Who knew redundancy could be so much fun – Phil Parker

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By Phil Parker

Picture the scene. A government office on a science park near Coventry. Two hard-working people suddenly find themselves out of jobs and writing a novel. When they’d applied for their jobs, they didn’t know each other, nor that there was half a book within each of them. It took a new government and an ambitious minister to unearth that.♥

Two elections ago, my writing partner Candice Nolan and I were working for the government organisation promoting IT use in schools. She was part of the marketing team and I did my best to persuade people to bring parts of the website up to date. Proximity in the office had helped us become friends but initially we just thought this was nothing more than the sort of comradeship you form when neither of you really like your job or are really bored.

All this changed with the arrival of the coalition government. Keen to save some money, there had been a lot of noise during the campaign about ridding the public purse of organisations such as ours. New Education Minister Michael Gove started the process almost immediately by telling the Guardian over the weekend that we were for the chop.

Thus it was that Monday morning came around with even more gloom than normal. We all knew what the sudden staff meeting was about – it had been all over the BBC news.

The trouble was that we might be out of a job but we couldn’t go home and sulk. At least, Candice and I couldn’t because we were contractors paid by the day with contracts still to run. Which left an interesting situation. Six weeks to fill, but nothing to do.

katevsdirtboffins05I’m not sure who planted the germ of the idea but we talked about setting up a “Change Management” company to assist all these other departments towards the door marked exit. Somewhere along the way this became a book.

With nothing better to do, we started writing. I put together what I thought was an interesting opening based on our experience. She wrote a scene where one of our characters is pole dancing on a bar! Then there was some romance (on the page, not us), intrigue, B-list celebrity riots and a tractor chase.

A quick web search told us that novels should be 80,000 words long which seemed scary until we worked out we were over halfway there. More to the point, we were enjoying ourselves by now and wanted to see how this thing worked out.

Since then we’ve had other jobs but Kate vs the Dirtboffins has been finished and is on sale. The follow-up is half complete and future stories planned. Along the way there have been inspirational visits to literary festivals, lunchtimes discussing plot lines and quite a lot of cake. We don’t expect to become rich doing this, or even give up the day job, but those moments when we argue wide-eyed over plot directions make it all worth while. That and positive reviews on Amazon obviously.

None of which would have happened if we hadn’t been sacked.

Candice Nolan studied studying psychology at university then moved into marketing where she has spent her life promoting everything from Egyptian history to high fashion. Outside work she can often be seen as an extra in the background of many film and TV productions.

Phil Parker used to work for a vegetable research company that bears absolutely no resemblance to the one in his book. His career involved looking after the wordy parts of various large organisations’ websites before he accidentally found himself writing and editing hobby magazines.


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