I am a professional writer, and have earned my living from words since my first book, Journey to the Middle Kingdom, a 'travel biography' based on an eye-opening visit to China in the mid-1980s, was published back in 1991.
I work in a number of fields. I like the variety this brings to my working life, and I also think that they feed into each other. Writing fiction, for example, has taught me the importance of narrative in non-fiction writing. Poetry (a much-loved hobby) has taught me the value of metaphor in writing of all kinds - even in the most dry-seeming areas, metaphor lies behind how we understand things.
Commercially, my most successful 'hat' has been that of a business writer. I worked as a copywriter for a Norfolk-based ad agency, which gave me great experience of businesses of all sizes. In 2002, The Beermat Entrepreneur, a how-to manual on entrepreneurship co-authored with business founder Mike Southon, was a UK and Amazon bestseller, and was published around the world. We subsequently published more 'Beermat Guides' to aspects of small business. Mike and I are currently lecturing at City University, London. I also co-author with, or ghostwrite for, other business leaders, helping them develop their ideas and express them clearly and effectively.
I have always loved history, a passion I inherited from my parents. I started writing popular history in the early 2010s. I was very inspired by Neil McGregor's approach to the subject, using objects as ways into the narrative. First Class told the story of Britain since 1840, using 36 postage stamps as the ways in. ('Irresistible,' said the Daily Telegraph). A History of America in 36 Postage Stamps did the same for our cousins across the pond. Eurovision! A History of Modern Europe through the World's Greatest Song Contest tells the story of Europe since 1956, using the Eurovision Song Contest. Graham Norton described this one as 'A feast for any Eurovision fan'.
In my forties, I studied counselling and therapy, and became particularly fascinated by Transactional Analysis and Stephen Karpman's Drama Triangle. I have recently written a book about the Triangle, The Karpman Drama Triangle Explained.
I have written about my own craft. Perfect Written English tells you how to make your writing clear, lively and elegant (not 'perfect' - that title was the publisher's idea).
I write fiction, too. In the 1990s, I created four crime novels set in China. I am working on a novel and have self-published three novellas. What's the Bloody Point of it All was written as Kit West; the two Hillwalker stories are by my rather eccentric alter ego, Lytchett Maltravers.
It's been wonderful to have been able to earn a living this way. In return, I hope I have honoured my profession by producing excellent work - I have always done my utmost to.
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