I have written around twenty books, published in many countries, and ghosted others. I keep them all in a large cupboard, which I intend to fill before I retire.
As a child, I found myself filling notebooks with stories about owls or 'factual' books about the world where these owls lived.
As a young man, I was more into music than words. I wrote songs and played in bands. The best was Valentine's Lark, a prog rock band in London (the guitarist and his wife, Tony and Gaynor Sadler, went on to become Sleeping Lions and successful producers, writers and session players). The most fun was The Oxcentrics which managed to combine Dixieland jazz with a punk (or punk-ish, anyway) attitude.
However music was a precarious living. I worked in financial services for a bit, then went to university to study economics and philosophy, where I managed to get a first. An attempt at a PhD, on the subject of Evolution and Ethics, was not successful. I think I wasn’t wise enough to crack this topic, but ahead of my time for even trying, as most writers at that time thought there was no connection between the two.
To recover from the collapse of my academic dream, I treated myself to a backpacking trip to China. It was a life-changing experience, and on my return wanted to read books by people who had done and felt the same. I couldn't find any, so I decided to write my own. Journey to the Middle Kingdom was published in 1991, and I have worked with words ever since.
During the 1990s, I wrote crime fiction, a genre I have always enjoyed. I wrote four novels set in (then) contemporary China. Nobody else was doing that at the time, and it was fun to blaze a trail. The books were published in the UK, USA, Germany and Japan - not China, as the books are too political.
I also worked in marketing for an agency in Norwich that did, well, everything, from strategic consultancy for the Fine City's top manufacturers to designing CD covers for a local farmer who wrote his own songs. In 1999, Mike Southon, an old friend who had co-founded a training business, approached me with the idea of writing up its story. The result was The Beermat Entrepreneur, which is my most successful book to date. A new edition was issued in 2018.
Beermat took me to all sorts of places, giving talks to audiences of actual or potential entrepreneurs, or running workshops with them. I dipped a toe into the full-on corporate world, helping teachers at Ashridge Business School turn their expertise into books (Myths about doing Business in China was one product of this, co-authored with consultant Harold Chee). I have gone on to co-write and ghost other books, especially with entrepreneur and NLP trainer Robbie Steinhouse. I enjoy helping people 'find their voice' and get their truth onto the written page. Their stories and knowledge are eye-opening.
When my father died, I had to clear out the attic in the old family home, and found an old stamp album - like many people of my generation, I had collected as a kid. I started collecting again, and the stamps took on a new life, now as 'little rectangular time machines'. First Class, A History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps was born. I have since done the same for the USA.
After many years enjoying the Eurovision Song Contest (despite the negative commentary and the UK’s usually poor performance), I decided to write about Europe’s history since 1956 though the lens of that contest. The first version of Eurovision! A History of Modern Europe through the World’s Greatest Song Contest came out in 2017, and I have updated it several times since. I was blown away by Sam Ryder’s performance in 2022, and am greatly looking forward to Liverpool 2023.
In my 40’s I took a vocational course at the City College in Norwich. I found myself too busy writing to pursue this career, but my interest remained, and I have recently written an ebook on Stephen Karpman's fascinating 'Drama Triangle'.
I now write fiction and poetry for personal pleasure. My second poetry collection, 2021, A Yearful of Sonnets, is now out.
I also work with other people to help them create their books. This is mainly in the business sphere, but I have also worked in the coaching/NLP area.
Life as a professional writer can be up and down. There are moments of profound joy - finding a perfect word, or writing a piece that flows and rings, or that moment when a book suddenly 'works' as a whole rather than as a bundle of interesting ideas. There are bad moments, when words just won't come right, when the gigs suddenly run out (they come back, but it's a nasty moment), or when someone who clearly hasn't 'got' a book goes online to slag it off. There is the quiet pleasure of getting into a job I'm good at, and, when ghosting, through working closely with interesting people.
It's been an amazing journey, and there’s loads more to do.