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Author Q & A

This Q & A is based on one that appeared on the Liz Loves Books blog in April 2018.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

My entire childhood was spent happily in Winchester. A pleasant town, and apart from the political mugging of Boris Johnson when he stepped off the Vote Leave bus during the EU Referendum, nothing really exciting has happened there since it was the ancient capital of England. Family life was close and supportive, and still is. Many memories from childhood stay with you for life, so I think a happy childhood is important for the well-being of everyone.

Academic or creative at school?

Academic. Sounds so boring, I know. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. I would say that writing is a very creative enterprise pursued more by academic types.

First job you really wanted to do?

To be a radio presenter, particularly a DJ on Radio One. But I believed it was not a proper job and fell into the very middle-class mistake of putting everything into studying at school and college. Then, when you graduate from university, you wonder, what can I really do now?

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

Yes. It was reading "1984" by George Orwell at school. I thought, "I want to write something so important that school kids have to read it!" In fact, Orwell remains one of my favourite authors. I am actually working on a novel at the moment, but I don't think it will ever get taken into an English Literature lesson, let alone be part of the curriculum.

Does anything keep you awake at night?

In terms of my non-fiction books, that would be making a factual or logical howler that greatly affects the narrative. Other slips and mistakes can usually be rectified during the second printing or whatever, but obviously you aspire to write compelling prose that is totally accurate.

Who are your real life heroes?

The unsung ones: the people battling difficult situations, caring for others, with no power but to make a small part of the world a little better, normally for someone else.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you've found yourself in?

When I worked for IBM I ran a directing marketing campaign based on a "Mission Impossible" theme. The deliverable was a brown envelope with "For Your Eyes Only" stamped on it. Unfortunately, it met all but one of the FBI's guidelines for suspicious packages and led to the evacuation of an air base. This provided me a salutary lesson in marketing: air bases do not make good customers.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

Definitely phone a friend. My prowess at all things practical was clearly demonstrated at secondary school. Last century, we did not do "tech" but "woodwork". I clearly remember that we had to make a rack for 10 cassette tapes. After a few weeks of toil, the teacher inspected the finished articles. All my friends passed, snuggly fitting 10 cassettes into a beautiful wooden rack. Mine looked like a parallelogram and fitted only eight! See what I mean about childhood memories staying with you?

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Although Britain is not the best place for it, a sun worshipper. I love hiking in the Alps and Dolomites during the summer months - definitely something not to be done at night.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Pieces of life advice for everyone are called platitudes. If there is one thing most of us could do better it is probably listen more and say less.

A small thing you would like to change about the world?

I sincerely believe our lives would be better if we tried to work through our differences first. It seems to me that many people are too quick to believe the worst about others. So, the wave of my magic wand would be to stop all trolling, especially online, which only entrenches division and distrust.

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