As a child, Tim O’Rourke struggled with reading and writing. He was in the bottom sets at school and failed his 11+ exams. "Letters made very little sense to me at that age and I remember being referred to as the ‘plasticine kid’, as I would make models to express my ideas rather than writing them down," he remembers. Nowadays, teachers would probably recognise this as dyslexia and provide additional help at school, but he was never tested and was still behind his peers when he started secondary school.
It was only on a family holiday that a 14-year-old Tim was given his first book. His younger brother asked for something to read on the journey and Tim didn’t want to be left out. It was a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book. The combination of the short chapters, exciting story and being able to play it like a game was the beginning of the breakthrough that Tim sorely needed.
"It took me most of the holiday to read and when it was finished I kept buying them until my reading improved," he recalls. It was then only a matter of time before he started writing down the stories that had been going around and around in his head rather than building them out of plasticine.
She said ‘What’s the point in writing if you’re never going to share your stories with anyone?’
Tim went on to pass his O-Levels, A-Levels and gain a Higher National Diploma (HND), a fantastic achievement given his earlier struggles. He married his childhood sweetheart and started a family relatively young, joining the police to support them. "I worked as a Police Officer for 15 years and loved it," Tim says, "but I was always writing in the background; silly tales and rhymes for the kids, as well as longer stories that were based on my experience in my job."
Stories under the stairs
When Tim’s wife, Linda, became pregnant with their third child, she was clearing out the house in preparation for the new baby when she found all of Tim’s drafts in boxes under the stairs. "She was the one who pushed me to send off my stories to agents to see if I could get them published," Tim explains, "She said ‘What’s the point in writing if you’re never going to share your stories with anyone?’" However, despite his best efforts, the only responses he received were rejections.
"My confidence was knocked again, but for my birthday, in February 2011, Linda gave me a Kindle and I realised that it was possible to self-publish using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)," Tim says. "It was really easy to do. When I published my first book a month later, I told myself I would be happy if 50 people bought a copy, because that would be 50 readers I’d shared my story with."
But to Tim’s surprise and delight, his books started to sell in their thousands and by the following January, sales were in the tens of thousands. It was at this point that he realised he had a chance to really make it as a writer, so he paid for professional editing and cover designs and put in a lot of time promoting his books on social media and his website. He published his books in print with Createspace and used the Audio Creation Exchange (ACX) to make them available on Audible, Amazon’s service for audio books.
He has also paid for some of the books to be translated into French and German, finding more new readers around the world. "I sold more books than I could ever have imagined and within a year I was walking away from my career as a Police Sergeant to focus solely on my new career as a writer," Tim says joyfully.
The police officer who became a full-time writer
Tim has now published over 30 novels and has sold over half a million books in the various formats, including his Kiera Hudson series, which features a new police recruit sent to a remote town where the night staff are all vampires, and the Black Hill Farm series, written in the form of a number of police interviews. Both of these series are published on KDP but Tim has also sold two of his other series to traditional publishers.
"Publishing with Amazon has changed my life," says Tim. "I thought I’d be retiring as a police officer in my 60s, but I’m now writing full time and earning more than I ever did in the force. I even speak at literary events, sharing my own story with other aspiring authors. My message is, if you have an idea you want to share there’s nothing stopping you."