A Blackburn man, who said he saved for years to afford writing lessons with an acclaimed author and screenwriter, has published his debut horror story.

Thomas Watts, 29, has written Love Birds which has been published in an issue of 2000ad, an British science-fiction comic magazine.

Thomas said he worked three jobs to pay for writing lessons with John Truby, who has worked with the writers, directors and producers of Ratatouille, Breaking Bad, X-Men and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Thomas’ fictional story follows Dr Zoe Chow who is studying a race of killer, alien birds on a far-off jungle planet.

Zoe decides to befriend a “terror bird” in the hope of getting its love pheromones so she can secretly feed them to her husband and win back his love after he threatens to divorce her.

The story is inspired by Tom’s own experiences as a child, being both terrified and intrigued by his father’s pet parrot, Frasier, who attacked him at a young age.

After graduating from the University of Manchester top of his class with a First Class degree in Drama and Screen Studies he struggled to find employment and instead found solace in writing.

Tom worked in the NHS, as a bartender and in community radio at the same time, in order to afford screenwriting lessons from Hollywood legend Truby.  

He then pitched an original horror story idea at the highly competitive 2000ad talent search competition in Harrogate, beating 13 other applicants in front of a live audience and a panel of comic book legends including Leah Moore, John Reppion and Al Ewing.

Tom entered the competition after his father, a lifelong 2000ad fan who read it to his son as a child, sent him the advert to attend.

He said: “I’m so happy I get to be a part of the graphic novel that inspired me to get into storytelling as a child, and brought me and my family so much happiness together.

“My father kept parrots for as long as I can remember – one of which was an Alexandrine Parakeet called Frasier. He was a vicious monster, who nearly bit off my thumb when I was four.

“I had nightmares about that [parrot] for years. I used to be fearful that he’d come into my bedroom and rip me apart, and that I’d have nothing to defend myself with. But at the same time, I had to help take care of him and they’re very beautiful creatures.

“For this story, I wanted to draw on my own experiences as a child, being both terrified and fascinated by my father’s choice of pet. I lived alongside parrots all the way up into my adult life, and learned to love them, much like Dr Zoe does in the story.

“This is more of a thrill because it’s loosely based on something that really happened to me in my childhood.”

Fans will have the chance to meet the author at a book signing event at Forbidden Planet shop in Manchester on Wednesday, March 22 from 3pm to 5pm.

The 2000ad issue featuring Love Birds goes on sale on Wednesday, March 22.