1. I volunteered in the Calais ‘jungle’ refugee camp in 2016. It was a heart-breaking experience. My time there helped to shape a section in Cows Can’t Jump where Billy walks through Europe with a group of Syrian refugees.
2. I’m a bit of a baby in the world of publishing. I just turned 27, which qualifies me as a “young writer”, apparently. I think the average age for a debut novelist is around 35. I’ll take it. I was just starting to feel old!
3. The title of my book is Cows Can’t Jump. The title comes from a news story I read about an unexplained mystery in a Swiss alpine village. The cows there appeared to be walking off the edge of a cliff - all in the same spot. The locals believed they were committing suicide. I started writing a short story imagining the farmer whose cows were jumping off the cliff. I imagined him as an eccentric animal lover that believed his cows had had enough of him.
4. I wrote most of Cows Can’t Jump when I was 23/24 while working nights at bar in London. I’d use my groggy daytimes to write and edit the book. I wouldn’t recommend this as a writing routine.
5. While studying at University, I worked as a gardener, a pizza chef. Now I work for The Wombles as an in-house writer. It’s a good conversation starter!
6. I studied English Literature and Creative Writing at University and graduated in 2015. I wanted to drop Creative Writing at the end of my first year because I felt so cringey sending in things I’d written for workshops. I hated everything I wrote. Luckily, I had a brilliant lecturer called Mike. He persuaded me to stick at it. I’m glad I did.
7. I play piano. Not very well – I can’t read music – but I have big ears and I can pick out a tune if I put my mind to it!
8. Part of my research for the climax of Cows involved an open water swim to a Church on an island in the middle of Lake Bled, in Slovenia. As a terrible swimmer, this was probably a mistake. Thankfully, I made it, and it really helped with writing one of the most crucial scenes in the book.
9. I’m terrified of heights. I walked across a glass bottom bridge at the top of a mountain in Malaysia a couple of years ago. I’ve still not recovered.
10. At the beginning of 2020, I visited the Houses of Parliament alongside a 7-foot Womble. I introduced a Womble to the Prime Minister. It’s been a funny sort of year.