I've always been drawn to ink. From my early school days in Leeds I was hell bent on becoming a journalist. Only things didn't turn out quite the way I'd planned them. Rather like my books. You have a route all mapped out and then external forces take over.
My first serious writing experience came about when I set up a rock music fanzine with a friend while studying English at Manchester University. The first thing I learned? That it was a great way to get free review copies and gig tickets. I was hooked. It was shortly after that I learned lesson number 2…
'Musical differences' apply as much to writers as to bands - I wanted to concentrate on rock music; my counterpart on lifestyle and alternative. Not surprisingly, a solo writing career beckoned (at least it makes editing easier).
Actually, it was at this point that I got a 'proper' job - as a PR consultant. Is that a proper job? Well, if it isn't, it took me plenty of years to discover otherwise. I still got to write lots and make things up - and the occasional freebie still made its way through.
I worked on accounts for beer, chocolate, pizza, mineral water and soft drinks as well as for football clubs, banks, charities and building materials clients. It's the sort of occupation that leads to knowing a little about a lot - perfect credentials for a quiz team player - or a writer - in other words.
There's an old adage that says write about what you know. In my PR days I'd done a lot of work in the funerals industry, so my first novel, A Matter of Life and Death, was a satire on bereavement in modern day Britain. Now I doubt I'll be able to find an undertaker who'll have me as a customer.
My latest novel, Written Off, is all about aspiring authors who will do anything to get published. Is it autobiographical? I couldn't possibly comment but it's heartening that one agent sniffily told me, 'we don't like this sort of thing in the profession'. No, I bet they don't.
My early music obsession won't go away - I try to weave it in to my books. For example, each chapter in A Matter of Life and Death takes the title of a song that could be played at a funeral. It's a good list - check it out. You can even find it on Spotify.
Written Off has a musical motif too - because I needed lots of new book titles for my wannabe writers I took my inspiration for coming up with them from song titles by one of my favourite singer-songwriters. It says a lot about my musical taste that no one has spotted who it is yet.
My next novel has a brewery and a magic beer at the heart of it. I am currently engaged in the research phase. I find that commitment is the single most important attribute a writer can possess.