I studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and have been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Prizes. I’m the author of the trilogy of novels ‘Purple’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Violet’, as well as my trans memoir ‘Heaven’s Rage’, which has been turned into a film.
I run a comedy club, a poetry group and a mixed arts show in Berkhamsted, UK.
This is my personal story:
From an early age I wrote stories in my head. Lying awake in my bedroom, I imitated the voices of neighbours. My garden was an unexplored territory full of travellers’ tales and crazy adventures. At school I wrote wild, escapist, poetic short stories. When I was invited to read out a particularly heightened descriptive piece to the class, my beautiful words earned me threats and punches in the playground. Boys those days from the North of England needed to knuckle down and get a real job – writing was absurd and my fancy-pants words were girlie and stuck up. I read about Shelley being bullied at school and fixed my sights on being a Romantic poet. I remember reading Ode to the West Wind full volume into a tape recorder in the front room. My parents ignored my declamatory shouts, thinking I’d soon grow out of it.
At university in the 60s I was still composing in my head. I’d decided to wait till inspiration struck because then, I imagined, the writing would flow, composing itself in a fine frenzy like Handel’s Messiah. In the meantime I’d ‘warehouse’ experience, noting everything around me on a kind of endless microfiche running through my head. I believed that when I was older I’d play it back and my film would translate onto the page as a vivid, deeply-personal autobiography. I read Joyce, Lawrence, Blake and German Expressionist writers.
When I started teaching in a London comprehensive, reality dawned. I had no time or energy to write novels; the best I could do was to write a few lines of poetry on a Sunday. By then I’d chosen my time-capsule selection from English literature. But I didn’t have a voice of my own and the more I read the more I felt paralysed and overawed by the great modernist voices such as Virginia Woolf and Robert Lowell.
I spent twenty years experimenting with voice on paper. During that time I married, had children, became a Labour Party activist and moved to Further Education where I managed ESOL, Learning Difficulties and Disaffected Learners. By now I was taking weeks to find the right words and revising as I went, stripping back or starting again if the piece went wrong. I’d realised that plot emerges naturally, riskily, unexpectedly from style and vocabulary and that writing is a journey controlled by character and feel. Most of all I’d learned that inspiration doesn’t dictate books and that what’s on the page is the result of precise emotional fine-tuning. Far from being airy-fairy, writing is a sweat.
After two divorces and a successful struggle with alcohol addiction, my life turned around when I met and married Sue Hampton, prolific children’s writer. Sue and I call ourselves Authors in Love – and we use the L-word, several times daily! We give talks and workshops to schools, library and writers’ groups and perform at festivals, using music and pictures to enthuse our audience for different types of writing. We share creative ideas walking in the countryside, read and edit each other’s work and enjoy gardens, vegan food, unorthodox Christianity and dance at Sadler’s Wells.
I aim to write originally about modern living using the full range of the English language while staying in touch with my reader’s feelings.
You can read about ‘Purple’ the first part of my trilogy Lavender Blues: Three Shades of Love here.
You can read about ‘Blue’ the second part of the trilogy here.
You can view a family tree covering all three books here. Click on the family tree image to enlarge it.
To look in the book for my memoir ‘Heaven’s Rage’ click here.
You can read about my talks and workshops here and mixed-arts shows here.
To read about my published poetry click here.