Writing about football is a passion of mine. I first started in 2015, to vent about my team, whose chairman was running them into the ground at a time where there was so much room to challenge. Over the next several years I went from writing my own blog, to writing for an e-magazine, to hopping on board with The Football Pink before joining the team at Heart of Football. Throughout this time, I have lived and breathed football; playing it, watching it and writing about it. While I have loved writing articles about football, I have always harboured an ambition to one day write a book about the game that I love so much. Very recently I have been noodling over an idea but that brought about a pretty big question which had stumped me for quite some time… How do you write a book?
‘How do you write a book’ may actually be a poor way of phrasing it. There are countless ways. A plethora of styles and systems. Some people just write, write, write and let the editing sculpt the text. Others prefer to plan every detail until the body of work presents itself. What I really mean when I say ‘how do you write a book?’ is, how do you get your book published?
As it happens, Heart of Football writer Ross Kilvington has recently begun the process. He is currently writing and researching his debut book ‘All Roads Lead To Paris’ which is billed as the inside story to the 1998 FIFA World Cup. As soon as the book is published all the attention will, quite rightly, be on the contents. I decided to speak to Ross and ask him how he took the brave step to transition from an article writer to a bona fide author.
How did you get into football writing in general?
I have always wanted to write but never had the confidence to sit down and just start typing. I always classed myself as a fairly solid academic writer having finished a master’s degree, but when it came to writing in a more creative style, I always doubted myself. After I read Steven Scragg’s a Tournament Frozen in Time, I messaged him saying how much I loved the book and about how I would love to write but never had much confidence, and he told me to just sit down with a topic in your head and type and here I am almost three years later!
Where did the book idea come from?
Like the vast majority of writers, the ultimate goal is to write a book and even before writing became more than a hobby it was something that was on my bucket list. Having noticed Matt Evans writing a book on the 1994 World Cup, and a few other books similar about various tournaments, the idea popped into my head.
Tell us a little about your love affair with France ‘98
France ’98 was, and still is, the greatest World Cup ever (of course I’m going to say that!). It was the first one I remember watching and, to be honest, it was the first time I had truly been captivated by the sport. I had seen matches on tele beforehand but I had never really paid attention to them. The image of me rushing home from school and sitting next to my dad (who was home suspiciously early) to watch Scotland take on the might of Brazil still feels like yesterday.
You had the passion and you had the idea, what finally made you take the plunge?
I honestly can’t recall how long I had the idea floating about my head, maybe six months or so. I think during the pandemic I had more time to think and work out if I could write a book and it was around January last year that I spoke to a few people for advice regarding the whole book submission protocols that I finally thought “why not?”
I’m sure every aspiring football writer has desired to write a book at some point, you’re making this dream a reality. Can you tell us more about the process?
Having read a fair few books from authors who had published via Pitch, to me it was the only logical answer. I knew they would like the topic and it was a case of submitting my book idea with a few other different things and patiently wait. Paul, from the publishers, emailed me the following day with a response which pretty much took me off guard and it got the ball rolling, so to speak. It was a far more comfortable process than I was anticipating.
How did things go once the publishers gave your idea the green light?
It was fairly straightforward. They basically asked if I could capture the mood and feelings of that tournament by getting the views and memories of those who were there to tell the inside story of France ’98. This sounded daunting at first, and still does to be honest! I didn’t need an agent or to negotiate anything. This is my first book, and I am keen to basically just write it and then let the publishers do what they do best and manage everything else. Pitch is the ideal place for first time authors.
What does the timeline for this book look like?
Initially, my ultimate aim was to have it finished by January 2023 and then published in July 2023, however things are working out slower than anticipated due to a variety of reasons. I have recently started a new job and family commitments obviously come first, but I am always working on it in some capacity. Pitch are great in making clear that it’s my book so it’s up to me when I want the submission date, which takes the pressure off.
The JK Rowlings and Stephen Kings of the world do this for a living, how do you find the time to write a book alongside a job and raising a family?
It can be difficult. As mentioned, I have recently started a new role, freelancing for a media company, so a lot of my day involves writing articles for them and sometimes at the end of the day I don’t have the thought process to jump back on the laptop and write for another couple of hours. Obviously having family commitments makes it harder but I keep telling myself that it is a hobby and not to get too uptight if I haven’t written much. My wife is pregnant so hopefully I can get a fair chunk done on paternity leave!!
What are your aims for the book?
I would love people who I admire in the writing world to read it and enjoy it, that to me is more important than making money. Obviously, that would be nice too but peer recognition boosts confidence and can inspire me. Luckily, I have interviewed a couple of key protagonists from the tournament, Craig Brown and Barry Davies to name a few, and I have some more to come in the next few months if all works out.
Finally, why are you writing this book?
I want to tell the inside story of the greatest World Cup there has ever been, from another Scotland group stage exit to the ‘Reggae Boyz’ journey to their first World Cup; South Africa’s first appearance at the biggest competition of all following the end of apartheid to Croatia’s fantastic debut. There are so many subplots in the tournament and I want to speak to people who were there, if I can, to tell some stories that hopefully haven’t been told elsewhere.