I have two passports
I emigrated to Australia from the UK 11 years ago, so now I have an EU passport and an Australian one. It makes it easier for travelling and I love having the EU one for getting around the UK and Europe - it makes things much simpler.
I had to take a citizenship test and attend a ceremony before I could apply for my Australian passport. It was so funny - there was a really dodgy singer providing the entertainment, and then every new citizen had to get up on stage, shake hands with the mayor of the local council, and be presented with our citizenship certificate and a grivellea sapling (a tree) to take home. My rescue greyhound ate the tree within three days of my being presented with it…
I love to travel
The moment I land back at Brisbane airport, I'm already planning the next trip away. I love everything about travelling - even the long-distance flying - there's something enjoyable about setting out on a journey: people watching; catching up with films or a book while flying; and then landing somewhere completely different and soaking up the culture and meeting new people.
I'm scared of horror films
You will never, ever find me watching a horror film! I think it has something to do with the fact that I have an overactive imagination. The only true horror film I've ever watched was Hallowe'en 3 when I was about 12 years old. Never, ever again - even the beginning of Poltergeist freaked me out!
Some TV shows can send chills down my spine, too. I recently got hold of the box set of the first three series of Luther and since then have heard about the episode with the killer under the bed - I don't know if I can watch the rest of it!
Really focused. Up until recently, I've had to fit my writing around a full-time job, and so I formed the habit of getting on the train in the morning for my daily commute and writing for the 35 minute journey into the city. Doing this enabled me to get at least 700 words down a day, more if I wrote on the way home as well. It was the only way I could keep up with all the ideas I had for novels.
I started that habit in late 2014 after reading a quote (I think by Jeff Goins) that said if you want to hit a goal, you have to form a habit. It's true - as is the saying that a habit takes about six weeks for form. It's the same as when you start a gym routine - once you train your brain that this is what you're going to do every day, it gets easier. Honest.
I find it hard to relax
I like being busy. If I'm not physically doing something, then I'm thinking of something to do. This probably explains why I often suffer bouts of insomnia, but I can't imagine sitting still - it's not in my nature at all.
I am trying to learn to switch off though, and so now if I've hit my writing quota for the day, I get out of the house and take my dog for a walk to stretch my legs and get some fresh air - I do enjoy that.
I love the countryside
I'm not a big city person at all, which some people find surprising when they hear I live in Brisbane.
We're actually very lucky - we live right on the outskirts of the city near bushland so we can go for walks and spot huge monitor lizards, white cockatoos and sometimes a wallaby within minutes of our house.
I love coming back to the UK and soaking up the greenery of the English countryside though. We have family in Dorset and Kent, so we spend two weeks every couple of years or so catching up with everyone and making the most of village life!
I've played lead guitar in bands
Ever since my parents showed me a concert by The Who on TV when I was very young, I wanted to be a guitarist.
My grandfather bought me my first acoustic guitar for my eighth birthday - I think it was to shut me up from talking about it all the time more than anything else! I got packed off to classical lessons though, when all I wanted to do was be like Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders!
I had to wait until I was 18 before I'd saved up enough to buy my first electric guitar and an amplifier - as well as lessons - but after that I spent seven amazing and fun years having a fantastic time playing in bands in Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
I don't have time to play as much as I'd like any more, but I still have my trusty Fender Stratocaster and an acoustic guitar and they occasionally get dusted off…
I inhale books
I love reading - my mum and dad taught me to read before I'd even started infant school, and I got into trouble when I did start school, because none of the teachers could believe I was getting through my books so quickly.
I used to love getting book tokens for birthdays and Christmas presents - that feeling when you walk into the local bookshop and think 'where do I start?'. Even now, I love the guilty pleasure of buying new paperbacks, even though I have a bookshelf heaving with novels I haven't read yet. I don't even want to think about all the books on my Kindle I've bought…!
I've crashed a helicopter. Five times.
Okay, so it wasn't a real helicopter, but the crashes were still pretty spectacular.
I've written espionage thrillers in the past, and I've always been a stickler for research - more so if I can get away from the desk and the internet - hands-on research is a lot more fun!
I had a scene in one of my books, Three Lives Down, where a daring prison rescue is made using a helicopter landing right in the middle of the abandoned exercise yard. I've never attempted such a thing myself, and there's a company in Brisbane that offers sessions in a Black Hawk helicopter simulator, so I thought "why not?"
Put it this way - be grateful I'm not a helicopter pilot. After five attempts at taking off only to ditch the aircraft in the dirt every time, the instructor eventually took pity on me and got me up in the air - after that, it was a ball. And I'm definitely better as a gunner - those enemy tanks didn't stand a chance…
I've studied forensic science and forensic psychology
I wanted my Kay Hunter series to be as realistic as possible, so apart from gathering information and guidance from both active and retired police officers this past year, I've also undertaken a couple of short courses to give me an understanding of the science behind the job.
FutureLearn is an online initiative that offers free courses from some of the best universities around. It started with offerings from UK universities, but now includes some international ones as well.
I first studied forensic psychology to gain more insight into police interviewing techniques, and have completed a forensic science course through the University of Strathclyde.
All of this has given me fresh insights into what my characters might have to deal with and, of course, my imagination has been working overtime with new story ideas!