P h i l i p C o l e m a n
Philip Coleman (author of The Master's Book) has worked as a biologist for most of his life—in Ireland, Belgium and now in Switzerland. Having been an avid reader all his life, he took up writing only in 2006. This is his first published novel. He drew his inspiration for the story from the period he spent working for the EU in Brussels. He has a grown-up son and daughter (who were roughly the same ages as Sean and Maeve during the time in Brussels but otherwise aren’t a bit like them at all!). He now lives in France.
The Master’s Book: Blurb
In 1482 Mary, the last Duchess of Burgundy, lies on her deathbed in a castle in Flanders. She is only 24. In her final moments she makes a wish that, 500 years later, will threaten the lives of a boy and a girl living in Brussels.
The Master’s Book is the story of Sean, an Irish teenager, just arrived in Brussels to a house that is also a crime scene. Together with Stephanie, his classmate, he finds an illuminated manuscript, only for it to be stolen almost at once.
Where did this manuscript come from? Who was it originally made for? Is there a connection with the beautiful tomb Sean has seen in Bruges? Above all, why does someone want this book so badly that they are prepared to kill for it?
Part thriller and part paper-chase, this book is aimed at boys and girls of twelve and over.
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FROM FIRST LINES TO PUBLISHED BOOK: The Longest Journeyby Philip Coleman
I’ve always loved books – everything from non-fiction (especially history), to highbrow literary fiction, to thrillers and intelligent fiction for children. I did write a little as a teenager but after that, though I secretly dreamed of taking it up again, I never wrote any fiction until I reached my late forties. In the meantime, I graduated as a botanist and I’ve worked most of my life as a biologist, dealing with matters relating to both plants and animals.
I was prompted to take up writing again when I read Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, which I found absolutely enchanting, largely thanks to the strength of the central character, Lyra. The last scene of the story is set in the Oxford Botanic Garden and that gave me, a botanist, the idea of setting a fantasy novel in a botanic garden. The novel proved more of a learning experience than anything else but was followed by another fantasy which almost made it with two publishers before I decided to move on. Then, in order not to go back over old ground, I decided to write a novel set in contemporary Brussels, where I’d spent a particularly happy time when my children were growing up. I wanted to re-live that experience through a teenager’s eyes. The result became The Master’s Book.
Again, I struggled to find an agent, without success, and again I had two near-misses with Irish publishers (one being Puffin Ireland). That led to a total re-write and some encouraging critiques but still no luck. I had more or less decided to move on, and was working on a sci-fi scenario, when I made friends on Facebook with an author named Kristy Brown. She told me about MuseItUp Publishing so I decided they would be my last try. A few months after I sent in the manuscript, I was in the USA on a business trip when I got an email from them. “Another rejection,” I thought, deciding to deal with it quickly before moving on to my work emails. When I saw that the email enclosed a publishing contract I nearly fell off the chair.
What have I learned along the way? Well, lots of things really. Firstly, that when people try to encourage you by reminding you of J.K. Rowling’s story, although they mean well, don’t get carried away. You need to be very realistic. And, while it is true that you must never give up writing, there is a point where you must move on from one writing project in favour of a new one, if you don’t want to get de-motivated and depressed. That’s the part that I’ve found hardest to act on in practice but it’s important.
From first writing attempt to publication has taken me nearly seven years, with a lot of heartache along the way. Thankfully, the writing part itself, although hard work, can be fun. And that’s what makes it worthwhile.