A tedious 45 minute commute to and from his day job has resulted in a Hawick native realising a childhood dream.
Ninian Carter became a bona fide author when his Kindle book, Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows, became available to purchase on Amazon.
It’s an apt medium for the 47-year-old graphic artist – as he wrote each and every one of the book’s 100,000 words on a smartphone!
Taking up the story, Ninian said: “I work in London and commute on a rather awful and unreliable train service to King’s Cross every day from St Neots, near Cambridge.
“To alleviate the tedium of travelling and frequent delays, I began working on an old book idea I’d had ten years before when I lived in Australia.
“It was based on a weird dream I had that all dreams were real and existed somewhere in the universe.
“What if that was true? It was an idea I kept on coming back to over the years and I would scribble down ideas and notes.
“It really sparked my imagination.”
Billy Twigg started to come to life on Ninian’s smartphone on his daily journey to and from his day job at Graphic News.
When he first started writing, he wasn’t sure if he would even finish it.
But he came up with an ending that was too good ... so he kept on writing!
Aimed at young adults, the book doesn’t sit easily in one genre but rather blurs the lines.
“It’s got a bit of everything in there,” said Ninian. “It’s a sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, mystery – all rolled into one.
“It’s an unashamed, rip-roaring adventure which is fast paced, silly and fun – just the kind of thing I’d like to read on my boring commute!”
And it appears that book readers have fallen in love with Billy Twigg too.
When it was finished, Ninian discovered Kindle Scout – an Amazon online writing competition.
It runs continually with around 200 books vying for attention every month.
While it’s free to enter, if a book is selected after 30 days of public voting, the author receives a contract with Amazon’s own publishing arm Kindle Press.
Amazon then markets the book for its own Kindle devices and apps.
Ninian decided to give the competition a go and was delighted when his book was selected as a winner.
He said: “I paid to have the manuscript professionally proofread and entered the contest last October, not expecting anything to come of it. But in early December, I got a text saying my book had won!
“I had planned to self-publish the book on Kindle – I’d only entered to try to get some publicity for the book.
“So it was a complete surprise when that text came through – I was delighted.”
While most of the action takes place in a fictitious town in Cambridgeshire, Billy Twigg does travel to Scotland – although Ninian’s home town doesn’t feature!
However, the good news is that he’s already a quarter way through the next book so the Borders may yet feature in Billy Twigg’s adventure stories.
“I’ve planned it as a three parter,” said Ninian, “but I can’t tell you much about the next one without revealing the ending of the first book!
“What I can say is that things will get trickier for our hero.
“I’m hoping the next one might be out in 2018 and I’ll probably enter it into the Kindle competition again.
“There’s no guarantee it will win next time though so, if not, I’ll look at self-publishing.”
Just how long fans will have to wait for the next book depends on Ninian’s busy schedule.
For as well as a full time job, he and his partner Gemma have two wee ones to contend with – Finlay (3) and six-month-old Ned.
However, he said: “I’ve already built the universe for the first book so it should be a quicker process.
“But commuting remains the only time I can dedicate to writing – so that means about 90 mins a day, five days a week, 46 weeks a year.
“It took me three years to write the first one so I don’t want to say exactly how long the next one will take!”
As for one day giving up his day job and becoming a full-time author, Ninian is pretty modest.
He added: “I started this as a fun exercise and it’s been interesting to find out how the publishing world works.
“However, I don’t harbour any ideas about becoming Scotland’s next JK Rowling!
“It was a hobby which accidentally turned into a book – a pleasant surprise.”
Five star reviews for Billy
Ninian Carter was born in Hawick and raised in Lanton, just outside Jedburgh, where his proud mum and dad Ian and Morag Carter still live.
They are rightly proud of their son’s latest career move.
Ninian said: “My parents really liked the book and said it was good fun – but I’m their boy, so they are going to say that!”
But just two days after being available for download on Amazon Kindle, it had already received two five star reviews.
Treeniepooh said: “Discovered this book on Amazon Scout. I haven’t finished the book yet but wanted to give it a review so far ... LOVE IT! It has a fast- moving pace which is helped by the swift moving chapters! Can’t wait to finish it.”
And TravellingPud agreed, saying: “Great read! Not my usual type of book but it intrigued me enough to give it a go. Such a page turner! Really enjoyed it.”
Ninian went to school in Jedburgh, before attending art college in Edinburgh. He hoped to move into advertising after graduating but the recession in the early 90s meant few jobs were available.
So after seven months on the dole, quite by accident he ended up working in newspapers – as a graphic artist with our sister paper, the Edinburgh Evening News.
Ninian’s career has since taken him around the globe but he has lived in St Neots, near Cambridge, since 2011.
Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows features an unassuming English teenager, moments away from death.
He has no recollection of how he’s come to be lying broken and exhausted in the demolished remains of a famous national landmark until a fraction of a second before he is to be killed. Then he remembers everything. The Kindle edition is available for download now, priced £3.36.