English teacher first, writer for young adults and children second.
For 21 years I was a lecturer in the UK, the head of English, at a very large college in Crewe in Cheshire. It was there I met my lovely wife, Nita.
In 1999 we emigrated to Australia, firstly staying with my brother in Brisbane but quickly moving to Darwin in the Top End for teaching work. Nita and I had adjoining desks. Our children, Lauren and Brendan, enrolled at Darwin High School and we bought a house – one we still live in today [though the kids have moved out].
It was while I was teaching at High School that I fell in love with Australian Young Adult fiction – in particular the writings of Scot Gardner, Phillip Gwynne and John Marsden. One day my school had a visiting author, Markus Zusac [before he became VERY famous] and I asked him about writing for young people. You see, I had a hankering to write my own book. He was very encouraging, though he must have been asked for advice from English teachers hundreds of times.
So I sat down and wrote my first book, in between marking, preparing and teaching. It was a rambling fantasy novel and I sent it off to three publishers. One rejected it, another never even bothered to reply. The third publisher, Allen & Unwin, rejected it but asked to see anything else I might have written. As it turned out, I was writing another novel based on a minor character in my first book. I called it Kiffo and the Pitbull.
I sent it to Allen & Unwin, to the amazing Erica Wagner and, to cut a long story short, it was published in 2004 under the title The Whole Business With Kiffo And The Pitbull. To my surprise [and delight] it met with great critical acclaim, encouragement enough to write another. And another.
So far, I have written twenty-two novels, with my next one, A Little Spark, due out in August 2022.
I have won many awards and been published in eighteen countries and translated into twelve languages.
The biggest thrill was having my middle-grade fiction novel, My Life As An Alphabet, turned into a major film by the producers of Red Dog. H Is For Happiness premiered in 2019 at the Melbourne International Film Festival and won the CinefestOz prize for best movie of 2019. The same company are now working on a television adaptation of my book, A Song Only I Can Hear, and a movie of my last book, Catch Me If I Fall.
I will keep you informed of progress.
The baby in the picture? My wonderful granddaughter Evelyn, daughter of Lauren and Jake. She is a delight and hopefully a future reader.