IT was down to misfortune that Gavin Extence started writing his debut novel.
“I finished a PhD in film studies just as the recession was starting,” he says. “I couldn’t get a job. I was sending applications out and not hearing anything back. So I started writing a book.”
Four years on, that book – The Universe Versus Alex Woods – is tipped to be one of the literary sensations of 2013.
Publishers Hodder & Stoughton have released it as one of its flagship new year novels. Waterstones has included it in a list of 11 must-read debuts of 2013. And literary critics have compared Gavin, of Valley Road, Meersbrook, to Mark Haddon, the man behind The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.
The worldwide rights, meanwhile, have been sold in China, the US, Taiwan, France, Spain and Germany.
“The way things have taken off have just been beyond anything I could have dreamed of,” says the 31-year-old, who comes from Lincolnshire but moved to study English at Sheffield University in 2000.
Some are even tipping the story, about a boy’s friendship with a reclusive widower, to be made into a Hollywood movie.
“It’s surreal,” says the married father-of-one. “There seems to be a bit of hype. I just hope people like it.”