A young writing talent has hit the top of the bestseller lists... 32 years after he was first spotted by the then Peterborough Evening Telegraph.
In 1985 Mark Hibbett, then aged 15, won a Peterborough Young Writer Of The Year award in the annual competition run by our newspaper, but he admits beers and girls made him move away from writing to joining a band.
Now aged 47, Mark has returned to his love of literature with his debut novel Storm House which reached the number one spot in Amazon’s list of bestselling science fiction books.
He said: “When I was at Deacons School I was always writing stuff and entered young writers’ competitions. I always liked it, but when I went to university I was a bit distracted by beers and girls.
“But I’ve got a bit old and went back to writing.”
Teenage Mark would read comics and science fiction, with the latter his chosen genre, when he wrote his award-winning short stories.
He said: “It was really exciting to win it twice. The results came into school and Mr Galvin, my English teacher, read out I had won in class. It was a real thrill.
“I went to the Town Hall and met the mayor and I got book vouchers.”
Mark then studied for an English degree at Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montford University) and began playing in bands, notably MJ Hibbett & The Validators with whom he performed live on Radio One and had a Record Of The Year in Rolling Stone magazine.
Mark, who now lives in Stratford, is a database manager for medical research at University College London.
His return to literature came through an MA in creative writing at City University where he was mentored by former Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel.
His new book was originally written as a screenplay for the course, but Mark said: “When I sent it out they said nobody will ever make this as it’s too expensive.
“After a while my girlfriend said if it’s too expensive to film, make it into a book.”
Once written, Mark released the book through Amazon with plenty of early success. He said: “I thought maybe a few family members might buy the book, but over the course of the first weekend it sold more copies than any album we’ve ever released.
“Maybe people like my words more when I’m not singing them.”
The science-fiction adventure is planned to be the first in a series of books about a secret organisation which has been defending Britain from the weird and uncanny since Victorian times. Mark hopes to have the second book out early next year, and he added: “I promise not to take 34 years to write this one!”
To buy the book, visit: http://www.mjhibbett.co.uk/markhibbett/stormhouse/.