always dreamed of being a writer, but it took a long long time
before the dream came true.
was born in Huddersfield, England, in 1947. My mother was a teacher,
my father was a public servant, an election agent and a banana
salesman. We moved from place to place around England, but when
my father died, my mother settled in Hadleigh, Suffolk.
had a cousin who lived just down the road in Hadleigh, and behind
his house was an area called 'the chicken run'. Every kind of
junk was collected there: old baths, rubber tyres, bricks, planks
of wood - you name it, we had it. We used the junk to build all
kinds of things - castles, airplanes, submarines, all big enough
to live in. Then we invented adventures that sometimes ran for
days, defending the castle, going on a mission in the submarine,
time when it wouldn't stop raining, we wrote down some of our
adventures as stories. My girl cousin read them and said they
weren't bad, we ought to try to sell them at school. So we made
copies and hawked them around the playground at recess. We didn't
get money for them, only lollies, swaps and stuff! But that was
when I first discovered the thrill of having someone come up to
you and say 'Hey, that was great, have you got another one?' From
that day on, I wanted to be a writer.
was about eleven or twelve then, but the desire didn't make me
into a writer. The more I tried to write, the less I managed to
finish. I completed school, hitchhiked around Europe, went to
university . . . and still I had writer's block. Twenty-five
years of writer's block altogether - is this a record? I have
a cupboard at home stacked high with unfinished manuscripts (though
most of the best parts of them have found their way into other
uni, I had a theoretical book I really wanted to write, a theory
of language. I wanted someone to pay me to do it as a Ph.D, and
the only place that offered me a scholarship was Newcastle, Australia.
So I came to Australia, never expecting to stay. It took me about
four weeks to decide that this was my favourite place in the world,
and a good place to spend the rest of my life.
wasn't only novels I couldn't finish - I couldn't finish my theory
of language either. So I geared down to a smaller MA thesis. Then
I moved to Glebe to do another ambitious thesis at Sydney University.
Same result - I bogged down again. The only writings I could finish
were poems and short prose pieces. They were almost all published,
though there weren't very many of them.
I dropped out of the Sydney Uni thesis, I hit the pits. Bummed
around in Sydney and the Blue Mountains . . . part-time work
here and there . . . break-up of a long-term relationship.
The only good thing in my life was writing songs (sort of folk-rock
mix) and performing them at venues around the city.
I snuck back into tutoring at the Uni of NSW. I started writing
an article which turned into a thesis which turned into the original
theory of language that I'd tried to write ages ago. And this
time I could finish it! Divided into two, it was published in
the UK as Superstructuralism and Beyond Superstructuralism.
can't explain the separate halves of my mind. There's one very
abstract logical half which produces - used to produce - theories,
and there's the other inventive half which loves to tell stories
just for the love of stories. I don't think they fit together
at all. I certainly never learned anything about telling stories
from my theory of language!)
I now had a Ph.D and an impressive academic publication - which
got me a job in the English Department of the University of Wollongong.
Also - things going up and up! - I met Aileen, the most important
woman in my life. We married in 1983, and have lived in Figtree,
near Wollongong, ever since. No children of our own, but two lovely
stepchildren from Aileen's previous marriage.
lectured at Wollongong for ten years, and really enjoyed my job,
especially when I managed to introduce courses on fantasy and
speculative fiction. I wrote another theoretical book which was
published in the UK, Literary Theory from Plato to Barthes.
Also, finally, wonderfully, miraculously, I managed to finish
a novel! This was my gothic-bizarre-grotesque farce called The
Vicar of Morbing Vyle. Too off-beat for any mainstream publisher,
but it came out from a small press in 1993. It received great
reviews and gathered a cult following. Copies are still selling
ten years later.
of the reviews was from Van Ikin in the Sydney Morning Herald
- and here I had my huge slice of luck! I wrote to Van to thank
him, and he wrote back - one chance in a hundred! - to say he'd
be happy to read any other manuscript of mine - one in ten thousand!
- if I had one written. When I finished and sent him my latest
manuscript, it turned out - one in a million! - that he was just
then acting as a reader for Pan Macmillan!
manuscript was my SF detective thriler, The
Dark Edge. Pan Macmillan offered me a contract for that
novel and a sequel, which had to be completed within a year. Decision
time! because I knew I couldn't continue in my uni job and also
write a 500 page novel in a year. I loved lecturing and tutoring,
but I'd wanted to be an author since the age of twelve. In the
end, it was no contest, the job had to go and I resigned my tenured
my history of writer's block, I still didn't know if I could finish
the sequel; and when I did finish it, I still couldn't know how
long I could keep on getting published. People called it a 'courageous'
decision, meaning crazy like a fool. But so far - touch wood!
- the gamble has paid off, and my career as a full-time writer
keeps getting better and better.
sequel to The Dark Edge was Taken by Force, starring
the same two detectives, Eddon and Vail. The third in the series,
Hidden from View, came out a year later. Then I switched
publisher -to Penguin - and genre - to fantasy. The idea for the
Ferren novels had come to me in a dream ten years before, and
I'd tried to start writing soon after. But then I had to stop
and do huge amounts of research and world-planning - it took ten
years before I was truly ready to produce Ferrren
and the Angel.
first novel turned into a
trilogy, continuing Ferren's story in Ferren
and the White Doctor and Ferren
and the Invasion of Heaven. Most recently, I've moved
into younger fantasy fiction, with the wild and wacky Walter
Wants to be a Werewolf! Then came the multi-award-winning The Black Crusade (I always wanted to say 'multi-award-winning', and finally I got my chance), which is a gothic fantasy and prequel to The Vicar of Morbing Vyle. A year later, Omnibus/Scholastic published Sassycat, for younger readers, and then the Wolf Kingdom quartet - Escape! Under Siege, Race to the Ruins and The Heavy Crown - also for younger readers.
Now I'm into steampunk, which is probably what I really wanted to write all along. I had my big international breakthrough with Worldshaker, which Allen & Unwin sold to Simon & Schuster in the US, along with publishers in the UK, Germany, France and Brazil. Liberator was the sequel published in all the same countries. My latest is Song of the Slums, which is gaslight romance as well as steampunk. It's set in the same world as the two previous fantasies, but a different part of the world and a different time.
think I must be a very lucky person! I've never worked so hard
in my life, but everything I wanted is finally coming true!
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