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A special edition of a classic book

All pledgers will receive a FREE copy of the Duncton Wood ebook, available to download immediately



It’s strange but true that main-line publishers often have no idea why some books sell while others don’t. In fact the only people who do know are you and I, the readers. We browse, we surf, we talk to each other, we look, we find, we turn the pages and… we like. We really like. Then we buy.

That’s what happened back in 1980 when my first novel Duncton Wood was published. My friends, family and publishers were doubtful, saying: but it’s about moles! No, it’s about love. Maybe, but it’s still about moles. No, it’s about courage and spiritual quest. Yes, but they’re moles! No, it’s about you and I, about what we do, why we do it, what gives meaning to our lives, the universe and everything. But, but, but… surely it’s… It’s a journey and maybe once you start you’ll not want it to end...

Duncton Wood hit the best-seller a few weeks after publication and stayed there for six months. Five more Duncton books followed at which point I was satisfied that the journey was complete. Each book stood alone, as do the phases of our lives; yet each led to the next. When the last book was published in 1993 readers wanted more. But I felt that the characters – and the journey shared with readers – had reached a natural end.

Seven years later, for personal reasons, I did that rare thing for an author and withdrew all the titles from the market. The ‘personal reasons’ were simple: I no longer liked the fact that the big mainstream print publishers were gate-keepers of author creativity, often blocking or effectively suppressing work that authors like me wanted to write and readers like you wanted to read. I felt there must be a different and better way of getting my Duncton stories out there.

There is: crowd-funding and digital. The technology has come of age such that a project like Unbound gives back to authors and readers – and really we are the same – the power to make wonderful books, books to like, books to love. The right time finally for author and reader to work together to make the moles of Duncton Wood, who are really all of us, available in print form again in the right way. Meaning enjoyably, for the different rewards are fun, interesting and worthwhile; and best of all, crowd-funding offers us a chance to meet and explore how to take our journey together forward once more.

William Horwood was born in Oxford in 1944 and raised in post-war austerity Britain in a house of shadows, lies and wonderment. His ‘father’, an Oxford don, was not his father. His mother, a blue-stocking intellectual, decamped to the East Kent coast when it was discovered that along with himself, another of her five children was illegitimate. There, like something out of a feminist BBC period drama, she ran her shambolic house with another single mother, with various children by various men, little money, thousands of books, strange disappearances, sudden fosterings and, in William’s case, exile to Germany for six months when he was ten.

But there were unusual ‘rewards’ - as we crowd-funders might put it. Parental indifference during formative years gave him freedom to explore the dangerous military defences and the bombed-out buildings of Dover; a stream of refugee paying guests from Europe, there to learn English, taught him to teach it; a grandmother and big, powerful siblings made for the continual high-octane drama of a dysfunctional, literate family; and his mother, his mother! A weaver of half-true histories and anecdotes, told by a fireside of sea coal and driftwood: ‘the greatest raconteur I ever knew’, as he puts it, but, to her dying day, cruelly unwilling to reveal who his true father was.

When he left Bristol University – chosen because it was a comfortably long way from home – he rapidly moved into journalism. Work in trade papers was followed by seven years with the Daily Mail where he edited its financial section and, for two years, Femail, strange as that may seem (and was). He resigned, served out the final six months of his contract in an isolated office with a phone that never rang and typewriter… and there wrote his first novel. So Duncton Wood was born.

Twenty best-selling novels have followed including five Dunctons; four highly regarded sequels to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows; and Skallagrigg which won a BAFTA film of the year award; and The Boy With No Shoes, his heart-breaking but inspirational memoir written after he finally discovered who his father was: a Polish zoologist, an Arabist and… an author. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

For more information about Willam and his work, please visit www.williamhorwood.co.uk.

Bracken was born on an April night in a warm dark burrow deep in the historic system of Duncton Wood, six moleyears after Rebecca.This is the story of their love, and their epic struggle to find it.

It is a true story drawn from many sources, and the fact that it can be told at all is as great a miracle as the history it relates. But without one other mole, Blessed Boswell of Uffington, Bracken and Rebecca would have died the death of legend, their tale declining into the darkness of time as a simple story of love. It was much more than that, as the records kept by Boswell show, and it is these that form the bulk of the material on which this history is based.

There are other sources, some in the libraries of the Holy Burrows, others hewn in solitary stone or carried still in the legends of each system whose tunnels life made these three moles enter. But these are mere shadows when set against the work of Boswell himself.

But for his love and enterprise there would be no Bracken now. Yet without Bracken, Boswell could never had found his great task.

And without Rebecca, there would be nothing at all to tell.

So link their three names together in a blessing on their memory, and on the troubled time in which they had to make their lives...

Read more...

A Free Ebook

Friday, 3 February 2017

Duncton wood wide

To say a big a thank-you to the early subscribers who have pushed the Duncton Wood deluxe edition forward so fast – and to offer an incentive to the many readers who are about to subscribe - I've arranged for all of you to get a free copy of the DUNCTON WOOD ebook by Canelo.  Existing subscribers will receive details of how to claim their free ebook from Unbound very shortly. The process will…

Elizabeth TebbyGermaine
Elizabeth TebbyGermaine asked:

hello I've seen your article through Facebook, thank you it is interesting. I am a self published author and always looking for advice from anywhere. I am writing my second novel having self published the first and a number of non fiction books through www.FeedARead.com which is a great publishing system. However I am always wondering if there is a better way, apart from spending many hours seeking a literary agent/mainstream publisher etc. I expect these are mundane questions and there is no simple answer. Best wishes Elizabeth Tebby Germaine

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Elizabeth, my congratulations on getting several non-fiction books out already – that’s a lot more than most writers ever do! But as I think you’re now realizing, switching from a self publishing platform and non-fiction, to ‘mainstream’ publishing and fiction, demands a different approach. You can still do fiction for yourself via digital and the on-line platforms but I don’t think that’s what you want. It’s the recognition, support and reach which comes with acceptance by a publisher you now need. My advice has always been: write the best book you can with a crystal clear idea of who your readers are and what your genre is (research both thoroughly); approach publishers in that genre with a professional proposal (go on-line to find out how to do that); and only when you’ve got serious interest, approach agents. One more thing: both publisher and agent will be infinitely more interested in working with you if you have an on-line following via a blog or website. To them, rightly, followers mean sales. So there is no ‘easy’ way! You’ll need a combination of creative intelligence, persistence, a canny reading of your potential market and a thick skin. But given the books you’ve already published I have a feeling you’re going to get there with your fiction too. Good luck!

James Nolan
James Nolan asked:

Hello William,
I originally bought Duncton Wood when it came out in paperback as there was a large display in my local book shop and I was drawn to it. I was only 16 back then and it is a book that had a profound effect on me. Since then, I have read it every couple of years. And over the years, I have also passed it on to several friends and nodding acquaintances and in each any case my paperback has never been returned. And so I scoured a great many second hand book shops in order to get a replacement copy. I am absolutely delighted that you are going to reprint it again after all this time and I am greatly looking forward to getting the special edition with the quote cards.
I was wondering will there be any new additional text in the new edition? And will the wonderful dust cover Artwork that featured in the first printing be included in it? I would buy a lithograph of that image at the drop of a hat! (how about creating a signed & numbered edition of that fabulous sleeve? ) Thank you for everything...May the road continue to rise with you William.. James Nolan.

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Hi James
It's really good to hear from you and to know that DUNCTON WOOD has stood the test of time - and been continually purloined by your friends over the years! No greater compliment!! At this stage there's no additional text proposed but, inevitably, reviving the book has puts new thoughts into my head for Duncton stories. I wouldn't be surprised if something emerges and appears as part of this wonderful project. We'll be in touch if it does. I agree with you about the original cover art though we're working on some great new ideas for this new edition. But let me follow up your idea a little and get back to you about it. Meanwhile, thanks for pledging and being in touch. All best, William

Haydn Pritchard
Haydn Pritchard asked:

Hi William, thanks so much for this! It's really exciting to know that these soulful epics might be making a comeback after all these years - I first read them in the late nineties and found the stories of the lives and struggles of these moles powerful and deeply moving! I personally consider these stories to be just as good as other fantasy sagas like Star Wars and The Lord Of The Rings yet they seem to be relatively unknown by comparison.
I am a big listener of audio-books and have been wondering and hoping for ages now - do you have any plans to release unabridged audio versions of the Duncton books for purchase on sites like Audible.com? There is a small selection of your books there but sadly no Duncton saga or Stonor Eagles and even your most recent works Hydden World are only available in another language. Please, please, please consider audio versions!
Also, any plans to make them into full-length films? Preferably not Hollywood or Illuminati-tainted productions. You could bring back practical effects and maybe use traditional Jim Henson-animatronics to create the moles rather than CGI. Would be really awesome!
Thanks for the Duncton saga and your other books - I look forward to seeing these powerful works reach a wider audience.:)

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Hello Haydn - absolutely, I'm a huge fan of audio books myself and this is very much on the cards. The reason they've not been done so far is because I held back all rights after 2000 and only now do I feel the technology works in terms of direct reach (like this) between reader and author, which is what story-telling is surely all about. I'll get back when I have more news. Regarding films: there was talk of it years ago but Hollywood felt that moles were not so cute as woolly mammoths and Squirrels (think Ice Age!) Maybe time to fly back to California, if only someone will pay my first class fare again! Audio is more likely...

Charles Nuttall
Charles Nuttall asked:

I have enjoyed reading and re-reading all of your work, William, but for me The Stonor Eagles remains your masterpiece - I have been striving for true flight all my life. What are your plans for this book?

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Charles - in many ways The Stonor Eagles was a precursor of my fictionalized memoir The Boy with No Shoes, which couldn't have been written without Stonor. Both are very close to my heart, so thank you for the question. Thank you too for the pledge towards Duncton Wood de Luxe which I'm thrilled so many are already supporting. It's very much on the cards that with the success of this project and with more of the Duncton books on the way, that the Stonor Eagles will fly once more. James, a previous questioner here, raised the issue of audio books for my titles. I think Stonor would work well in that format too. So everything is very possible now. Of course Stonor has a human element and I need to check the extent that has dated, if at all, since publication in the mid-Eighties. I'll keep you informed! William

Patrick Griffin
Patrick Griffin asked:

Dear Mr. Horwood,
I am absolutely thrilled to hear that 'Duncton Wood' is to be republished in these special editions.
I still have the original paperback edition with that gorgeous front cover artwork. It is a book which really impacted on me and my own writing.

Of course I have also enjoyed your other works tremendously.
My question : would you ever consider writing an instructional book for writers, or consider an online writing course?
May I wish you continued success with your writing career.
Best wishes,
Patrick Griffin,
Kilkenny,
Ireland.

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Hi Patrick
Good question and one I have considered. I am offering a Masterclass as one of the rewards with the new Duncton Wood and that will provide a really productive group opportunity for those who take it up. A real chance to move your writing forward. But you raise the issue of an online course and very tempting that is to offer. I tutored two different class-based courses for Oxford University for several years, something I hugely enjoyed being an interactive, lets-have-fun and results-orientated kind of teacher. But there are a lot of online courses out there now to suit all pockets, different writing abilities and experience and time available, so it's a crowded market. So for now it's the Masterclass with Unbound or the occasional literary festival gig where 'how to write and get published' inevitably comes up.

Anne-Marie Stone
Anne-Marie Stone asked:

I can't tell you how thrilled I am that you are republishing your books and I have no doubt that they will be enjoyed by a whole new generation. When I first read your Duncton books they remained permanently in my memory and heart which is something that can't be said of many books. They are up there with the classics. I also loved The Stonor Eagles and The Wolves of Time.
I am truly celebrating the Duncton comeback!

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Hello Anne-Marie - thank you for writing. It's one of the pleasures and rewards of an author's life to hear from readers in the way you've written and to know that the stories we write reach into the hearts of minds of those who pick up our books and start turning the pages. You mention several of my titles. I love them all in different ways but, of course, my first novel (which Duncton Wood was) has a special place in my heart. I am as thrilled as you are that's it's to be published anew.

Anne-Marie Stone
Anne-Marie Stone asked:

Hi William
I am thrilled you are re-publishing the Duncton Chronicles and I am certain they will be enjoyed by another generation. Those stories left a permanent imprint in my memory and heart. They are classics and there are few books that have that kind of profound and long-lasting effect
I am truly celebrating their return!
Thank you

Anne-Marie Stone

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Hello Anne-Marie - thank you for writing. It is one of the pleasures and rewards of an author's life to hear from readers in the way you've written and to know that the stories we write reach into the hearts of minds of those who pick up our books and start turning the pages. You mention several of my titles. I love them all in different ways but, of course, my first novel (which Duncton Wood was) has a special place in my heart. I am as thrilled as you are that's it's to be published anew.

Robert Acworth
Robert Acworth asked:

Dear William,
Thank for your range of would which has always exerted an influence on me, knowingly or unknowingly. I have a spaniel named Whillan whose father was Rooster. I have been where Arthur lived so long and his courage gave me strength and courage and I emerged a wiser and better man. I've flown Hawks and Falcons and if I ever have one to fly free her name will be Cuillin. I've taught for 30 years and regularly give my students either Skallagrigg or Callanish. In certain circumstances The Boy with no shoes has been perfect and has led to healing and hope for at least 3 individuals.

So my question is not really a question. In the same way that Skallagrigg on a classroom board was not, and yet was, a question. Your works seem to be as layered as any ancient myths have layers. If I were to write the myth 'Christmas' on the board, where would that take you?

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Dear Robert
I know that your last sentence is rhetorical but let me take it as your question, Christmas being almost upon us and it bringing up so much that is past, present and future. I have already answered it through my book the Willows at Christmas which is about what I feel to be the joyful sense of community that can (but does not always, in fact often does not) exist at this time of year among family and friends; and also about reunion and resolution. I wrote tmy story very much with Dickens' A Christmas Carol in mind, it being one of my favorites. Many other writers and creatives have followed a similar path, for example Dr Seuss' The Grinch, of which the film is regular Christmas watching for me. What does it bring up? Well, some sadness and regret at mistakes made in the past, occasional unkindness by me, lack of generosity of spirit too... but all the positives as well and finally simple gratitude for being able to celebrate life and love itself. You'll find lot of that in Duncton Wood as well, where Christmas is called Longest Night (Dec 21st more or less) and my characters get together in communities large and small, but always inclusivly and with goodwill. Thank you for the question!

Anne-Marie Stone
Anne-Marie Stone asked:

It's Duncton Wood that holds a very special place in my heart too! The reason I bought all the others.

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Anne-Marie - I suppose, when I think of it, that all the books hang together with an over-arching and positive view of life.

Rebecca Williams
Rebecca Williams asked:

I love your books and still have my copies of the Duncton Chronicles and Hyddenworld. I would love to pledge towards a Special Edition and am leaning towards the Leather Bound. In regards to this I would like to know if it will be just plain leather with the title embossed or will it have a pictorial sculpted image? Thank you :)

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Hi Rebecca - I'm delighted to hear from you and thank you for the question. I've been away for a couple of days (pre-Christmas family visits!!) so please forgive me for being slow to reply. The plans for the leather Bound edition have not been fully developed yet so let me get back to you about this, but I have a feeling we're talking a pictorial sculpted image related to other art-work around the project. Should be good! I'll be in touch the moment I know. Best wishes, William

Sonya Hadari
Sonya Hadari asked:

Hello,

I first wrote to you when I was ten - and for many years cherished you lovely, long, non-patronising reply, though sadly I can't now find my boxes of correspondence from my childhood and teen years. Even my old hardback copies of your books, many of them signed and all of them re-read at important, transitional times of my life - curling up hiding from the outside world with Quest is one of my enduring memories of an extremely hard pregnancy - were a casualty of one of my many, many moves. So, having had a long trek around second hand shops to try to find a copy of Duncton Wood for my daughter's 11th birthday, I'm really glad you're re-publishing!

I'd also really like to pledge and come to the writing Masterclass. Can I ask a practical question, though: whether you are flexible in terms of the day of the week? I'm a sabbath-observant Jew, so wouldn't be able to attend on a Saturday (or Friday in Winter) and would need time to travel down from the wilds of Yorkshire(!) if it were on a Sunday. Could we work with that, or would that impinge on other attendees who might work weekdays?

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Hello Sonya - thank you so much for being in touch again after so long. I love the contact and interaction such Masterclasses (well, mine anyway!) bring and it will be wonderful if you are able to come to the Masterclass. I'm very glad you've raised this question now so that we can include that important consideration when we plan the event. Meanwhile my suggestion is that you pledge in that way so your place is safely booked but on the clear understanding by us that if the day or date isn't absolutely right for you then you'll be full refunded. Hope that makes sense!! Best wishes, William

Sonya Hadari
Sonya Hadari asked:

Hello, I'm not sure how this works. I thought I posted a question last Friday, but it's not appeared - maybe that means it's just pending until you answer it, or maybe I managed to send it into the ether, somehow... Anyhow, in case it's vanished, the question was simply whether you had a fixed time in mind for the writing masterclass. In brief, weekdays would be much better for me than weekends in general - and Saturdays are impossible. Does that create a problem if I pledge for that reward?

Glad you've made the decision to republish, btw - the Duncton Chronicles hold a very special place in my memory and in who I am, both as a woman and as a writer.

William Horwood
William Horwood replied:

Hi Sonya - slight hiccup there I think in terms of your question appearing - maybe because I've been away from my office on a slightly complex family visit and emails have crossed! Anyway, reply now safely sent to the first version of your question!! William

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