TOP YORKSHIRE AUTHOR HEADS STATESIDE FOR WORLD PREMIERE OF NEW NOVEL
TOP Yorkshire children’s author Peter J Murray is heading to the States for the world premiere of his fourth book is his spine tingling Mokee Joe series of novels.
Peter, from Silsden, near Keighley, Yorkshire, gave up a secure assistant headmastership job at one of Britain’s leading preparatory schools to chance at becoming a children’s author.
Now with a series of publishing deals and a bestselling trilogy behind him, Peter has chosen New York to launch the latest instalment in the series – which has been penned thanks to popular demand.
Peter gambled everything on the germ of an idea of a scary character called Mokee Joe back in 2003, dreamed up years ago.
He now turns well over a six figure sum after daring to put pen to paper and his novels are selling quickly both online and in familiar bookstores.
The former Rotherham steel worker turned Cambridge-educated maths and physics teacher will be launching Mokee Joe – Mutant Resurrection, at the Harlem Theatre in New York next week [from Jan 10].
Peter is a familiar reader of his books at schools across the county; he spends hours delighting youngsters and staff with readings and performances of his novels across Yorkshire and beyond.
And he says the fourth in the series – which has been inspired by demand by children in both America and Britain, is an exciting new step in the US publishing market.
“For an idea of a character which was invented in a caravan several years ago at the instigation of my niece, I’ve been astonished how popular Mokee Joe has become.
“When I finished the third Mokee Joe book in 2005/6 I said to myself I wouldn’t go beyond the trilogy, but then interest in America began to develop.
“I started working in America through a sponsor called the Carmel Hill education programme, who through a multi-million dollar benefactor, work to develop educational resources throughout schools in America.
“I worked in Harlem and Washington Heights, working with what might be called underprivileged children from various backgrounds, and they just went crazy for Mokee Joe.
“My first three novels were already doing well in Britain thanks to sales via Amazon and at Waterstone's bookshops, and people said to me, ‘if you are going to be successful in America, you need to write a book which is ‘Americanised’’.
“But what we found was the kids were actually picking up on the quirkiness of the English side of the books - all the language nuances and Northern references etc.
“I had in the back of my mind, in any case, that there could be a case for the three protagonists to go over to the States, and this all fitted into place.
“So half of the fourth book is set in the UK, and the other half in New York. I won’t give too much away in the plot but there is a new enemy called Princess Pi, who is a 13 year old girl who is crippled by a debilitating disease, but who still retains a wily criminal mind who lives in a derelict underground hospital.
“She tries for world domination and lures Hudson, our main character to New York, and the battle begins – but she also brings Mokee Joe back, rebuilds him with her team, but unfortunately he becomes mutated. And the adventures begin….”
“I’ve been very lucky to use the services of Paul Davies, the cover artist, one more, who has designed the most amazing cover, which has Mokee Joe bursting through the American flag. It is the most striking cover I have ever seen.
“The book is going to be unveiled next week [Jan 10] at the Apollo Theatre in NY in front of 1,500 kids, from 46 schools from across NY; and to have got their VIP ticket they have had to have read all three Mokee Joe books. We’ve also invited the NY Giants, various dignitaries and some baseball stars.
“I started writing the fourth book in Feb last year so it has been a hectic but exciting time.”
Peter was born and brought up in Sheffield and went straight into the steel works.
“I thought I was the non-academic – I failed my 11+ and maths was actually my worst subject at school; they didn’t let me take the exam when I left school! I decided to go back to education at 21 and started all over again.
“Nine years later, I finished up with a maths and physics Masters degree from Cambridge after going to Sheffield University first. I then went into teaching, never for the world dreaming I would be a writer one day.
“I always loved doing assemblies in schools and liked writing short stories for kids - especially scary ones. I finished up at a very well-known posh school down South called Cheam School at Newbury where Prince Charles went, where I was very happy.
“Six years ago, I came back up to Sheffield and went to the East Coast for the day to visit my sister and my niece in a caravan. My niece, who was 21 at the time, said: ‘Do you remember that game when we were kids when you used to chase us about in a big coat and hat, called ‘Mokee Joe’, Uncle Pete?’ She said: ‘I’ve never forgotten, I’m still having nightmares..but it was fun.’”.
“I said to her, if you’ve remembered that tale all those years ago and enjoyed it so much, I’m going to go home and start writing a story about it.
“I was then a housemaster at Cheam and I went back to Newbury to write it. I didn’t have to plan it or anything and it just flowed very well. I wrote it in three months, but in the end it took me about two years to get it into anything like a publishable state.
“I had some help from some literary consultants – rather than agents who are rarer than hen’s teeth – and I was rejected flat by the usual string of publishers.
“I thought ‘life is too short’ so I approached a self publishing company called Pen Press who published 5,000 copies of ‘Mokee Joe Is Coming!’ at my expense.
“I went down for a launch in Waterstones in Newbury where I was teaching and all my school turned up – and we sold 400 books in one afternoon! This was in July 2003.
“Publishers who then had turned me down started ringing me up; Hodder Children’s Books took it over and gave me a contract for two more books, which came out in Sept 2004.
“I now tour schools all over Britain and the world doing my presentations dressed as Mokee Joe and when I’ve finished, the kids are desperate to read the books.
“My books are fun-scary; no more scary than Doctor Who is these days – which I think is pretty scary, but in a secure way.”
A collection of short stories by Peter is also planned for later in the year.
· Peter’s website is www.peterjmurray.co.uk
· His previous books are Mokee Joe is Coming; Mokee Joe Recharged and Mokee Joe: The Doomsday Trail. He has sold some 500,000 copies worldwide.