Plymouth teacher and author Andrew Beasley begins The Battles of Ben Kingdom
A CITY teacher was a Miss not a Sir when he wrote for women's magazines – now he's beside himself after getting a book deal.
The first of Andrew Beasley's series of children's novels is released this month.
His Victorian-London-set The Battles of Ben Kingdom adventures are hailed as "brilliantly imagined" by award-winning publishers Usborne.
Andrew, 43, at one stage wrote as Violet St Claire to get stories into magazines for women.
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"Having worked for this all my life, the book deal is the most incredible thing," the Stoke Damerel Primary teacher said.
"The children are really, really excited for me. It's lovely to be a little celebrity in my own school."
The hero of The Battles Of Ben Kingdom: The Claws Of Evil is a cocky street urchin.
Below the streets are the Legion, evil criminals in league with the monstrous Feathered Men, determined to unleash hell on London.
Above the rooftops soar the Watchers, "a band of orphans, mystics and spies", dedicated to doing good.
When a mysterious coin falls into his hands, Ben has the fate of the world on his shoulders. But which side will he choose?
Andrew was inspired by Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – who briefly lived in Plymouth – and true stories of the work of Dr Thomas John Barnardo, the 19th-century pioneer of care for vulnerable children.
"I read a lot of Victorian history to get the foundation right," said Andrew. "That has to be believable. You have to have a grounding in reality."
Ben also has a base in truth: he is named after Andrew's son.
But the lad and his sister Lucy are too young to enjoy the books, which are targeted at children aged ten-plus.
Andrew trained as a lawyer but decided he was more suited to teaching so switched careers.
He is married to Julie, who works in occupational therapy. They live in Callington.
Andrew, 43, tried several different avenues, including scripts for BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who, and four novels, before his success.
"If I got straight rejections I would have given up," he said. "Publishers kept saying 'we love what you write, but it's not quite together' which encouraged me to keep trying."
He is delighted to have made the breakthrough into children's literature – and grateful to his bosses for giving him a break during term time to promote the book on a South West tour.
"You can't have better readers than children," said Andrew, whose promotional round took in four city schools including his own school and St Paul's Roman Catholic Primary before last Friday's launch.
"They completely inhabit your world. They explore your imagination in ways that you could never have thought of.
"I am very fortunate that my school's governors have allowed me the time off."
The second in the three-book series, feast Of Ravens, is due out in September from Usborne, the current Children's Publisher of the Year.
"I won't talk about the money for the deal," said Andrew. "I won't be giving up the day job, but it has opened up new doors and new possibilities."
The Battles of Ben Kingdom: The Claws Of Evil is published by Usborne at £6.99