How novelist Steven Suttie published his tale of northern common sense putting the country right

Northern Life columnist Steven Suttie has published his first novel at the e-book website Amazon. The story celebrates East Lancashire’s people, its places and the ‘straight speaking’ attitude of the locals. If you like ‘down to earth’ northern folk sorting out other people’s mess with style and wit, this is the book is for you.

‘The Clitheroe Prime Minister’ is the funny, exciting and thought-provoking story of a fictional chap called Jim Arkwright, who is shocked to learn that his straight-from-the-hip political views have spread across the internet, and that the British public demonstrate overwhelming support for his no-nonsense ideas.

The internet clip shows this ordinary working class Lancashire man as he puts Britain’s many problems to rights over a pint of beer in the pub, unaware that he is being filmed on a mobile phone. Within days the video is shared across social media and clocks up millions of views. The media can’t stop discussing it, even the national radio breakfast shows are prompting their 20 million listeners to go online and watch it.

The novel is set in the present day, at a time when Britain faces serious challenges with its economy, crime and disorder, youth unemployment and many other social problems.

Steve popped into the Northern Life HQ for a milky brew and a digestive, and we had a good old natter about his book, and he told me how easy it was to publish his novel for the emerging e-Book market.

This is your first novel. Was it difficult to get it published with Amazon?
No, in fact it took about three hours. The hard bit was writing the book, and editing and tweaking it so it was as good as it could be. But actually publishing it on to Kindle and all the other e-reader devices is a piece of cake. I would urge anybody who has ever written a novel to forget the misery of trying to get an agent, and just go for it yourself. Just type Kindle self publishing into Google and away you go.

Isn’t there a stigma about self-publishing though?
Traditionally there has been a view about people self publishing for vanity reasons. But these days it’s just an easier way to get your work out there – and it’s creating far greater choice for readers, too. So it’s very positive, and it’s the direction everything is headed in. The statistics for getting a traditional publishing contract these days are very depressing. You need an agent to take you on, who will then try and sell your work to a publisher. The average agent receives 4,000 submissions a year, but only accepts about a dozen, and eventually manages to sell half of those. That’s 3,994 disappointed people for every agent out there! So I say to anybody who has been put off by agents’ rejections – forget it, and put your story on Kindle or Smashwords and enjoy the ‘indie publishing’ experience. Stephen King is the latest major novelist to go indie.

Is it really that simple?
Honestly. There must be thousands of people out there in our area who have written perfectly good books but who ended up as one of the 3,994 rejects through no fault of their manuscript. Here’s an example – ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ – the biggest book last year, started as an e-book. It was rejected originally, but went crazy as an e-book. Now all agents want to see this year is the next Fifty Shades so they are mainly just looking for that genre because it’s safe and it’s selling well. The internet is revolutionising the way we do everything, including reading books. E-books took 20 per cent of the market last year, and that figure will grow much higher because the e-book devices are getting cheaper and cheaper all the time. I saw a brand new one for £30 the other day.

So how did your story ‘The Clitheroe Prime Minister’ come about?
I started writing it last year. It seemed that everybody I spoke to thought that they had better ideas of how to run the country than the Government did, and I just started from there. I did lots of research and looked at the issues that are causing so many problems. From there I began creating the lovable, no-nonsense character Jim Arkwright.

In the book, your main character tackles the problems that affect today’s society. Did you not worry that you could offend certain people?
Yes, it was at the back of my mind. So I thought if I must offend anybody, it will have to be the MPs and politicians who swagger about pretending they are trying hard and doing their best. I think they are the people who face the most criticism. But we are all responsible in our own little way for the state of the country, and Jim makes no bones about that fact.

The main character is a very typical, blunt Northerner. It’s refreshing to read a story with one of our own as the hero.
Yes, well he comes from Burnley – his dad worked in the cotton mills. There’s a chapter early on that focuses on the loss of Burnley’s cotton industry and the sad reality of mass unemployment in the town today. Although Jim Arkwright is a fictional character, he is very believable because we all know somebody just like him. There is a Jim Arkwright on every street in Britain, in every pub and at every bus stop. These people know good solutions to society’s failures because they are living in among the problems. They see the fall-out from all the bonkers laws and hare-brained policies day to day. Jim’s point is that the Government and the ministers who make decisions on behalf of the British people don’t have a clue what they are doing.

You really stick up for the working classes in the book don’t you?
Yes, definitely. Ordinary, working class people would be in a far stronger position to govern Britain than these pampered, sheltered millionaires who enter politics purely for career and ego reasons. You would never ask a butcher to do your nails, would you? But nobody bats an eyelid at the fact that posh toffs who never went to a normal school, or worked in a real job, or even lived in a real community, are running our country. The evidence is all around us that the system doesn’t work, and as Jim would say “it’s no wonder everything’s gone tits up.”

During the day, you work for the RSPCA, and you also have four kids. How did you find the time to write this?
‘EastEnders’ and ‘Coronation Street’ helped. My family stare gormlessly at the TV for two hours every night so I just slid away and got on with writing through the winter. I dedicated two hours per night to it, setting a target of finishing one chapter a week. The first draft of the book was finished in six months. I then had several months of editing, rewriting and tweaking the manuscript. I don’t think my family even noticed that I wasn’t sitting there with them!

Steven Suttie’s book The Clitheroe Prime Minister is available to buy from Amazon for £8.99.