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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Will this be the next JK Rowling?
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education

Graham Taylor
Graham Taylor has a seven-part series about to be launched this autumn
Five years ago, GP Taylor was a Yorkshire vicar, former punk, ex-policeman and Sex Pistols roadie, who sold his motorbike to pay to print some copies of his first children's book.

With an almost spooky haste, his book, Shadowmancer, was picked up by publishers, and became a number one best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic.

Like the overnight dot.com millionaires, he became one of the instant successes of the children's literature gold rush, with improbably large sums of money and movie plans attached to his follow-up books.

And when JK Rowling signs off her final instalment of Harry Potter tomorrow, GP Taylor will be prominent among the contenders to take over her mantle.

If he were a boxer entering the ring, his promoters would be chanting "hotter than Potter" - and "the new CS Lewis", two labels that have been regularly attached to him.

He has already gone "toe to toe" with JK Rowling - 15 weeks at the top of the paperback charts while the Potter author was the best seller in hardback.

And when Harry Potter hangs up his wizard's cloak, booksellers will be looking to GP Taylor's autumn release, Mariah Mundi - The Midas Box, to keep the cashtills ringing.

'Dragon fatigue'

Like the Potter books, the Mariah Mundi stories will be a seven-part series, with publishers Faber and Faber buying up the books with a "seven figure deal".

But GP Taylor says it's time to draw a line under the fantasy and wizardry of the Potter years - and his new book offers "grit" rather than dragons.

Fans queuing for Potter
Fans have been queuing for the first copies of the last Potter

It will be a whodunnit, set in a hotel in the north east of England, with a boy and girl as the lead characters - both outsiders, presented with an edge of realism rather than magic.

"There's a lot of stuff out there that is like Potter, but I think people are tired of it. Children are getting sick of dragons, fairies and goblins. They've got dragon fatigue and gnome fatigue," he says.

GP Taylor's own life story has had its own share of shadows and sudden reversals of fate.

He speaks very movingly about his difficult, embarrassed childhood relationship with his profoundly deaf father.

Demons

"Because of my dad's disability - I felt like an orphan. I felt very envious of people with normal dads. At one point, I adopted a friend of mine's dad as a kind of surrogate father.

Classroom reading
The author makes an annual tour of hundreds of schools

"I didn't understand it was down to a disability. It's only when you have children yourself that you understand."

"There are a lot of demons in my life that need exorcising, I have a lot of angst from my early teens, that I have no one to bounce off - so they're bounced off in my writing."

He got himself expelled from school and ran away to London, where he became part of the punk scene, working as a roadie and a record promoter.

"I was very rebellious, I realise now looking back that I must have been a heartbreak to my mum and dad. I did an awful lot of stuff I shouldn't have - and which I now regret."

Another couple of career body swerves saw GP Taylor become a policeman and then a vicar - where, at the age of 42, he first put pen to paper.

His decision to publish his own book was a tribute to his punk days - and the do-it-yourself ethos.

"I'd been amongst so many bands who were doing it for themselves - and who weren't bothered about getting big record deals.

"When it came to writing Shadowmancer, I thought if people can put out their own record, then surely I could put out my own book. So I did it, setting up a publishing company the way people set up a record label."

Reading gap

The book was a remarkable success, but he says that the sudden arrival of wealth - his latest deal is worth nearer to £10m than £5m - hasn't cut him off from his old life.

"I live within a mile of where I was born, next door to me is a big council estate, my daughter goes to a school on the same site as my old school.

"It doesn't change you - because I come from a very poor working class background I'm very worried about losing it all."

And it's not all glamour. When he went to the celeb-ridden London restaurant, the Ivy, he was mistaken for Les Dennis.

He is also keen to pay something back, with a particular passion to help promote reading among working class children - and he makes hundreds of school visits each year.

Particularly, he says, he wants to reach working class boys, who grow up without any ethos of reading for enjoyment and lack a sense of confidence in their own culture.

In terms of children's literature, and the hype surrounding JK Rowling, he says that he's very aware of the remarkable times that the Potter years have brought.

"This summer is going to be the biggest event in children's literature - no matter who replaces her, we'll never see these times again."






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