I was fortunate enough to come in contact with a wonderful man named Allan Cornwell in 2006, when I was looking for someone to publish my first children's book, Quizzical. He was a graphic designer who lived on the Mornington Peninsula at the time, who had published his own books, as well as books for other people. He came highly recommended, and was the starting point of my continuing journey as an author.
Allan asked me to email my Quizzical manuscript to him, which I did, and he contacted me a short time later to say he would love to work with me. I had read lots of things, warning would-be authors to take great care when they were thinking of self-publishing, because there were a few sub-standard operators around. But from the start I felt comfortable with Allan, and working with him on my project felt very right. So we proceeded. And the very first thing he suggested was that the book be edited.
I'd never thought much about editing. I'd always been good at English, so I'd always edit my chapters until they were at a standard I was happy with, and although I'd considered that unbiased editing might be a good idea, I thought I'd have to try to find someone to do it, which, at the time, seemed too much like hard work. After all, I was so new to all this. Who would I get that was reputable? And how would I know if they were the best person to look at my book without ripping me off? And then Allan suggested it. And, once again, I put my faith in him. If I was going to have a self-published book 'out there', competing against top-quality books produced by commercial publishers, I wanted my book to be the best it could be, so it could deservedly sit up on bookshop shelves next to those other books.
Fortunately, Allan had a particular editor in mind, who just so happened to have a 'mini break in her schedule'. Her name was Nan McNab. As I've previously mentioned, I was so new to all this, and had no idea who Nan was. Editors always work behind the scenes, so it's very rare to know them publicly. Allan mentioned that she worked for some of the bigger publishers: Penguin, Pan McMillan, and The Five Mile Press, so that was good enough for me!
Nan was such a blessing; a brilliant editor, who has worked with me on all my books, both when I self-published, and then when The Five Mile Press took over. And during that time, she has become a wonderful friend.
But, back to Allan! At the outset, he provided me with costings for every stage of the book process, and informed me of extra's that might come up along the way, i.e. foil on the book cover, illustrations, editing, etc., but he always let me know before proceeding, so I knew exactly where things stood. He organised everything for me, from the type of paper used, font type, illustrations, and cover, to getting the books printed and delivered to the distributor. But he always ran everything by me first, to get my approval before continuing on. He was remarkable, really, and made things so easy for me. Quizzical went on to be the joint winner of the 2006 Best Self-Published Book Award for Fiction, which was due largely to Allan. The award was not only about the story, which had to be well-written and appealing to children, but also about the quality of the product, which, I have to say was exceptional, and something I'm very proud of.
The thing I regret most is, Allan and I never met. Apart from the odd phone call, everything to do with my books was done by that fantastic electronic medium known as email. I remember one time, back in 2006, I needed to ask Allan something, but then remembered he'd emailed me to tell me he'd be away for a short time up north as he was travelling around the Queensland islands with his wife, Marianne, on their boat. I remember thinking: how lucky is he? And now, four years later, he is not here, having passed away last Saturday evening, the 15th May, from cancer.
Through my dealings with Alan in the past few months, if I hadn't been told he was ill, I would never have known. Not once did he complain, or talk about his illness. He was just a lovely, thoughtful and generous man, and so good at what he did. I will always be grateful to him for all his help and advice, his enthusiasm, and his unwavering faith in me. The world is a lesser place because you're not in it, Allan. Rest in peace.