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28 October 2014

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Stuart Hill, author
On the cusp of stardom? Stuart Hill.

Truth is stranger than fiction

Annie O'Brian
A Leicester man who left school with no formal qualifications at the age of 16, and has been a car upholsterer and book seller, is set to become an international bestseller with his first novel, Cry of the Icemark.

Stuart Hill

Age: 46 (born in 1958)

Born:  Woodgate, Leicester

Beaumont Leys Secondary Modern School, Leicester.  He failed his 11+ and left at 16 without any formal qualifications.  Worked for a bit....then Charles Keene College, Leicester.   Studied English, Classics, Ancient History.

Car trimmer (before college).  English teacher for six years in Greece. 1994 - 2004: selling books in a large bookshop in Leicester.

His inspirational teacher:
Miss York, now in her 70s and retired.  Writes historical novels for Harlequin/Mills & Boon under the pen names of Joanna Makepeace and Margaret Abbey, and is a passionate supporter of the Richard III Society.

The Cry of the Icemark is a personal tribute to two people who had a remarkable effect on Hill's early life. 

Kathleen and Stuart Hill on the beach
Stuart with Kathleen, his inspiration

First, to his red-haired, green-eyed older sister, Kathleen, who succumbed to leukaemia at the age of eighteen, when Stuart was in his early teens.   Thirrin, the book's central character, is based on her physical appearance, determination and spirit.

Second, to Miss Margaret York, head of English and Drama at Beaumont Leys School, who instilled in him a love of great drama and reading from an early age.  She could, recalls Hill, "reduce a classroom of complete thugs to silence with just a look and then inspire us to read great literature".

Cover of The Cry of the Icemark
The cover of Stuart's new book

Bidding for Stuart Hill's debut novel at the Frankfurt Book Fair was described by Chicken House publisher, Barry Cunningham, as "frenzied".   Bids, many of them blind, were received from over 20 European countries, with strong interest from as far afield as China, Russia and Japan.   The Cry of the Icemark has already been bought by Scholastic (J.K. Rowling's publishers) in the USA and a film rights deal is in discussion with New Line Cinema (Oscar-winning makers of Lord of the Rings).  The novel will be published in the UK next January.

Stuart Hill, the novel's author, rang independent publisher Barry Cunningham, whose previous discoveries have included J.K. Rowling and the current New York Times bestseller Cornelia Funke, to see if he might have a look at his manuscript. 

Cunningham, who runs the Somerset-based publisher, Chicken House, snapped it up, describing The Cry of the Icemark as "a glorious, sweeping debut".  Stuart Hill has, he says, "a storyteller's ability to capture the young reader with an imaginary world that becomes absolutely real".

The book is published on 3 January 2005.

last updated: 15/10/04
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