Growing up as the son of a famous author, Mark Thomas wanted nothing more than to follow in his footsteps.
His dad, Leslie Thomas, was popular in the 1970s and 1980s and is best known for his comic novel The Virgin Soldiers.
But from a young age, it became clear that Mark was going to have to find a new dream to follow, when he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
“I’m a bit of a storyteller, a bit like my dad,” he says, “so I always wanted to write. But I couldn’t, because I was dyslexic.”
Mark, who lives in Bournemouth, remembers visiting Harley Street at the age of six or seven, where he was told he was a ‘classic dyslexic’, who got his Bs and Ds mixed up.
He went to a private school, which specialised in learning difficulties and concentrated on reading and writing, aged ten, “It gave me the opportunity to concentrate on that,” he remembers.
“I can read okay, but my spelling is still awful.”
But Mark, who is a keen photographer and forged a career selling cameras, now working part-time at John Lewis, never gave up hope of writing a book.
His dream finally came true when he discovered a ‘speak and spell’ computer program called Dragon five years ago. That, coupled with another grammar and spell check program, meant Mark can now call himself a published author.
“It was a friend at work who told me about it,” he explains.
“I said I had always wanted to write and they said ‘why don’t you?’ All I do is plug myself into a microphone and tell my story, then it writes it out.
“It took about three or four months for it to recognise by speech, so it took a lot of time and effort for it to recognise what I was going to say.
“I can do about two, two-and-a-half hours max, then your voice gets a bit tired and the machine gets tired and it starts to go off on a tangent.”
It took some time, but Mark persevered and is thrilled to have self-published his first novel, The Change of Fortune.
The book tells the tale of a £10 note and explores the lives of the different people who come into possession of it.
“The idea came to me when I was in Norway on a holiday cruise,” says Mark.
“I was in a gift shop. They asked if I would like pounds sterling or US dollars in change because they’d had some American people in the shop. We planned to go to America in a few months, so I said I would have the dollars.
“I looked at the dollar bill and thought ‘that’s gone a long way’.”
When he found himself at a loose end after being forced to take a couple of years off work when an operation on his knee went wrong, Mark decided the time was right to start writing.
“It probably took me about two, two-and-a-half years to write it,” he says. “My wife did the grammar and I sent it to somebody to proof read, but they said there was too much work there for them!
“I found someone else locally to proof-read it and it is self-published, but it was really uplifting when I saw it in print for the first time.”
Mark is now working on his second novel, about a local detective, and has discovered that, without quite meaning to, he writes rather a lot like his dad.
“About six months ago there was a piece on Radio 4 interviewing my dad in the 1970s,” he says.
“They asked if my dad wrote down his story plan and he said ‘no, I just sit there and it flows’. I thought ‘that’s really strange, because that’s what I do’.
“I don’t mean to write like my dad, but I have read quite a lot of his books over the years.
Leslie Thomas passed away three years ago, but he knew that his son was finally fulfilling his dreams of writing a book.
“It’s quite incredible,” he reflects.
“I think he would be very proud.”
The Change of Fortune is available on Amazon, priced £8.99 for a paperback and £4.00 for an e-book.