I first read my grandfather’s novel when I was a teenager, devouring its pages over the summer holiday before beginning my A-level studies. I simply couldn’t put it down - the characters sprang to life in my mind’s eye, and the plot had me hooked from beginning to end. I knew then that The Cypress Branches was a special book which deserved to be read by a wide audience, and I desperately wanted to tell my friends to go out and buy it.
The problem was, I couldn’t. I had read an unpublished manuscript, the only hard copy in existence.
The few friends and family members who had had the privilege of reading the manuscript poured pressure on William to send the book to publishers and try to get a deal. And for a while, he did try, but as an unknown name with no previous experience of the industry, his efforts came to nothing, with the usual soul-destroying rejection letters the only record of his attempts.
I decided to take matters into my own hands when I saw my grandfather becoming progressively ill from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. It was heartbreaking to watch a man who had achieved so much in his life slowly becoming a shadow of his former self.
I wanted to see the book in print, but more than that, I wanted William to see it himself, before his illness took hold - while it would still mean something to him. So, in 2008, I began looking into the possibility of publishing his book myself.
I spent a year studying the art of copy-editing and proofreading and utilised my existing creative skills, as well as those of friends and family, to produce a beautiful book that William would be proud of. I found a printing company who were willing to produce 108 copies, and in the summer of 2009, four generations of the Thomas family gathered - including his eldest son all the way from Canada, and eldest daughter flying in from the UAE. It was an incredible day, and one which I’m sure left an indelible print on William’s now rapidly failing memory.
The books were sold to family and close friends, and that's where I thought the journey would end. But feedback from readers was incredibly positive. It turned out I wasn't the only one who loved reading William's books!
When people started suggesting that a paperback should be produced, and I noticed the ebook market was opening up, my attention soon turned to adapting the novel to make it more appealing to a wider audience.
Since 2009, I have been working hard to turn William's panoramic work into a series of shorter novels, transforming it into a trilogy whilst retaining the integrity of William's original concept and vision. After more years of hard graft, Pegasus Falling, part one of the trilogy, was released in 2012 as a paperback and ebook, with the follow up, It Never Was You, released a year later. Work has now turned to readying the final instalment in the trilogy for release in 2014.
Sadly, William is unable to take part in this project because of his illness, but as a family, we have tried to keep him involved and informed as much as possible. He finds it very difficult to communicate, but loves hearing about the books, and having them read to him.
With more and more people discovering the Cypress Branches, I would love to hear from readers, whether you have read the books or not. So if you have any questions, if you are a journalist or blogger interested in featuring William's work or his story, or you'd like to find out more information or simply have a chat, please drop me a line via the contact us page.
You can keep up to date with developments and can find out more by visiting the blog.
Acute Angle Books was set up in 2009 by Mike Harris to publish The Cypress Branches, an epic novel written by his grandfather, William Thomas. Here, he tells the story of how the project came about, what has happened so far, and what is to come in the future...