I put my first book together at the age of nine. It was a Christmas story bound in a tasteful cover made from wrapping-paper over card, and was written for and dedicated to my little sister. After that, I kept on writing because I couldn’t stop. Not that I ever tried.
I grew up in a small market town in southern England in a house with many books, where at school I had one of those semi-mythical teachers of English who open new worlds for you. It was, too, in a landscape full of ancient places and tales, and those stories and places became an important part of me. I often visited Wayland’s Smithy, though I never left a horse for him to shoe before morning. I walked the circle of Avebury at midnight, when mist filled the surrounding ditch, still deep after five thousand years. When, at Cambridge University, I read the romances of the Middle Ages, ballads, folk tales, and legends, I felt I knew where they had taken place. Tolkien lived in the same landscape. I might have glimpsed his hobbits.
The Ballad of Billy Bean (my Fitzroy Books title) was born of a later experience of history coming alive, when I worked with Kevin Brownlow on two television series about the silent era of Hollywood. Kevin had interviewed dozens of the biggest names in silent movies – actors, directors, technicians. They were old then, of course, remembering their youth. The interviews and subsequent series gave a powerful sense of the beginning of a new industry and art-form, and what it was like to be there when it was all still fresh and new – and fun. Of course they were in it to earn a living. But they were doing things that had never been done before, and it wasn’t history to them.
Otherwise, I’ve been lucky to have been paid for a lot – but far from all – of my writing. I’ve had a few books published. I’ve travelled the world directing and writing factual and documentary films, a few of which have won awards. I’ve written and directed two feature films. And I wrote several scripts for the children’s TV animation series Mona the Vampire, a project I discovered and developed.
I live in rural Herefordshire in the west of England, and in Vienna (Austria), and I love the contrast between the country and the European city.
Visit me on my website: www.storymachine.co.uk