The best-selling Lancashire businessman-turned-author who started writing because of a bet
Chris Kerr grew up loving literature, immersing himself in fictional worlds and losing himself in the stories. “When I was in my formative years, my parents travelled a lot, so making relationships and feeling grounded at school was pretty difficult,” he says. “I took refuge in books, so I think Enid Blyton has a lot to answer for!
“I spent a huge amount of time reading and lost myself in this wonderful imaginative world out of which grew an urge to write myself,” he adds. “I didn’t pursue it, though.”
Instead, Chris embarked on more entrepreneurial pursuits, starting and running a variety of businesses across the North West and eventually being named president of the Central & West Lancashire Chamber of Commerce. But, all the while, he never lost that deep love of language and narrative, seeking creative refuge in work such as copywriting and marketing.
“The creative side of life always appealed to me, though - even in business, I wrote where I could,” explains Chris, who is from Blackpool and who attended Rossall School in Fleetwood. “When I was running a management consultancy, I’d write articles to help other businesses and enjoyed internet promotion work because it was, in a sense, creative.
“But, ultimately, it never completely fulfilled me,” he continues. “I always had a desire to write a novel, but my entrepreneurial career left it in the shade because I put everything into my businesses. I always felt that I never had the time to pursue the dream of writing a novel and, in fact, the actual impetus came from a bet!
“I was speaking to a friend one night, and she said ‘I tell you what, Mr Author, write me the start of a novel between now and the morning and email it to me - I bet you don’t do it’,” Chris, 67, says. “So I did and, the following morning, she rang me back and said ‘oh my God, that’s brilliant’. That actual email became the prologue to my debut novel.
“It gave me the foundation to write the novel itself - as soon as I had that, the floodgates opened. I just needed a trigger.”
Emboldened, Chris decided to finally commit to the lifelong ambition of writing which had always bubbled away on the hob of his life. He was finally tapping into a resource he had only tentatively explored in the past and immediately found himself falling in love with every single element of flexing his linguistic muscles with relish.
“Actually writing a book has exceeded everything I thought it would be,” says Chris, whose debut novel The Covenant - a love story spanning decades of contemporary and historical real-life events and posing many a poignant life question - was released in 2021. “But it was an incredible challenge to begin with.
“Looking at a blank sheet of paper or computer screen, you think ‘how?’” Chris explains. “You write a few hundred words and then realise that a novel is about 70,000 words, which leaves you wondering how on Earth you’re going to do it! The amazing thing is that my debut novel ended up being too long and my subsequent novel was even longer than that!
“Before, I held back from embracing the challenge - I remember making up stories for my children when they were growing up, which all started when we went away on holiday and I forgot to take the book we were reading. My wife, bless her, who passed away in 2015, said ‘you’ve got to write these down, they’re incredible - don’t let them go.’
“I think the thing which held me back was the step between pursuing a dream and the pragmatism of life: to pursue the dream takes courage, but facing the demands of life is something we all have to do,” Chris continues. “We all have to take steps to make our mark, and that overcomes the idealism of writing a book. Thank goodness I’ve turned that around.
“Writing is my passion and it’s completely taken over my life.”
And there’s been no shortage of success, too. Chris’ second novel, published earlier this year, has seen him rocket from amateur writer to Waterstones best-seller. Titled The Barbarossa Secret, it’s a manifestation of Chris’ interest in human drama fiction set against real-life historical and political events.
Stretching from WW2 to the present day, the book’s plot explores the scurrilous blockbuster conspiracies which pockmark history. Detailing a journalist’s search to uncover the truth of the war’s hidden episodes, a precarious secret pact between the Axis and the Allies, the very foundations upon which 20th and 21st century western civilisation is built are shaken.
Employing a rigorous dedication to delving into the annals of history when researching his books, Chris says that, while writing the book was something of a ‘labour of love’, the principal interest which kept him going was the concept of motivation behind action and exploring how emotion, weaknesses, desires, and aspirations colour now-infamous events.
“I’m finally living the dream, which is all about doing what I enjoy doing,” Chris says. “I get up in the morning and look forward to my day instead of stressing about pressure and worrying about profit on a balance sheet. I’m living life like a child - in my imagination. And to then see the book do well is extraordinarily humbling.
“Sometimes I’m asked to read excerpts and it’s almost like somebody else has written it,” he adds. “I suppose I have a feeling of pride in what I’ve achieved, but I’m more concerned with knowing my readers are intrigued and enjoying the books. The feedback I get is very rewarding; it’s like when an artist’s exhibition opens and they realise people like the work.
“There was always a hunger there to write, but that gives me an added incentive. It spurs you on, but it’s also humbling because you think ‘could I have created that reaction?’ I always had belief, but the publishing industry is tough. You get rejections, are left exposed after putting enormous amounts of effort in, and sometimes don’t even get an answer.
“You just have to hope whilst questioning your own ability and wondering ‘is my work good enough?’ So getting fantastic feedback from readers and critics is outstanding.”
From his home in a small rural village in North Wales, Chris is currently working on his third novel, a book titled Fission - ‘if you think Barbarossa is controversial, you ain’t seen nothing yet!’ he says, chuckling. In the meantime, he’s content with his lot exploring the surrounding countryside, visiting historical sites, and travelling during his spare time.
“I consider myself very much the maverick outsider and to see The Barbarossa Secret perform so well has been an incredible journey,” Chris says. “I hope that budding authors that struggle to see a path to success are able to take inspiration from my story because it delights me to see my book connect with audiences worldwide.
“I hope that it serves as testament that this path is possible for other independent writers.”
For more information on Chris and his books, head to https://christopher-kerr.co.uk/