I live on the outskirts of Ringmer, a village in East Sussex.
I am widely educated – thanks to five primary schools, two senior schools and three universities, not including the university of life.
I was not an easy child, and didn’t work much at school. I was bored as hell most of the time. My first job, at 12, thanks to my mother, was as a cleaner in a boy’s school. Cleaning their toilets every day gave me the necessary impetus to work a bit harder academically.
My mother’s strategy worked. I won a scholarship to a boarding school in north Wales – Dr Williams’, Dolgellau, at the foot of Cader Idris – a beautiful part of the world. Founded thanks to a legacy from Dr Daniel Williams, Doctor of Divinity, whose library in London remains one of the largest collection of non-conformist writing in the world, the school closed soon after I left. I don’t think the two events are linked in any way.
I went to Exeter University, studied French, did some ballroom dancing, spent a whole year teaching in St Etienne, which has one of the best football teams in France. There, I learned to smoke unfiltered cigarettes, how to spend all my salary on shoes, how to camp in disused quarry buildings when the academic year ended, and how to swim at night in the upper reaches of the Loire. I ended up with a smoky degree in French, after writing a dissertation on free will versus determinism in the work of Diderot and Voltaire.
My first ‘proper job’ was in London with the Ministry of Defence. I lived for a while in the YWCA opposite the British Museum, sharing a room with a girl who was going out with Michael Crawford. Later on, I qualified as a Human Resources Manager, worked in engineering companies, studied for an MBA, ran my own marketing consultancy, wrote features on education for county glossies.
Somewhere along the way I married and had two sons. I own a cat and two fish, and I don’t like cooked blackcurrants. (In case you are thinking of asking me for dinner.)
In 2002 I became a writer. I bought a copy of Austerlitz by W G Sebald, in a thunderstorm, the third of a 3 for 2 purchase from Waterstones. I sat down to read it when I got home. When I got up, I was an aspiring writer.
2002/3/4 I worked very hard, writing every day, studying both on a university course, and privately, online. I learned to write short stories and flash fiction. I wrote. Wrote more. I read. Read more. Submitted polished work. Got used to rejections.
2004 – I had my first few publications and a competition place.
2005 – more publications, more competition placings, a few small wins.
2006 – A win at Willesden Herald judged by Zadie Smith.
2007 – A Bridport Prize, a Fish Prize, a Daily Telegraph win, some anthology work.
2008 – Words from a Glass Bubble published by Salt Modern Fiction.
2009 – Short Circuit, Guide to the Art of the Short Story published by Salt.
2010 – Storm Warning published by Salt Modern Fiction. Awarded Arts Council Grant for the Arts.
2011 – The Coward’s Tale published by Bloomsbury in UK. Awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship for 2012.
2012 – The Coward’s Tale published by Bloomsbury in USA. Awarded a Gladstone’s Library Residency. A poem is awarded the 2012 Troubadour International Poetry Prize.
2013 – Second edition of Short Circuit is published by Salt. My debut poetry publication, The Half-life of Fathers. comes out from Pighog Press.