When I was nine, I sat next to the prettiest girl on a Sunday School outing. She asked me if I liked the Beatles. Who are the Beatles, I said? She stood up and told the whole coach I had never heard of the Beatles. Humiliated, I went home and found out who they were. My obsession with the Fab Four had begun.
I will go to my grave never having seen The Sound of Music. My older sister sang the songs, endlessly. I made a vow and have kept it.
When I was 14, my mother gave lodgings to a young Scottish woman, pregnant with an ‘illegitimate’ child. She was bright, profane and sexy. We got on famously and when she gave birth to a boy, called him Stephen. On the day Stephen’s adoptive parents came to collect him, I didn’t want to let him go. I wasn’t allowed to know the name of the couple by law but I memorised the registration number of their car. I never wrote it down but I could tell you exactly what it was today, 50 years later. My novel Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? was partially inspired by this event.
I am co-editor of an irreverent Christian webzine called www.shipoffools.com. We send out mystery worshippers to review church services, in the same way mystery shoppers review supermarkets. Our mystery worshippers score out of 10 for hardness of pews, length of sermon and warmth of welcome. We recently published our 3000th review.
In my spare time I don a ridiculously huge pair of spectacles and become Beltin’ John, bashing out Elton’s hits on a stage piano in local pubs and clubs.
My favourite-ever film is Local Hero, the saddest, deepest comedy ever made. Bill Forsyth built on the myths and legends of Scotland, deliberately subverting them along the way. I’ve tried to add another mystical layer in Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? Oh, and I want Mark Knopfler’s theme music at my funeral.
While Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? is about the 1960s I have never subscribed to the notion that ‘if you remember the 60s you weren’t there.’ We ruled the world at football and pop music. Who needed illegal substances?
I hadn’t seriously considered writing a comic novel until I picked up David Lodge’s Therapy. His struggle to make sense of spirituality in a secular society inspired me to hit the keyboard.
Though born in Croydon, I have spent half my life in St Helens. The clash of cultures inspired me to write my first novel Rattles and Rosettes, that charts the lives and loves of two football fans, a century apart.
In the week I finished writing Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? I bought the Christian Resources Exhibition. Best described as an ideal church show, it’s a one-stop shop for all things ecclesiastical, from stained glass to sound systems, computers to communion wine. The next event takes place at Sandown Park, Esher, Oct 17-19th. I haven’t yet persuaded my publishers to take a stand!