Sceptre has acquired an "astonishing" memoir by Ben Short, an advertising executive who, suffering from depression and a long-term anxiety disorder, fled his high-flying career in London to become a charcoal burner in the Dorset woods.
Juliet Brooke, associate publisher, acquired world rights from Ludo Cinelli at the Eve White Literary Agency at auction. Burn will be Sceptre’s lead narrative non-fiction title next year, publishing on 14th April 2022 in hardback, e-book and audiobook.
The synopsis reads: "On the outside, Ben Short looks like he has it all: a successful career in advertising, a flat in a trendy area of London, an expensive motorbike... But inside, he's a wreck. Years of suffering with an anxiety disorder and depression have broken him, and his ‘creative’ career has become sterile and suffocating. A drastic change is needed.
"Like his neighbour's rescue hawk, he acts on instinct and escapes the city. For a time, he takes on odd jobs—gardening, hedge-laying and labouring in the Cambridgeshire Fens and in the Devon countryside—trying to find somewhere he belongs. That is until he feels the call of the furnace: a glowing charcoal kiln in the West Dorset woods, where he can re-forge his thoughts, put the years of suffering behind him and start afresh by immersing himself in the ancient ways of woods and fire. He lives in huts and old wagons in the woods, hauling water from wells and foraging for his supper. But this is no idyll: the road is hard, the work back-breaking, the woods dark and brimming with powerful energies."
Short said: "Like the alchemist charcoal burner who transforms logs into that glittering black commodity which burns twice as hot as wood, I would like to think that Burn takes what has been a long and sometimes difficult road and distils it into something equally potent. My story is one of hope, and I wrote the book partly to offer succour to anyone suffering from mental health problems. For much of the last 10 years I have worked alone in the woods. Writing is a similarly solitary occupation. But I feel blessed to have Sceptre and my editor Juliet Brooke beside me."
Brooke commented: "I am so thrilled to be publishing Burn. When the world seemed to be shutting down and all our conversations were of birdsong, Ben’s exquisite paean to the healing power of nature and the brutal hard graft of a life pared back was exactly what I wanted to read. From descriptions of ancient woodland unchanged in a millennia to thoughts on how humans interact with nature’s rhythms, Burn is a beautiful tale of healing and renewal."