling the pages—over 500 of them containing over 160,000 words. Thousands of hours later and thousands of pounds (£) down, we made it. But only because you carried me to the finish line. And if in my wildest dreams any external success should be manifest from the publication of Homo Nova, it’s owed entirely to you. A millionfold.