I am a professional writer, and have earned my living from words since my first book was published back in 1991. Journey to the Middle Kingdom was a 'travel biography' based on an eye-opening visit to China in the mid-1980s, when the now economic superpower was a land full of bicycles and Mao suits.
I work in a number of fields. I like the variety, 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. Writing poetry has taught me the value of metaphor in work 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 marketing agency, which gave me great experience of businesses of all sizes. In 2002, I co-authored The Beermat Entrepreneur, a how-to manual on entrepreneurship, with successful business founder Mike Southon. It was a UK and Amazon bestseller, was published around the world and is still in print. We subsequently wrote more 'Beermat Guides' to aspects of small business and a manual for 'intrapreneurs', people who want to keep their paid job but introduce a bit of entrepreneurial pazzazz into their organizations.
Mike and I now teach entrepreneurship and marketing strategy at City University / Bayes Business School, where we are Visiting Lecturers.
I also co-author with, or ghostwrite for, other business 'thought leaders', helping them develop their ideas and express them clearly and effectively.
In my forties, I studied counselling and therapy, and became particularly fascinated by Transactional Analysis and Stephen Karpman's Drama Triangle, which looks at how we can slip into playing Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer (and how some people switch between these roles to gain power, attention or justification). I have recently written a book about the Triangle, The Karpman Drama Triangle Explained which goes into this phenomenon in depth - and says what we can do about it.
I have always loved history, a passion I inherited from my parents. I started writing popular history in the early 2010s. I was 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'.
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. These have recently been republished by Sharpe Books. More recently, I've enjoyed writing in the novella form, and have come up with three. What's the Bloody Point of it All? is what I call a philosophical non-romance. It looks at the business of being 'true to oneself'. A great maxim - but is it as easy to put into practice as some of the people who preach it think? (Spoiler, no.) Footpath to Heaven and Unexpected Alien in Bagging Area are more surreal, quirkier and lighter, though I hope there's a little edge of real satire lurking in among the jollity.
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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