Nature is at my core and I seek it as often as I can by exploring in the hills, mountains, forests and coastlines. I'm a believer in the power natural energy has to give us. I write that into all my books and hope it inspires you too?
I enjoy adventures with my two sons (seen on this page) and my thanks to them for making me into a man.
As well as writing, I enjoy cooking (I'm a trained chef) and building and making things, cycling, kayaking and the arts, from theatre, live music to paintings and sculpture.
I have a secret career I tell no one about as well as working in a maximum security prison, ski chalets in the Alps and my bare bottom has appeared on TV.
I'm dyslexic. I can't write with a pen and I'd never read a novel before writing my first one.
Every time I write 1000 words I punch the air, no matter where I am. I've done it on a plane, in a busy hotel lobby and a park bench flanked by two bewildered old ladies!
I never write from the start of the book. I usually have an important scene in my head, which could be in the middle or even the end.
I write all my manuscripts in Comic Sans font as it looks less serious and constraining.
A tree tried to kill me and another saved my life!
More detail can be found in my memoir The Void Between Words.
Born in 1969 amongst the pit towns of West Yorkshire, my father an aspiring machine fitter and mum, an ex nurse and curtain maker, didn’t have time for literature, poetry or reading. Survival was and still is the mantra of the working class. Work, food, shelter and football on a Saturday, the focus for any male, young or old. Low expectation and resilience enough to curb your mind away from unnecessary distractions.
My Grandparents on my maternal side helped me sidestep some of the mundane. An electrical engineer and nurse, they were slightly higher up the coalface lift shaft. My grandmother, a wordsmith. Caring and interested and always a quirky song or rhyming ditty, her smile and mischievous grin a pleasure. She loved words and dialect and would recite at any given time.
My Grandfather, a quiet man. Thoughtful, practical and creative. He was an eccentric, an inventor, sculptor, painter and tree lover. He introduced me to trees and the wonder of nature. Hours were spent prodding rotten trees with sticks and identifying different species. Hands on, practical exploration taking precedent over books, with the textures, colours and smells exciting and tangible.
The weekends with my Grandparents would always be over too soon and the dread of once again entering the intimidating and confining gates of school struck me like a knife to the stomach, draining my lifeblood to the point of utter despair.
I hated every single second I was at school. I felt different. Confused at being told I was stupid and lazy, when I felt bright and inquisitive. Dyslexia was relatively unknown and no allowance for ‘different’ learning styles considered. Dyslexics process the world differently. It’s not just about the struggles of reading and writing, we need to understand the greater picture and the practical sense of a fact or process. Learning facts, to purely regurgitate in an exam, seemingly meaningless.
We are interested in the real world, people, relationships, textures, tangibility and depth. Of course, I didn’t know I was dyslexic then, and the resulting torment was a serious blow to any thoughts of belonging, importance or significance. A complete lack of self confidence and crippling self esteem were instilled as the anxious default and my fear of words set to rule the rest of my life.
A career path, firstly as a chef, an ingenious rouse to avoid reading and writing. What I discovered was that I had an inherent ability to work hard. A conscientious distraction method to avoid anyone finding out I couldn’t read and write. Why would they question it, if I was employee of the month?
Strategies for coping with dyslexia, or covering up and hiding any form of difference, is the toolkit of choice for any sufferer. We are good at it, to the point, we slowly, frustratingly slowly, start to identify our superpowers. These come with age and usually, especially in my case, an agonisingprocess of self-discovery and awareness to the point, you understand all your quirks, faults and hopefully, if you’re lucky, your strengths.
I found my solace within nature and a peace and security with trees. I understand nature and respect it. I nearly lost my life to nature and yet it also saved me.
A lifetime of working hard, proving myself and forever searching for the truth and meaning of life, I eventually found confidence in my differences and was able to relax in the knowledge I was unique and that it could be celebrated. I still had never read a book or believed anyone would read a book for pleasure. Instilled deep within my psyche, it was shocking to feel the sheer exhilarating excitement within my core, when I woke in the middle of the night with poetry in mind. Words flowing from my subconscious like torrential rain. Rhyming, playfully, dancing provocatively and bursting to come out of my being.
Of course, I dismissed it as a moment of utter madness and banished any conscious thought that words could be relevant in my life. I was imprisoned by words and the shackles of a learning difficulty eliminating any chance of freedom. It happened again and again and in the mornings I never remembered my midnight moments of insanity. But then a shift. My laptop next to the bed. I could make mistakes on the computer and it was ok. Unlike paper and a pen, writing by hand was always wrong. The red crossings out and ‘SEE ME’ by the teacher, a recurring nightmare of having to explain to her, why my attempts to spell words were wrong. They always made perfect sense to me.
So there I was. Writing. Using words with great joy. Not an author or anything like that, just playing with words and allowing the creativity to flow, like nature’s energy flows I was at one with. Just words. Exciting. Abundant with life and freedom.
I wrote in secret. It wasn’t real after all, and nothing I wrote was surely good enough to ever receive literary acclaim. Authors use clever words and know where a comma and speech marks go. But there seemed to be an increasing freedom within my mind and my soul. Bizarrely, I seemed to have discovered the key to my imprisonment. A chink of light through the bars of captivity and a crazy notion, I was going to write a novel!
It would be about life. My battles with the very subject itself had made me observant and compassionate to not only my own existence, but others too and the differences and possibilities all somehow documented and stored within my ‘rear brain’ as I call it. My subconscious the ultimate filing cabinet of love, loss, optimism, devastation, romance, deceit and…words. The very thing I had been scared of all my life and now at the age of 50, I am free. Free to celebrate my differences and free to be creative with words. My true passion it would seem.
I needed a manual. How many words to a line, how many lines to a page and did the full stop come inside speech marks or not? I was writing a novel and what was probably the most surprising thing of all; I instinctively knew I could do it.
So I did. From the heart. No preconceptions, no tropes, no formulas. After all, I didn’t have anyone to compare to. I didn’t know about story structure or plot lines. I just wrote about life.
Seven published books in just under three years is the final unlocking of the prison door. The light and the gift that it is ok to be you. To be able to celebrate our differences and ultimately be free from the dark corners of disempowerment so many experience and for which they are wrongly stigmatised. I write for my own freedom, but also for the liberation of others who may feel different, marginalised and worthless.