I grew up in Croydon and worked in a bank for a year. But this is true of so many writers it has become a cliché. So let me tell you about some of the other stuff.
My dad, Peter, was a sheet-metal worker; my mum, Marjorie, a wages clerk. I have no brothers or sisters. We never had a foreign holiday till I was 17. They took me to Belgium for a week, to prove I hadn’t been missing anything. I loved them both. They’re dead, now, but I still love them.
I went to a big comprehensive school and enjoyed my time there so much I wrote my first adult novel about a disturbed man who takes revenge on his former teachers. Made a mess of my A-levels (too much snooker, too little effort) and had to do a re-sit to get into journalism college.
Learned my lesson, though – I spent much of the journalism course drinking, playing pool or going on protest marches. “Home” was a caravan in a field with two mates from the course. Take my advice, don’t live in a caravan. Even so, it still rates as just about the best year of my life.
For the next 15 years I worked as a news reporter, football correspondent, features writer and sub-editor on newspapers all over England (and one in Wales).
Between jobs I went backpacking in Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. I taught English in Hong Kong, despite speaking no Cantonese and being unqualified to teach English (or anything else), and returned from India with dysentery, hepatitis and pneumonia, having lost a quarter of my body weight. Happy days.
All this time, through my 20s and early 30s, I wrote fiction – short stories, a couple of abandoned novels – did creative writing classes, joined a writers’ group … until it dawned on me that I wanted to be a writer more than anything. So, I quit my job and enrolled on the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. That was where I began Acts of Revision.
I’ve been writing novels ever since – first for adults, now for teenagers – and when I’m not doing that, I teach creative writing (even though I still have no teaching qualifications.) Best of all, though, I have a wife, Damaris, and two daughters, Josie and Polly. And I don’t live in Croydon anymore.