How rejection failed to stop Flitwick author Olly Barrett - who is about to publish his third book

The stories were originally written for his four-year-old daughter Milly, who’s now 18
Gardener-turned-author Olly Barrett who says he's "an ordinary guy who's found his passion late in life."Gardener-turned-author Olly Barrett who says he's "an ordinary guy who's found his passion late in life."
Gardener-turned-author Olly Barrett who says he's "an ordinary guy who's found his passion late in life."

You’ve got to hand it to gardener-turned-author Olly Barrett. Despite more than 170 rejection slips, he’s never lost heart and is about to publish his third book in The Mouse Protector series, aimed at anyone from nine to 100.

And he’s achieved this remarkable milestone while running his own site maintenance business.

Olly admits his creative time is restricted to lunch breaks in season and free days between November and February when he loses himself for hours – and dreams of making writing his full time career.

He says: “Because I’ve worked on my own for 28 years, I don’t get to speak to anyone because I’m usually mowing, strimming or hedge trimming all day on large sites. That’s probably why so much creativity whirls around in my head.”

The stories were originally written for his four-year-old daughter Milly, who’s now 18.

He explains: “I found the books I read to her at bedtime boring, so decided I’d have a go at giving her a personal adventure story in the gritty style of Watership Down. The action is from an animal point of view and features towns and villages around where we live. The underlying message is about standing up to bullies and treasuring true friendship."

Olly, 52, speaks from experience and says he was badly bullied in the past.

He recalls looking out of his office window at the grounds maintenance team and thinking: “I could do that.” So he started The Happy Gardener Co Ltd which he still runs today.

Olly regrets never being brave enough to stand up to the bullies but says: “All these years later, I’m a much stronger person and my experiences back then have helped me write these books.

"Family and friends are what matter in life. As for the bullies – they’re just the bad guys in my stories now, cut down and humiliated to expose their inner ugliness."

His wife and daughter were both captivated by his tales, so he sent his manuscript to numerous literary agents. Over five years, he received 173 rejection slips with many not even bothering to reply.

Then he discovered Amazon – and again thought: “I could do this.”

His first book was published in February last year and his second – The Escape from Waltur Tower – in August. The third – The Vengeance of the Elder – is due out on February 12.

Olly says: “I’m aiming for at least five books in the series but they can go on even further as the characters are so strong and relatable. Sales are slow and steady but I’m an unknown author with no real idea about publicity. I’m just an ordinary guy who’s found his passion late in life.”

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