For Matt Stephens, writing his first book wasn't an easy task.
The ex-Gunnedah man had the imagination and the idea, but getting it onto paper was more difficult than he thought it would be.
Stephens confesses he wasn't much of a reader as a kid but grew to enjoy the written word as he grew older.
He and his three boys share a love for soccer and it is this passion that fuelled the book, The Eagle and the Beautiful Game, which follows the story of two competing soccer teams as they vie to come out on top. The main character is based on his teenage son Alex.
The book is aimed at ages 8-15 and was released by UK-based publisher Pegasus in July.
Mr Stephens first came up with the story idea in 2017 after a "perfect year" on the soccer field coaching for the Narangba United Football Club.
"I thought there and then, 'I could write a book on this season'. The idea started to flourish and from there I started writing," he said.
But the first chapter proved to be a stumbling block.
"When I started writing, it was so difficult, but every day on the drive to work the idea would grow and grow, so I tried again and once I got the first chapter in place, it flowed," Mr Stephens said.
"The biggest problem I had was having the idea in my head and not being able to write it down.
"I found it really easy to write about characters if a fictional character was based on a real life person."
It was a steep learning curve when it came to grammar and punctuation and he wrote and rewrote and rewrote again because "it didn't sound the way I want it to".
"There were a lot of drafts, a lot of deleting," Mr Stephens said.
A "good night's sleep", walking outdoors, and sugar proved to be his elixir.
"When I'm loaded up with sugar, I write better," he said.
The biggest problem I had was having the idea in my head and not being able to write it down.Matt Stephens
Mr Stpehens finished the drafty by early 2019 and sent it off to a friend who works for Good Reads and he "made heaps of changes to the book based on her recommendations".
"When I finally finished the story and read it back, parts of it still give me goosebumps ... I associate it with real life," he said.
"I used my little fella for a test subject and he absolutely loved it."
In May 2019, Mr Stephens sent the manuscript off to multiple publishers in the UK "because soccer is so big there" and was thrilled when he started getting offers.
"When I had the first offer came back, I was so excited and when the second one came back, I was like, 'Oh, my God', then a third," he said.
When Mr Stephens first held a copy of the book in his hands, he said it was "almost emotional".
"It had been such a long process. Because of COVID-19, publishers were working from home, which delayed it as well ... [and] you start doubting yourself: 'Will it actually be published?'."
Mr Stephens said his family had been supportive and his mother, Gunnedah resident Andra Judd, was "stoked" when he sent her a copy of the manuscript before it was published.
"I just wanted her thoughts and she said, 'Once I got into it, I really enjoyed it'," he said.
Mr Stpehens also sent a copy to his dad, ex-Gunnedah police officer Larry Stephens (an "avid reader") who was keen to know what happened next. He'll soon get his answer because his son has almost finished a second book, which follows on from The Eagle and the Beautiful Game.
"I got straight into it and continued on ... it's consumed me. The idea has grown," he said.
The newly minted author said it was a lot easier the second time around and he wants to complete the book before the end of the year so he can submit it for publication.
- To check out Matt Stephen's new release, search for The Eagle and the Beautiful Game online.