Welcome to my site!
As a child, I filled notebooks with stories about owls. Now, here I am, a professional writer. 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 what is now an economic superpower was a land full of ungeared 'Flying Pigeon' brand bicycles and Mao suits.
My latest book, published in 2022, is The Next Big Thing, about political history. It looks at UK politics since the great Liberal landslide of 1906, and traces the rise and fall of what I call 'Political Programmes', which are distinctive and electorally successful programmes of change - there have been ten since that far-off date. How do they rise? How do they fall? And where are we now, in the cycle? The book is also a call to action for people who want to create real change through the democratic process.
In between those two, I've written about 20 books and managed to make a living from words, writing articles, co-authoring books with other people, doing pieces of PR. These different areas feed into each other. I've written fiction, and that taught me the importance of narrative in non-fiction writing. I write poetry, from which I've learnt the value of metaphor in work of all kinds (I enjoy creating models of historical and commercial processes, and the ability to use metaphor is at the heart of this process).
I've done loads of media stuff over the years, with interviews on Radios 2, 4 and 5, World Service, Sky News and the late lamented BBC2 'Daily Politics', as well as all sorts of local radio. I like local radio, though was a bit nonplussed when, being interviewed about a crime novel, I was asked if I knew a good Chinese restaurant in Birmingham (sadly, I didn't).
Commercially, my most successful 'hat' has been that of a business writer. I worked as a copywriter for a Norfolk-based marketing agency. 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-write with 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). In 2020, I wrote a book about the Triangle, The Karpman Drama Triangle Explained. Another amazon bestseller, this goes into the phenomenon in depth, and says what we can do about it.
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, of which I've been a fan for years. I remember sitting on a rather lumpy, red sofa my parents had, watching Sandie Shaw winning in 1967. I was delighted when Graham Norton described my book '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', which I suspect is impossible unless you're Shakespeare - that title was the publisher's idea).
My fiction writing was mainly done in the 1990s, when I created my set of crime novels set in what was then contemporary China. At the time, these were unique: no other series was set in what was then a very remote and, to most people, strange country. I now see them morphing into historical fiction: the China of that time is so different to what that country is now. They have all recently been republished by Sharpe Books. More recently, I've written novellas. The Enlightenment Club tells the story of Stella Tranter, a shy student from a non-academic background who is determined to become a 'Philosopher and Lover of Great Art', despite various obstacles life throws in her way. The Hillwalker and Unexpected Alien in Bagging Area are more surreal, quirkier and lighter, though I hope there's an edge of genuine satire lurking in among the levity. If you love Britain's ancient trackways and countryside, as I do, you should enjoy these.
When writing poems, I specialize in sonnets, the 'three minute singles' of the poetry world.
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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