About ...

I was brought up in a small mining village in West Yorkshire, son of a school teacher and a coal face worker. As a young boy I lived in fear that one day I'd have to follow Dad's footsteps down the dark mine (so many of my school friends went that way).

But somewhere around the age of eleven, I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. If anything set me on my way, it was the day my English tutor (Jim Hutt, God rest him) heaped praises on a torrid little novella I’d written for homework during the holidays, The Curse Of The Undead, a shameless reworking of virtually every Hammer horror film I’d seen up to that point. No matter that the story was derivative; we all have to start somewhere. I was just elated that my teacher — my first true fan! — liked it enough to read it to the class during the next two lessons. I sat through those lessons, puffed up with pride and blushing in embarrassment. Absolute torture... but I do remember thinking: “Hey, I can do this, it’s fun, beats working!”

Six years later I sold my first writing, two album reviews I'd sent to the music weekly Record Mirror, who later offered me a full-time staff job. After Jim Hutt, RM's editor Alf Martin was my second great mentor. Nice work, too: moving to London, reviewing albums and gigs, interviewing the 
likes of The Jam, The Fall, Echo and The Bunnymen, Buzzcocks, Peter Gabriel, U2...
But I was still finding my voice as a writer back then and most of my Record Mirror rants are embarrassing to read now. After three years I felt I'd run out of things to say about music, and left to pursue a new dream — to write novels. Easy, right? It took a little longer than I'd hoped.

In 1988 my first young adult book, A Light In The Black, sold to Penguin in the UK. The press were generous (as a former critic now on the receiving end, I'd feared the worst) and the book was shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. My second novel, Calling All Monsters, was optioned by Spielberg/Amblin and Spielberg/Dreamworks. Although the option was twice renewed the film is still unproduced.

My fifth YA novel, Becoming Julia, was a runner-up for both the Sheffield and Lancashire Children's Book awards. After that, Virtual World, a cyberspace thriller in which players of an illegally downloaded interactive game mysteriously disappear, made the Carnegie Award long-list.

I've had a long break from writing for various reasons (health, family etc., in other words life getting in the way) but I finally got back to work with Ministry of Pandemonium, the first of a series of novels set in a secret, alternative London. Ministry won the 2012 North East Book Award and was runner-up for the Northern Ireland Book Award in the same year. In 2013 it was shortlisted for the Calderdale Children's Book of the Year Award.