If advances accurately reflect the quality of books, the English-born, Edmonton-raised Matthew Skelton is the best kidlit writer you’ve never heard of – yet. After his story “The Man Who Did Not Dream” was chosen as one of the winners of a Richard and Judy short-story competition in 2002, Skelton quit his day job as a research assistant and devoted himself to writing. According to various sources, including the National Post, Skelton lived on £12 per week while he wrote Endymion Spring, whose plot is centred around a magic book and takes place both in present-day England and in 15th-century Mainz, the German hometown of Gutenberg. The rights to the book (and its yet to be written follow-up) sparked a U.K. bidding war that was eventually won by Puffin Books for an undisclosed sum in the six-figure range. Says Puffin fiction publisher Rebecca McNally in the Post, “It is the most money I personally have ever spent on a book. It’s not the most we’ve ever spent. But it’s close…. [Skelton]’s a great story-teller, with many, many more stories to tell after this one.”
But what’s most interesting to In Other Media was the angle taken by many of the publications covering Skelton’s book, laid bare by the Post‘s headline for the story: “Penniless Alberta author lands fantasy book deal.” Call us cynics, but we can’t help but notice how certain parts of Skelton’s story – the enormous advance he received for a fantasy novel that’s just waiting to be YA’s next big thing and, more importantly, his underplayed middle-class background and overemphasized recent poverty – seem strangely reminiscent of the biography of a university-educated, former short-term welfare-mom cum multimillionaire named J.K. Rowling.