I was born in Sheffield, moved to Leicester when I was two and West Kirby, on the Wirral, when I was five. I’m the eldest of four children. When I was sixteen, we moved to Colne, in Lancashire, where my dad still lives. I went to university in Nottingham. I liked the city so much I’ve stayed here ever since. I still have strong ties with Sheffield though: my sister, youngest brother and oldest friend all live there.
I did a degree in English Literature and American Studies. After graduating, I tried to write a novel but ended up becoming more of a full time activist – for CND, my trade union and the Labour Party. After eighteen months on the dole, I did a PGCE in English and Drama. It was a toss up between training for teaching or journalism. I chose teaching because I figured I’d be able to write novels in the school holidays. Also, I’d just split up with my girlfriend and knew there’d be a lot of single women on the course.
We were required to read Young Adult fiction, a genre that wasn’t around when I was a teenager. I discovered Robert Cormier and Robert Westall and thought I might have a go at writing a YA novel one day. I also pursued the brightest, most beautiful young woman on the course and somehow persuaded her to go out with me. We’re still together.
When the course was over, I taught supply and worked on a Young Adult novel called The Foggiest, finishing it just before I landed my first (and only) full time, permanent job, teaching English at Rushcliffe Comp in West Bridgford. Five years (and two unpublished adult novels) later, I sold a new version of The Foggiest to Hippo Books and negotiated a job share. The Young Adult book market immediately went into free fall and my next two books weren’t published, but then a new series called Point Crime came along.
I wrote the first Point Crime, Shoot The Teacher and the last, Dying For You. In between I wrote another three one-off titles and twelve crime novels in a series about young police officers in Nottingham, The Beat. In one year, I wrote four novels (one under a pseudonym), several short stories and worked half time as Head of Media Studies. For a few years, in the mid-90s, I was the UK’s best selling Young Adult author (not that any of us sell truck loads – OK, maybe one truck load).
In 1994, I quit teaching and became a full time writer. I began work on Love Lessons, a novel about a teacher/student relationship that was published in 1998. It remains my most popular novel with readers. I finished writing The Beat series in 1999 and fell out with my publishers the following year, when they censored the final novel, Fallen Angel after the proof stage. I moved my Young Adult fiction to Hodder, for whom I’ve written a novel about the 2000 Glastonbury festival, Festival, and another about the pressure on teenagers to have sex as early as possible, The Last Virgin. My last full length one, Denial, is the story of a fifteen year old girl whose teacher father is accused of sexually assaulting one of his students. I’ve also written a non-fiction book about eBay and several short novels for reluctant readers, most recently Secret Gardens.
My short stories for adults have appeared in numerous magazines, most often Ambit. I’ve also written loads of short stories for anthologies (I even edited one, City Of Crime) and several books for younger readers, including a thriller called Runaway Train and two historical novels, The Right Moment (about the occupation of France in the Second World War) and Boy King (a fictional autobiography of Edward VI). Fuller details can be found in the Book List below. These days I have a part time job again, teaching Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University and am concentrating on writing for adults. I’m about to start writing the third novel in the Bone and Cane sequence, which follows the two titular characters through the New Labour years and is mostly concerned with crime and politics.
I don’t have children, but do have several nephews, two nieces and a godson, most of whom claim to read my books now and then. I share an allotment and a 1971 MG Midget and own a fairly sturdy bicycle. I also have vast numbers of books, an obsessive record and CD collecting habit and go to more gigs than I can keep track of.