Jack Colman grew up on a North York Moors smallholding, got a City job with a top corporate law firm - then chucked it in to move to Poland with his Polish wife Marta. Now he's about to become a published author. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

JACK Colman was sitting in a lecture when the idea for his first novel came to him.

The country boy from the North York Moors was studying law at Kings College, London. The lecture was on the development of legal systems - and suddenly a light pinged in his mind.

"The teacher made a throwaway comment that in ancient times there were even societies governed by only a single law, and immediately this story came into my head," he says. "By the end of the lecture I’d sketched out a plan for the whole thing."

The story he had come up with was set in a mythical Viking kingdom called Hellvik.

In some ways, it wasn't a million miles from the Moors in which he'd grown up. He'd spent his childhood as part of a big family on a smallholding in 'the middle of nowhere' - going to Gillamoor primary school, then Ryedale School and finally York College to do his A-level. That country boyhood gave him a sense of 'fun and freedom' that has never left him, he says.

The fictional Hellvik in the novel he started as a 19-year-old was itself a kingdom 'isolated by mountains and sea'.

There its similarities to Jack's beloved Moors end, however. Hellvik is in the grip of famine, with an ailing ruler and an invading army massing at the border. It is a primitive society - with (thanks to that law lecturer) just one single law, or rule. It's a simple rule: no-one in Hellvik can kill anyone else who is a citizen of Hellvik - on pain of losing their citizenship. That, of course, would amount to a death sentence - because once you've lost your citizenship, anyone in Hellvik can kill you with impunity...

In this remote kingdom, a man named Gunnarr Folkvarrsson appoints himself enforcer of the rule. He kills those who break the law - making himself plenty of enemies along the way. And then he finds himself faced with a choice...

Jack started writing his book - he called it The Rule - in his first year at university, and finished it in a few months. And then, as is so often the case, nothing happened.

He hawked his manuscript around some agents. "The ones that bothered to respond were generally positive, but no-one took it on," he says.

He graduated, got a job with a top City corporate law firm, married. Then he chucked in his job so that he and his Polish wife Marta could go to her native Poland. Big city life just wasn't for them, he says. "The hours were so long that we didn’t have time to do anything else with our lives."

But he'd never forgotten that student novel. He'd returned to it several times. And then a friend had called him to say that HarperVoyager were willing - for two weeks only - to consider manuscripts from authors without agents.

It was October 2012, and Jack was just returning from his honeymoon. "There were only a few hours left before the window closed," he says.

He sent off the manuscript. And then, for a year, he again heard nothing - until October last year, when he got an email saying that Voyager were interested.

"Then my editor rang me in November to say they were going to offer me a deal," the 27-year-old says. "My wife wanted to go out and celebrate and tell everyone, but I was so terrified of jinxing it that I hardly dared crack a smile," the 27-year-old says. "I think we had a little hug in the sitting room and that was it."

The Rule is now due to be published as an eBook by HarperVoyager on March 26 next year, priced £4.99.

So how does it feel, to know he's about to become a published author?

"Pretty surreal," he says.