Meeting writers on the page since 1996

Close this search box.
Close this search box.

TLC Pen Factor Winner & Mentee Johnny Gaunt Secures Agent

Johnny Gaunt

We’re delighted for 2022 TLC Pen Factor Writing Competition Winner Johnny Gaunt, who has secured agent representation for his debut literary horror novel OFFCUMDEN, with Liv Maidment at Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. After wowing the judges at the competition two years ago, Johnny got to work on further developing the manuscript, undertaking Mentoring with TLC Mentor Ray Robinson, and having a final manuscript assessment with Tom Witcomb. We’ve loved working with Johnny and are excited to see how his writing career progresses.

Offcumden is set in South Yorkshire in 1984 and follows 13-year-old Chrissy-boy, as he goes searching for his missing dog, mainly to escape his council house home where something quite terrifying is happening to his sister, Sadie, locked in her bedroom for reasons he can’t fully understand. In a community torn apart by change, what evil can find it’s way through the cracks?

We talked to Johnny about his next steps, how it feels to get an agent after so much hard editorial work, and how TLC played a part in his success so far:

TLC: How does it feel to be represented by an agent like Liv?

Johnny Gaunt: To be represented by an agent of Liv’s calibre is an incredible feeling — excitement, tinged with something close to relief. Just a few days after querying agents, I started getting requests for the full manuscript. By the end of the week, I had four offers of representation on the table and a fifth agent really interested and halfway through the read. It’s always difficult letting people down, especially when they clearly love your work, but after only a few minutes of meeting Liv I knew she was the perfect fit for Offcumden, and for me as a writer. I’ve been blown away by the level of care and ambition of the whole agency, and Liv and I have already begun preparing the manuscript for submission to editors and hope to have everything ready in the next couple of months.

TLC: How have you found the writing and editing journey with the book so far?

JG: My journey has been a little unusual as the first draft was mainly written whilst working through a few different programs. Offcumden began in the workshops of a Creative Writing MA (2020-22) and then developed into my dissertation piece, working with Andrew Michael Hurley on those early chapters. Then in 2022 it won the TLC Pen Factor Writing Competition (without doubt, this was a major turning point for me and the book) and I got to spend a year working with the brilliant Ray Robinson. Editing, though, has been a much more solitary process. I finally let a few good friends read the full manuscript at the start of this year and their feedback was very encouraging. When Tom Witcomb (TLC reader) came back to me in March, and his report was so glowing, this represented another milestone for me and the book. But there’s no denying it, at times editing your own work can be hard — brutal, even — and I had to go at it little by little and keep telling myself that every line clipped or changed or left alone was progress. You do get there… eventually.

TLC: What are you most excited about as you look to send the book out into the world?

JG: Money and fame. Ha! I’m really hoping to meet with potential editors and getting to know their thoughts and perspectives on the manuscript. It’s important to me to work with an editor where there’s an honest and open exchange of ideas and I have found creative collaboration to be such an enjoyable part of the process so far. I’m always trying not to get too far ahead of myself, but obviously there’s the scenario of walking into the bookshop with my wife and kids and seeing Offcumden out on display. You know, the usual dream every debut writer has. 

TLC: How has TLC helped on your writing journey? 

JG: I’m 100% sure that without TLC I wouldn’t be at this stage of my writing. The Chapter & Verse program — and Ray [Robinson]’s mentorship — got me through so many vital sections of the first draft. And it was completing that first draft — and Tom [Witcomb]’s perceptive and positive report — that really strengthened my resolve and finally exorcised a few of my most persistent and long-standing imposter voices (everyone has them). I can still remember the feeling of typing THE END, then emailing Ray to tell him and getting his hugely encouraging response. And yes, I recommend anyone reading this who is nearing the finish line to type those two words in block capitals on that final page. Then sit back and let the feeling sink in — you did it!

You can read more about Johnny’s 2022 TLC Pen Factor Writing Competition win here.

You can follow Johnny on Twitter/X here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *