Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Free Country by George Mahood *PLUS Author Interview

About the Book

Title: Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of England
Author: George Mahood
Publication: Lulu, 1st June 2012/Amazon Kindle
Summary: The plan is simple. George and Ben have three weeks to cycle 1000 miles across the U.K. from Land's End, Cornwall, to John O'Groats, Scotland. There’s just one small problem: they have no bikes, no clothes, no food and no money. Setting off in just a pair of Union Jack boxer shorts, they attempt to rely on the generosity of the British public for everything from food to accommodation, clothes to shoes, and bikes to beer. 

What I Think

This is a great book which I would highly recommend. I really enjoyed the relaxed feel to it. It felt like the author was telling me this story over a drink in the pub. It's unusual to get so much of the author in a book, but I almost felt like I knew him by the end of it (and not in a creepy way!). 

This book is funny. All the little anecdotes that Mahood relays throughout, whether they be of their success or failure at trying to get whatever they were after at that particular moment, seem to be funny in one way or another. 

And most of all this book is heart-warming. All the people who helped George and Ben on their journey really give you renewed faith in people's ability to be kind and generous. Mentioned last, as most important things are, is the friendship that exists between George and his friend, Ben. I don't think either of them would've been able to finish this adventure had they not had each other; to laugh with, to laugh at, to encourage, to support, to be honest with, to shout at, but most of all to enjoy the adventure together.  

About the Author

I have huge admiration for this author who has not only achieved a seemingly impossible task, but has written a book about it too! I'm very excited to be able to introduce: George Mahood. 

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am the author of Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain. Free Country is my first book and documents a challenge that I undertook with a friend to cycle the length of Great Britain - starting our journey without any clothes (other than a pair of boxer shorts), shoes, food or bikes, and relying of the kindness of strangers to complete the trip. 
When I am not writing, I work as a photographer specialising predominantly in weddings. I live with my wife and three young children in Northampton, England. 

2. Tell us a little bit about Free Country – A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain 
Like most great ideas, this one came about after a few too many beers at the pub. My friend Ben and I had both become slightly disillusioned by the negative press that Great Britain was getting. We strongly believed that there was still a lot of good to be found in society so looked for a way to test this. Cycling the length of Great Britain without any money, clothes, shoes or bikes, was the perfect way for us to put ourselves at the mercy of complete strangers. We both had a keen desire to complete the iconic British 'end-to-end' bike ride so the concept of Free Country was formed. 

The length of Britain: about
1,000 miles
3. Did anyone try to talk you out of doing it? 
Yes, most of my friends and family. I purposely didn't tell many people about it before setting off, because I didn't want to be talked out of it. Their doubts just provided us with an added incentive to prove them wrong.

4. You mention in Free Country that you carried a notebook to keep track of people’s names and your experiences. How easy was it to write up those notes into a full length book? 
Writing the first draft was surprisingly easy. Despite the trip only lasting 19 days, so much happened in a relatively short space of time, and we had so many encounters with weird and wonderful people that I was not short of material. I never felt that I had to pad out any sections, and it was more a case of which bits NOT to include. As for remembering the facts, the notes I kept were extremely basic (just a few lines per day) but as I wrote the majority of the book in the year straight after completing the trip it was all still fresh in my mind. I then used maps, guide books and good ol' Wikipedia to add a few geographical/factual details. 

'The Falcon'

5. You self-published your book through Lulu. Did you ever consider seeking a publishing deal? 
Yes, I spent several extremely frustrating years trying to get published. I got an agent fairly early on, which was great, and came very close to securing a deal with Harper Collins. The publishing industry is going through a tough time and they rarely take risks on unknown authors - especially in non-fiction books like mine. The whole process was extremely soul-destroying. I didn't mind the rejection letters too much, as at least that was an answer; it was the positive feedback that was then followed by meetings with commissioning editors, months of waiting and then an eventual rejection that I found most frustrating. I then shelved the book for a couple of years before deciding to self-publish earlier this year. It was the best decision I ever made and I've loved the whole process so much. It's not easy doing it all yourself, but it has been immensely rewarding and satisfying. 

6. You also mentioned that there was a film crew with you. Was your adventure aired on television? 
Not yet. We have about 80 hours of brilliant half-edited footage sitting around waiting for a production company to finish off. So if you know anyone that might be interested, tell them to get in touch!

7. Moving on. What are you working on at the moment?
I haven't really done much in the way of writing since Free Country. Unfortunately, since writing the book, my work as a photographer has picked up. I know I shouldn't be annoyed about having paid work, but I'd love to be spending more time writing another book and promoting this one, but it has been difficult juggling it with my 'real' job. 

8. Have you always considered yourself a creative person? 
I guess so. I never thought I would ever write a book, though. I've always loved writing but I didn't think that I would ever have the creative imagination, or desire, to write a fiction novel (I stiil don't), but then I stumbled on the idea of writing a non-fiction book. The trip itself, and the process of writing the book, were two of the most fun things I have ever done. 

9. Are there any more adventures on the cards? 
Definitely. Free Country will not be my last book. I have a few potential ideas to pursue in 2013, so watch this space.

10. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors and/or adventurists?
I'm very much as newbie at both, but my main piece of advice for both aspiring authors and adventurists is just to do it. I know plenty of people that have said they would love to write a book, but never actually get round to even starting it. The key is actually to just start writing. Get the words on the page. It's much easier to make those words better once they are there. As for the adventurists, again, if you have an idea or something that you really want to pursue or complete then go for it.  

Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain is available in paperback (UK)/paperback (US) or on Kindle UK/Kindle US


  1. the book sounds really good. i think i'll have to read it now.

  2. What an unusual choice. Sounds delightful!

  3. Your glowing review of George Mahood's book together with the interview should encourage all avid readers to get a copy of Free Country.


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