The Rev Graham Taylor denied yesterday he was leaving his 70 hours-a-week post as a clergyman for a more lucrative lifestyle as an author.
He gained recognition when his Gothic tale Shadowmancer was published by Fabers on the same day as JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
It has since sold 250,000 copies, features in the national top 10 children’s books in Britain and will be launched on the American market in the spring as part of a $500,000 publishing deal.
He has grossed about £400,000 from the work and his second book, Wormwood, is nearing completion and due for release in June.
Some of the proceeds will be used to buy a house for him, his wife Kathy and their children Hannah, 14, Abigail, 12, and Lydia, four.
They will have to move out of their present home, which goes with the job, when he bows out of his busy schedule of weddings, baptisms, funerals and pastoral duties in the next 18 months. Mr Taylor, 45, a former policeman, combines his writing with his demanding duties as the vicar of Cloughton, North Yorks.
He suffered the health scare during a fraught, stop-start, six-hour journey back to Yorkshire from London after Faber’s summer party.
Mr Taylor said: “I had a pain in my leg and felt unwell when I went to bed and a few hours later I awoke with terrible chest pains.
“I was rushed into hospital where they diagnosed a blood clot in my heart and an irregular heartbeat. It was the same condition Tony Blair recently suffered from.
“I was about to have the same electric shock treatment when I suddenly felt a terrific thump in my heart and then it seemed to stop. I thought I was about to die but then it began beating normally.
“It made me think about my life. I am a perfectionist. If I start something, I have got to see it through and so I was working all the hours imaginable to get my job done.
“I have had just 35 days off in the five years I have been in Cloughton. I love my work but it was taking its toll. Coupled to that I had just buried a 40-year-old woman, who was supposedly as fit as a fiddle.
“People might say I am taking the soft option but they have not suffered the same life-threatening experience. They have not gone through a potentially life-changing moment and not been advised by their doctors to give up a punishing work routine.
“I can assure people it is not the lure of big money. Shadowmancer has made me around £400,000 but I have not seen much of it yet. My royalties will not be paid until next year.
“However I have to pay a 20 per cent agent’s fee and 40 per cent tax for this year, plus 20 per cent in advance for next year’s tax.”
He intends to buy a “little house” in the nearby village of Scalby, close to his girls’ schools, and where he and his wife lived when they married.