Huge congratulations to Toby for being shortlisted for the NEW WRITER OF THE YEAR in the British Sports Book Awards 2015.
For those of you who don’t already know Toby, he was a member of a Junior British Event Team in 1979; Chef d’Equipe of the British Pony Three Day Event Team from 1991-1997; was Deputy Team Manager and Press Spokesman of the British Equestrian Team at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games; and was Director of International Affairs of the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) responsible for elite performance of Team GBR for five years in the run-up to London 2012.
Toby is married to Anne-Marie Taylor, who is a Fellow of the BHS and an International Ground Jurist, having judged at both the Pony European Championships in Millstreet and the Badminton Horse Trials this year. Anne-Marie’s brother is Nigel Taylor, based at Aston-le-Walls.
We caught up with Toby ahead of Driven’s official launch on 30th October and asked him about the long journey from his passion for Formula One to the finished tome.
TV: My experience of publishing suggests that you really need to be persistent! When I started out, I was rejected by seventy literary agents. I finally secured representation with my current agent on the back of an earlier novel. She tried to get it placed, but it was rejected twenty-plus times, and remains unpublished.
The F1 book, Driven, was a sort of sequel to that, except when I sent it in to my agent, she really wasn’t keen – saying there was no market for a sports-based story.
I waited a couple of years, and, determined not to let the story die, I resubmitted it to my agent. Pretty much the same initial reaction followed, until she happened to give it to her son – who raved about it! It was then “taken on” and submitted to about ten mainstream publishers, without success: None of them seemed brave enough to go for a book about a subject on which no-one had published before – this despite the strong case I made that 400 million people watch each Grand Prix, and there being no well-known fiction set in or about F1.
Finally, Moreton Street Books, a small entrepreneurial house, were brave enough to see the opportunity and have given it a go.
Because my publishing journey has been so tortuous, suffering so many rejections, receiving such glowing feedback in Driven’s first ever review – from someone as eminent as Murray Walker – was quite unbelievable. That review, alone, made my gruelling publishing ordeal worthwhile!
TGP: Where did you get your inspirations from?
TV: I guess from two main sources – my love of thrillers and my life-long passion for Formula One. F1 is so exciting, and I have never understood why no-one has ever managed to write a story set in motor racing for mainstream thriller readers before.
My love of thrillers started with Dick Francis, so very much stories involving horses. My great uncle was his literary agent. After their success with The Sport of Queens, Francis’s autobiography, my uncle suggested that Dick Francis try his hand at fiction – and we all know the rest! I thought, why couldn’t I try and have a go at what they did – but in Formula One!
A thematic inspiration for the story came from the absence of women F1 drivers. My wife used to be a professional three day event competitor. And as The Gaitpost followers will know, Eventing is the only physical sport where men and women actually do compete on equal terms. Being married to Anne-Marie Taylor, I know how intensely competitive a woman in sport can be! Horses again. So I got to thinking: Why shouldn’t I make one of my main characters a woman driver? From that point on, ideas for the book just started flowing!
The result of all these influences and factors is Driven, which I am so excited to have seen through to a published story. I had no idea, really, whether I should be proud if it – until Murray Walker was kind enough to say:
F1 RACING MAGAZINE said: “Author Toby Vintcent takes inspiration from F1’s on-track action and off-track paddock politics in weaving together a page-turning conspiracy thriller. His attention to detail captures the spirit of current F1.”
BORIS JOHNSON said: “Driven – it howls along like Lewis Hamilton round the streets of Monaco!”