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I arrived at our Flying Horse store to meet Darren Young, Nottingham’s 2017 author of a book called Child Taken. I easily identified Darren sat on our stage area, laptop out looking every bit the Author I thought he would. Relaxed. Comfortable. Coffee in hand. I scurried over (it now turned out I was late…) sorted out more coffees and he started by telling me; "When my wife said you were going to be opening in 2012 I wasn't sure if you'd survive.” I confess it wasn’t one of the first lines I’d expected, but Darren has now turned into one of our biggest advocates.
He’s been in nearly every day since 2012 on his journey to writing his book, using 200 as his escape into the world he’s created.
“We started coming in all the time and I got really comfortable here, especially as I was against the chains that look untidy and appear to make no effort. My background is in customer service and helping companies create great experiences.” It turns out Darren has worked for many companies over his time, mostly rating how good their customer experience is from start to finish. This includes a holiday company where he and his family had to ‘test’ the experience a customer would get, rate it and propose changes, and the same for football grounds. I can sense envy from some readers as I type this...
“I am the least author like person ever. Other people say they have ideas to write books and I didn’t, although I always knew I could do the writing bit and did my dissertation as a story. It was a really dull subject and had no life to it whatsoever. Fortunately, I was inspired by a book I’d just read called Manslaughter United, it was about a prison football team. Each 'odd' chapter was about an individual player, each even chapter was about the football element. I just wrote my dissertation in the same way, and it read quite well, the characters had some interesting things going on in their lives and it worked.” Darren didn’t tell me what grades he got but with the smiles I’m guessing the memories are good ones.
“I didn’t look at it again until I'd thought of the idea for the book. I spent a long time travelling to meetings, 2-3 days every week. I was in the car one day and heard a news article with a throwaway line. It said this guy had been taken into a police station in Cyprus and they think he may be Ben Needham, who was a child who went missing 20 years prior. My head mulled it over and when I got back from my 3.5 hour journey I knew the story. I got home and went to bed and the next day told my wife the story in 30 seconds. She told me I should write the book.
“I thought if I start it I'll prove to myself that I can't do it. I'll fall on an obstacle that stops me. Like work getting in the way.
I got into a habit of travel, going to a meeting, but then come to 200 and chip away in tiny chinks. If I had a day of working from home I'd do a couple of chapters in 200 in the morning, go home to do work, then come back in the evening. I never told anyone what I was doing except my mother in law who is Italian. She reads a lot of books, all English, so was a test pilot to how simple my book was to read. She gave me confidence because I’d only get the truth -she wouldn’t miss the opportunity to tell me if she thought it was rubbish (tongue in cheek!)
“Familiarity is the most important thing. My job was pretty much just me on most days of the week, no co-workers. I went through 18 months of being totally isolated. 200 gave me friendly and familiar faces in a comfortable environment. Knowing where all the power points are also really helped!
Before 200 became the force it is today we were in there, Saturday morning, and you could choose your tables. I got to know names of the staff and had a real rapport with them. This made it so much easier and more natural to sit in the corner doing my book. We come in so regularly, early and late being favourite as it’s quieter but also the weekends. I now also share my time with Carrington Street 200 since that opened.
Darren’s book was finally published in the summer of 2017 after more than three years in the making. “One of the best parts of the whole thing was when the book was launched the publishers organised it at Waterstones. I said to Rob Darby (co-owner of 200 Degrees) that Waterstones are going to kick us out at 8.30 and he offered 200 Degrees to me for a champagne reception. We were there until midnight with 3 or 4 of the familiar team looking after us, it made it a really special night.
“Waterstones is a little bit like an interview - questions and answers for 2 hours on centre stage. To come into 200 afterwards was very relaxing. It felt like home. When I walked in everyone was settled already, every seat was gone and it was great to stand at the top and chat to the staff.
“The last line of the book is about 200 Degrees. This place (we’re sat in it) was as important as the individual parts of the process I went through. These are the people who have helped me on the way. I get so many people who comment on ‘where is that coffee shop’. The first question in Birmingham library at a signing was 'where can I get the coffee from'.
I don't drink coffee at home! Because I can’t make a better cup. The one thing about this place is you know exactly what the drink will taste like every single time. I can’t remember ever having a drink that didn’t taste right. It’s a consistency about the whole experience that's really important and at home I wouldn't do it justice. We experimented at home once and that was the end of that.
You can find Darren’s book in Amazon, and if you happen to have it on you whilst in a 200 Degrees he’ll even sign it for you.
Order Darren’s book, it’s available in multiple formats too, paperback, Kindle version, audiobook or CD. Take a sneaky preview here.
If you want to get the taste that inspired this amazing top selling author, you can order online today, or visit us in one of our stores.