FOR former Birmingham brick-layer Gary Godden, becoming a best-selling children's author was never really in the career plan.
However, at the age of 47, he now finds himself about to embark on a tour of primary schools talking about his first book, The Rainbow Child.
The 64-page story, aimed at eight to 12-year-olds, has been selling as many as 2,000 copies a day following its serialisation on BBC Radio in the West Midlands.
It can now be found in Waterstones, WH Smith and Ottakers as well as Hatchard's bookshop in London. "I think we've all got a book in us somewhere," said Gary, who was expelled from school for truancy and left with no qualifications.
"And I don't think you have to be a brain surgeon to write one."
His attempt was triggered by a French course he was taking - coupled with his concern for the environment. He started reading French children's books to improve his command of the language and believed he could come up with a story which was just as good and had a meaningful message, too.
"I sat down and went a bit mad and scribbled it all out," said Gary, who runs his own building business. "It took me aout a week to do it. I must have had it in my head for a while."
The story of The Rainbow Child has the earth in the grip of storms and floods as the elements call upon the children to help save a polluted world.
Gary and his wife published the book themselves and were advised to try it out in schools. Children loved it and the book is now on its third print run. This week he was at Hatchard's in Piccadilly signing copies. Next week he will be touring primary schools, spreading his environmental message.
"There is not enough education given to young children about the real state of the environment. We simply cannot keep taking without putting something back," he said.
"With the school tour, I aim to introduce the environment to children in a humorous and simple way."
He will not be drawn on whether he hopes to follow in the footsteps of JK Rowling and her success with the Harry Potter novels. But he is planning a series of five spin-off stories.
Andy Sweeney, an English co-ordinator at St Ann's school in Birmingham, said: "We ordered 50 copies immediately. The children love it and the story has an important message."
'The Rainbow Child' can be ordered from 020 8213 5827, price pound;3.99 plus pound;1 pamp;p.