02 February 2010

Guest Blogger - Author Paul Collins

The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler began its journey about three years ago. However, in 2007 I also decided to get back into publishing. But I’d created a monster with Ford Street Publishing. Although publishing seven to eight books a year doesn’t sound too hectic, it’s easy to forget the major publishers various departments to handle editing, accounts, market/publicity, proofread, design, liaise with authors and illustrators, write contracts, apply for grants and initiatives like Books Alive! etc, etc. With a small press, it’s usually just one person that does all that.

I wrote Toby in dribs and drabs whenever I found myself idle. I had fun creating malapropisms. It’s not actually the lead character that mangles his proverbs and sentences, rather his friend, Fluke.

So in The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler, a decaffeinated coffee becomes a decapitated coffee; for all intent and purposes becomes for all intensive purposes; charity begins at home becomes clarity begins at home. The trick is to make sure the verbal gaffes all relate to the actual story. Some of my favourite malapropisms are “the town was flooded and everyone had to be evaporated”; “dysentery in the ranks”; and of course, Kath and Kim’s friends who “are very effluent”.

Those familiar with JK Rowling’s characters will know she puts a lot of thought into her characters’ names, which quite often have literal means which reflect the character’s personality.

My own characters’ names come from anecdotal stories. Toby is nicknamed Milo, because he’s not Quik – a teacher who shan’t be named said they called one of the kids Milo for this reason. Fluke was named after his mother tried conceiving on the IVF program, gave up, then conceived. Hence, Fluke. The latter was an anecdotal story I read in a local paper.

Once I’d finished The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler I wondered which publisher I could send it to. After all, most know me as a science fiction writer – I don’t know why this is because I’ve written many more fantasy novels than science fiction novels, but there you are! So taking a leaf from Doris Lessing’s book (she also sent two MSS to publishers under a pseudonym) I sent the manuscript to most of the local major publishers under another name. Like Doris Lessing’s experiment, it was rejected. One publisher did say I could send more of my work because I “showed promise” lol.

On a less discouraging note, one leading editor loved it and recommended another publisher because his company was being subsumed by a larger publisher and he acknowledged that he was better with books targeting a younger audience. So I took up his suggestion and waited . . . and waited. And despite having a great recommendation from this eminent editor, my manuscript waited in a slush pile for four months. I enquired about it, but didn’t hear back from the editor. I waited another month before withdrawing the manuscript. The editor then said it was nearing the top of the pile to be read. But right or wrong, I figured five months was long enough, and if that editor was treating a highly recommended book with such nonchalance I didn’t really want to work with her anyway.

I withdrew the story. I was then faced with a dire predicament. Where could I send my new book? I was judging the Charlotte Duncan Award writing competition for Celapene Press at the time. So under the pseudonym I sent Toby to Kathryn Duncan, the publisher. It was accepted within four days and less than four months later it was published. Imagine that, accepted and published in a shorter period of time than a major publisher had it in her slush pile. This is one of the strengths of small press.

A major book club purchased the first print run and the second is fast selling out. I do regret that a major publisher didn’t see the potential of this book, but hey, some of the world’s best-selling classics were rejected by up to twenty publishers before going on to huge success. I read this morning it even happened to JD Salinger. I’m in fine company.

If you’d like to see the trailer for this book, go to: http://tinyurl.com/y8ugxd2
The publisher’s URL is: http://www.celapenepress.com.au/
The distributor is INT Books,
386 Mt Alexander Road
Ascot Vale VIC 3032
03-9326 2416 tel
03-9326 2413 fax

Paul Collins
Melbourne February 2010


  1. The Reading Stack Team02 February, 2010 21:41

    Thanks for dropping by Paul. We were interested to read the story of the manuscript's progress - seems it had a slightly skewed life too.

    And we recommend our readers check out the Stack review of The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler here: http://thereadingstack.blogspot.com/2009/12/slightly-skewed-life-of-toby-chrysler.html

    Our reviewer said: Collins has the gift of great insight when creating children’s characters. This is an interesting, humorous, and highly entertaining story about being different and surviving family break-up in which dialogue and characters prove to be everything.

  2. Hi Paul, what a fascinating insight into your new book's journey. And a real eye-opener! For that long, frustrating journey to happen to an established, popular writer like youself is pretty amazing.
    Thanks for writing about it.