Paul Carroll – Self Published extraordinaire
Words by Anne Earley
It has taken me ages to write this profile of novelist Paul Carroll. When we met he gave me so many great book recommendations that I have been otherwise engaged for weeks. Like all good writers, Paul is a prolific reader and since meeting him Matt Haig, Sam Bourne and John Niven have been added to my list of favourite writers. I have also been reading and enjoying Paul’s own books– ‘Written Off’, ‘Trouble Brewing’ and am looking forward to reading ‘A Matter of Life and Death’.
Originally from Yorkshire but now living in Altrincham, Paul’s most recent novel, ‘Trouble Brewing’, is set in his home county and pivots on rival breweries and a beer with health giving properties. The brewer of this fabulous pint, Brim Ale, is desperate to achieve a certificate of geographical provenance from the EU – the same sort of certification that protects Champagne, Melton Mowbray pork pies and Cumberland Sausages. With EU rules being central to the plot, Paul explains that the first draft was written before the referendum. Fortunately, the result didn’t necessitate extensive re-writing. However, ‘Trouble Brewing’ although very funny, is gripping in parts, reflecting a real contemporary issue, an uncertain outcome and the different impact it has on various individuals.
To say that all human life can be found in Paul’s novels would be an understatement. ‘Trouble Brewing’ alone encompasses the science and business of brewing, celebrity culture, the world of public relations, lap dancing clubs, female wrestling, the Benedictine order, blackmail, the love life of Catherine the Great and the Yorkshire habit of putting a ferret down the trousers!
Paul says that his books are all about the plot and he is a great story teller with the action moving along at a cracking pace. His second novel, ‘Written Off’, describes a lively, sometimes bawdy, bunch of characters, almost worthy of The Canterbury Tales, who pursue their literary dreams through newspaper offices, Tinder encounters, health spas and some very bad behaviour at a conference for aspiring authors. This novel also gives the local reader that satisfying frisson of recognition as some of it is set in Manchester with characters eating in city centre restaurants and planning Sunday pub lunches in Mobberley.
Originally from Leeds, Paul crossed the Pennines to read English at the University of Manchester. After graduation he had a successful career in public relations, eventually setting up his own PR consultancy in Manchester. Nowadays, Paul is a full -time writer. He’s already at work on his fourth novel which he won’t say too much about except that it is the first one to be set in an historical timeframe.
All Paul’s novels have been self – published. With the shelves of bookshops stuffed with celebrity biographies and novelised TV series, mainstream publishers only seem interested in catering to already established readerships and ‘fans’. The chance of a new author breaking through is slim and yet more people are writing than ever before. As Paul puts it in ‘Written Off’ ‘With more people writing books than reading them, who’d be an author?’
In fact, it was Paul’s visit to a self -publishing conference that gave him the material for ‘Written Off’ which has its dramatic finale at such a conference on a university campus. Would Paul want to be taken on by a mainstream publisher? With a hefty marketing budget, he would sell more books but the overheads of mainstream publishing houses leave little cash for the author. He is also wary of the editor’s pen, preferring to keep control over his own work.
Paul’s background in public relations certainly gives him an advantage over other self-publishers when it comes to promotion. His contacts in the design world mean that the covers of his novels are striking, contemporary and consistent with the high standards of the industry. He can stage a great PR stunt as well. On Yorkshire Day he left copies of the novel around West Yorkshire pubs with the message ‘read me’ pasted on the cover. Anybody who found the book was encouraged to take it, read it, and then leave it in another location for somebody else to find.
One reviewer compared Paul’s novels to Ealing comedies and they are indeed full of a very English type of humour – Northern, warm hearted and direct. ‘Writer’s block?’ one character in ‘Written Off’ scoffs, ’Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block do they?’ He’s not afraid of a literary joke though. One of the main characters in ‘Written Off’ shares the real name of a very famous writer, although not his literary talent, unfortunately. Paul even introduces a grammar joke about semi- colons to the same book; always a tough one to pull off.
Paul doesn’t claim that characterisation is his strength but his characters are full of verve and energy. These are not cynical novels. Just as in an Ealing comedy, the pure of heart come out on top in the end and the ‘nasty’ characters are either redeemed or get their comeuppance in spades. Paul likes to surprise the reader with an unexpected final twist though – leaving room for a sequel perhaps? Or even a further TV series as Paul, a man of verve and energy himself, has already written screen plays for all his novels. I’m predicting some great roles for Philip Glenister, Sarah Lancashire and Anne Reid!
If you’d like to find out more about Paul and his work have a look at his website here