My Path to Publication – Jo Johnson

I love to hear about the different routes authors have taken to get published. This week clinical psychologist Jo Johnson is telling us how she came to write her debut novel, Surviving Me, which she crowdfunding through Unbound Publishers. Over to you, Jo!



‘Were you educated in this country?’ This was one of the first questions a tutor asked me at university. My punctuation and grammar were terrible.

Later, in my work as a clinical psychologist, I was pretty good at relating to people but my reports continued to be a source of amusement. My written work was my weakness.

As I progressed in my career, I discovered a gift for public speaking. I found telling stories was a great way to entice people to listen. In 2009 I was invited to speak at a national event for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and designed a unique workshop called ‘Shrinking the monster’. It encouraged my listeners to see their MS as something outside themselves, an external creature they could resist. It went down so well that the organisers asked me to turn the session into a workbook.

‘But I can’t write,’ I insisted.

‘If you can speak to people, you can write for them,’ the conference organiser batted back. To my utter amazement, ‘Shrinking the monster: the workbook’ won a Plain English Award. This spurred me on to write further workbooks about managing emotional distress and neurology-themed books for young people.

I didn’t plan to written a novel. I left the NHS in 2008 and went freelance. But I found being self-employed was lonely. So, each day, I interspersed client appointments with visits to the café across the road from my office.

One day, I noticed an unremarkable middle- aged man and wondered what his story might be. On my iPad I started a story about a bloke called Tom. I wrote:

‘At this point in time, I can accurately be described as unemployed, impotent, and a liar.’

This became the first sentence of my debut novel, Surviving Me, due out on November 14. It tackles hard issues such as depression, male suicide and degenerative diseases in what I hope is an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

To get to this point, I have fielded my manuscript to countless friends and colleagues, out of paranoia and lack of confidence. I was always genuinely surprised – and encouraged – by people’s feedback. So I carried on… and found I couldn’t stop.

Writing helps me clear my mind of other people’s troubles. And humour is a great way to defuse some of the day’s tensions. My line of work can make you laugh and cry almost simultaneously – and I hope my characters do the same for my readers.

Congratulations on getting your book crowdfunded, Jo. The story sounds really interesting and very topical. I am sure a lot of people will find it helpful.


SURVIVING ME will be published on November 14.
You can check out the early reviews on Goodreads

And here is the amazon link to Shrinking the smirch, a workbook for adults on managing emotional distress secondary to health and psychological conditions like cancer, MS, stress, anxiety, panic and depression.Amazon


Author Bio

Jo Johnson is a clinical psychologist specialising in neurological disorders and mind health. She is the author of nine health-related publications and writes for several neurology charities. She worked within the NHS for 16 years, and now trains individuals and groups on how to prevent stress and burnout. Surviving Me is her first novel, and explores themes that, as a practising clinician, she can write about with conviction and authenticity.


Check in next week to read another ‘path to publication’ story.

And if you want to read about my writing journey, I’m talking about it over on Tom William’s blog here.







My Path to Publication – Elizabeth Jade

I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth Jade to my blog today. Elizabeth Jade got an agent at only fourteen years old when she wrote her first book. Her second book is in the process of publication. I’m in awe of you, Elizabeth. Can you tell us how you came to be published, especially at such a young age?

Elizabeth Jade sml.jpg

I always knew I had a unique take on life, but I only found out three years ago, at the age of 18, that I had Aspergers Syndrome. By this time I was also struggling with mental health issues. Aside from working with animals over the years, another outlet for my anxiety and depression has been in writing stories.

When I was fourteen, my family helped me partner up with an agent who had just gone freelance and he brought my manuscript up to standard before sending it out to publishers.  One response was particularly encouraging to receive as the publisher said that they loved the story and would have taken it if they hadn’t just published another dog story. Sadly, the agent gave up freelance work after a year and we were back on our own.

Publishing was pushed to one side for a few years, not least because major publishers only seemed interested in known authors and self-publishing looked a scary business. There seemed so much to organise for self-publishing – beta readers, proof reader, editor and cover designer, to name just a few. To do it properly would require a lot of work, time and money.  We finally found a small publisher who took the time to talk to us and explain the process when we needed it, and who was happy for us to source the illustrations ourselves.

We posted in a number Facebook groups, asking if any illustrators would be interested in expanding their portfolios and offering a reduced fee in exchange. We had some wonderful sketches back, but the one provided by Anthony Wallis had something special about it and he agreed to provide ten pencil illustrations at half his usual rate. Everything came together and Akea – The Power of Destiny was published in June 2017 with i2ipublishing.

Akea is born into a family of sled dogs and a life that follows a predictable path, but from the day she first sees the lone wolf, Kazakh, Akea knows her future lies beyond the safety of her home.  Kazakh is well aware of Akea’s destiny and the pack laws he will break to help her reach it. Regardless of the challenges ahead, he must make sure this young husky will be ready, even if it means his life.

This chapter book for 7 – 11 year-olds teaches children the importance of loyalty, friendship and belonging. Younger children will enjoy having it read to them (minus the sad bits) and adults will find it a light, but captivating read.

My second book, ‘Akea – His Mother’s Son’, has been professionally edited and Anthony is working on the illustrations for me again – he really is amazing. This story sees one of Akea’s children captured by humans and taken to a wildlife park. The dual narrative allows the reader to see both sides of the experience of loss and change, and how our character is strengthened by it. I am looking forward to publishing this in the near future.

What a heartwarming and inspiring publication story, Elizabeth. Your book sounds fascinating, as does the sequel. Wishing you lots of luck with this.

Here is Elizabeth’s book

Akea proof (3).jpg


This husky, wolf story is a new addition to the great animal fiction tradition of Jack London and Erin Hunter, where the story is told through the eyes of the animals. Elizabeth Jade has created a captivating coming of age story which also teaches children about friendship and loyalty, and that being different doesn’t mean you can’t belong. It is a captivating chapter book for eight to twelve year-olds. Akea is born into a family of sled dogs and a life that follows a predictable path, but from the day she first sees the lone wolf, Kazakh, Akea knows her future lies beyond the safety of her home. Kazakh is well aware of Akea’s destiny and the pack laws he will break to help her reach it. Regardless of the challenges ahead, he must make sure this young husky will be ready, even if it means his life.

You can purchase the book here:


Author Bio

Elizabeth Jade was born in 1998 in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, England, but moved with her family to Wellington in Somerset when she was very young. She has one older brother. Elizabeth’s early schooling did not go smoothly and she was homeschooled from the age of seven. Her parents soon learned she had a unique slant on life and quickly abandoned attempts to follow the national curriculum in favour of child-led learning.

She stumbled into writing at fourteen when she began to suffer from anxiety and depression, and quickly found her story ideas pouring out faster than she could get them onto paper.  It wasn’t until the age of eighteen that she realised her struggles in school had been due to Aspergers Syndrome (an autistic spectrum disorder).

As an enthusiastic animal lover, Elizabeth volunteered first at the Conquest Riding Centre for the Disabled and then at St Giles Animal Rescue before moving on to the Cats Protection Homing and Information Centre on the outskirts of Wellington.  Her gifted way with the cats quickly earned her the title of ‘Cat Whisperer’ from the staff. Since she had always possessed such a way with animals, it was only natural for Elizabeth’s story ideas to revolve around that theme.

After a brief attempt at self-publishing and a further attempt with an agent, Elizabeth found a publisher and her  novel, ‘Akea – The Power of Destiny‘ is now available through Amazon and major book shops. It was written when Elizabeth was only fourteen and is to be the first in a long line of stories involving this captivating character.

“It has to be said that my writing methods are as quirky as I am.  I don’t write stories; I just put a bunch of words onto paper, and the characters do the rest. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to have completed a writing session without having the slightest idea what I have written. Even my story ideas come from the strangest places. I like to search the internet for pictures of how I imagine my characters would look, and keep them in front of me whenever I am writing about them.  While I was looking for pictures for an entirely different story, I came across one of a young husky and instantly knew I had to write about her.  It was as if she had told me her whole life story and was just waiting for me to put it down on paper.”

Contact details


Check in next week to read another ‘path to publication’ story.

And if you want to read about my writing journey, I’m talking about it over on Tom William’s blog here.






My Path to Publication – Alice McVeigh

The path to publication can be a long and varied one. This week, Alice MCVeigh, shares her inspiring writing journey with us. Welcome to the blog, Alice. Can you tell us how you got published?



When I was young, life was easy: I scribbled a novel (about the secret life of an orchestra), mailed it off – no email! – got an offer from the fifth agent I tried (President of the agent’s  association, no less) and – within two months – had a two-book contract with Orion/Hachette. My friends all thought I was made for life – but I wasn’t so sure. My father is a biographer and I knew that I’d have to sell well. My first (contemporary) novel did.  It reached 35 in the bestsellers, and the film rights were sold to Channel 4  – though never made, the money was handy! . . . However, the sequel didn’t do quite so well. . . then my IVF daughter showed up. . . and then my super-starry agent dumped me.

I decided to break into ghostwriting, having made some good connections in the industry. This worked, and I forgot all about fiction, for over 15 years. But when my daughter left for Oxford, I suddenly found ideas for novels nagging at me.

To my amazement, one of these was a sci-fi book about a rebel assassin on 23rd-century Earth. I lay down and waited for the idea to go away. It didn’t: and, within three months, I found that I’d written 113,000 words.  However, what was I to do with 113,000 words, however funny, erotic or brilliant, in a genre where I’d never even published a short story, had no track-record or contacts at all?! I queried, and got some lovely refusals – one of the top sci-fi agents, in Manhattan, sat on the whole manuscript for almost five months – but the publishing world had got a lot tougher during all those years I’d been ghosting. Also: one only gets one shot at being a debut novelist, and I’d had mine.) Although, in the late 90s, even debut novelists even got reviewed. The Sunday Times: ‘Characters rise and fall to McVeigh’s superbly controlled conductor’s baton. The orchestra becomes a universe in microcosm; all human life is here . . . McVeigh succeeds in harmonising a supremely comic tone with much darker notes.’)

Anyway, I was wondering about self-publishing when a writer friend told me about UK publishers Unbound. They’re small but risk-taking, and recently published a novel long-listed for the Booker Prize. They can afford to take risks, because they ask every author to crowd-fund the first part of the book’s publication costs. (Which is what I’m doing at the moment. Only one week in, and 59% already, whoop whoop!)  So, against all odds, sometime in 2020, I’ll have a new sci-fi novel in the bookshops, despite being no debut novelist and now in my fifties.

 So my advice? If you feel a book hammering at you to be let out: do it. Go for it, and be willing to take that risk!!!! Yes, it’s hard – everybody knows it’s hard – but you have to be in it to win it!

Great advice, Alice!

Here is Alice’s book
  65144225_519607501910767_4234473295816163328_n (1) final cover
Buy link

About Alice

Alice McVeigh was first published in over fifteen years ago: two contemporary novels with Orion/Hachette. After taking time out for a young family and professional cello, she has just launched her new sci-fi novel, Last Star Standing, with UK publisher Unbound (writing as Spaulding Taylor).



Check in next week to read  another ‘path to publication’ journey.

And if you want to read about my writing journey, I’m talking about it over on Tom William’s blog here.