Fiction | Issue 2 (October 2023)

Overnight Success

Chris Cottom

The moment you learn to write, you’re cutting out squares of paper to make your own Mr Men books. You’re only nine when you send Enid Blyton a twenty-page outline for a Famous Five adventure. At eleven, you buy a hardback notebook for your illustrated story about a girl who lives with a family of earthworms, and learns their language in order to understand their complex social structures. By fifteen, you’ve ditched the worms and started a fresh notebook for your dystopian YA novella, which happens to feature boys. You fail Biology GCSE, worms not really being your thing after all. You get an A* at A-level in both English Literature and English Language, even though you’ve spent most of your time reworking Charlotte’s Web in the style of Angela Carter. You follow your BA in Creative Writing with an MA in Novel Writing. Your laptop melts twenty-seven chapters about a throat-singing Siberian reindeer herder called Belek, so you start again. The story morphs into an interracial romance between three women in post-war Sheffield. Your PhD supervisor gives you two extra years to rewrite your thesis on the literary legacy of a female plantation owner in eighteenth-century British Guiana. You’d forgotten he told you not to write it in the first person. You target your thirtieth birthday to complete your novel about an heiress to an industrial conglomerate and her quest for eco-responsible self-determination. Marriage and children force you to self-extend by fifteen years. You’re approaching forty and editing your trilogy set entirely on Mars, when divorce raises themes of fidelity, sexuality and chauvinism in contemporary Wimbledon which you cannot leave unexplored. You’re fifty when your first book is published. Heralded as a fresh new voice, you receive widespread acclaim for ‘redefining the bonkbuster’. You’re an overnight success.

Chris Cottom lives near Macclesfield, UK, and once wrote insurance words. His stories appear in Agape Review, Apricot Press, Bournemouth Writing Prize, Cranked Anvil, Ellipsis Zine, Flash 500, Flash Flood, Free Flash Fiction, Hysteria, Love Reading, NFFD NZ, On The Premises, One Wild Ride, Overtly Lit, Oxford Flash Fiction, Parracombe Prize, Retreat West, Shooter Flash, Story Nook, The Centifictionist, and others. In the early 1970s he lived next door to JRR Tolkien. 

X (formerly Twitter): @chris_cottom1