About

I am a writer. The stuff I’ve written includes novels, screenplays, children’s novels and journalism. My novels have now been translated in 29 languages.

My first novel, The Last Family in England (2004) was a UK bestseller. It was an honour when one of my favourite writers, Jeanette Winterson, called it ‘among the great animal books.’ It was a Daily Mail Book Club selection, and the film rights have been sold to Brad Pitt’s production company. The very talented New Zealand film-maker Taika Waititi has written a brilliant screenplay and plans to direct the film.

Since that book I’ve written The Dead Fathers Club (2006) and The Possession of Mr Cave (2008), which have been translated into ten languages. The last one is still the darkest thing I’ve ever written, by quite a long way. Again, an excellent screenplay for that has been written by Brock Norman Brock.

The Radleys, won an ALA Alex Award in America, has been shortlisted for the Portico prize and nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and has been translated into 29 languages most recently Lithuania. It won the TV Book Club Summer Read. I have written the screenplay with the help of the (now chopped) UK Film Council, which is being produced into a film by Alfonso Cuaron and BBC Films. It was written as an adult novel, but in addition to the Canongate edition there is a young adult edition available in the UK published by Walker Books.

However, I have written some children’s books. My first, Shadow Forest,won the Nestle/Smarties Prize, the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award (2009) and eight regional awards. Both Shadow Forest and it’s sequel The Runaway Troll are being re-packaged and re-published for release in the UK in 2013. This will coincide with the launch of the paperback edition of my new kids book, To Be a Cat.

I was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire in 1975. Since then I have lived in Nottinghamshire, Ibiza and London. I studied English and History at Hull University and then did an MA at Leeds. I live in Brighton with the writer Andrea Semple and our children Lucas and Pearl. And in 2009, I won the Yorkshire Young Achievers ‘Achievement in the Arts’ Award.

Here’s a video I made. It’s a slightly tragic insight into the life of a self-absorbed writer.  

HERE’S MY LIFE IN LISTS - ’List, list, O, list!’

THINGS I LOVE:

  • Rome
  • The lights fading in a cinema
  • Sea-views
  • Holding my daughter in a swimming pool
  • The sound of my son talking to Woody and Buzz
  • Norway
  • The infinite promise of airports
  • Writing with a pen and paper
  • Springer Spaniels (Murdoch, I miss you, the world is not the same)
  • Tamarind Indian Restaurant, London
  • Motorways at night
  • Marmite and peanut butter sandwiches
  • Balearic islands
  • Smells: pine, old books, fried garlic, my wife’s hair

BOOKS THAT ALTERED MY EXISTENCE (in rough chronological order)

  • Enid Blyton, Noddy Goes to Market
  • John Burningham, Borka
  • Where do I come from?
  • SE Hinton, Rumble Fish and The Outsiders
  • Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
  • Stephen King, Christine
  • Bret East Ellis, Less than Zero
  • Martin Amis, Money
  • Francois Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse
  • Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native
  • Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye
  • Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
  • Stephen King, The Shining
  • Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • George Orwell, Animal Farm
  • Nicholson Baker, Vox
  • Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory
  • Gustav Flaubert, Madame Bovary
  • Roald Dahl, everything
  • Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
  • Jeanette Winterson, Oranges are not the only Fruit
  • Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting
  • Julian Barnes, A History of the World in 10 and a half chapters
  • Geoff Dyer, Paris Trance
  • Barry Hines, A Kestrel for a Knave
  • Bruce Chatwin, On the Black Hill
  • Robert Towne, Chinatown screenplay
  • J.D Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
  • John Gray, Straw Dogs
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut, The Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock
  • Remainder, Tom McCarthy

FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD MEMORIES:

  • The first: standing in the garden, aged three, throwing a washing basket in the air and trying to catch it on my head.
  • Sitting on my dad’s shoulders at a CND march in London
  • Sunflowers
  • Aged 6, running naked around a garden in Norway at my Aunt and Uncle’s house
  • Swimming with my dad at eleven o’clock at night in a pool at a Holiday Inn in Los Angeles (aged 8)
  • Riding Eliot’s bike with ET in the basket at Universal studios
  • My Nan’s laugh
  • Scoring six goals on the first day of a new primary school
  • My old Springer Spaniel gobbling snow as he ran around the park
  • My Uncle Jim’s wedding in San Francisco
  • Watching Return of the Jedi on my ninth birthday
  • Going to see The Cure live at Wembley with my Goth cousin James, aged 14
  • Reading S.E. Hinton books
  • Adverts (filling whole video tapes with my favourites)
  • Eating Pot Noodles with my sister then discarding the evidence before mum came home
  • Escaping my mum’s drama workshop
  • Mattress-surfing down the staircase
  • Riding on my bike after dark through the streets of Newark-on-Trent
  • Fantasising about teachers
  • Getting the biggest laughs for my Elvis impersonation in the school musical, The Dracula Spectacular
  • Coming second in a Royal Mail letter writing competition
  • Coming second in the Nottinghamshire Inter-School Road Safety tournament
  • Coming second in a fancy-dress competition (I was Mr Tickle)
  • Writing science fiction stories
  • Dad being alive and well after the King’s Cross fire, and going with mum in my dressing gown to pick him up in Doncaster

THINGS I WORRY ABOUT:

  • Icebergs
  • Writer’s block
  • Our leaders
  • That death leads to nothing
  • That death leads to something
  • Itchy moles
  • Going mad
  • Oil spills
  • My children ever feeling lonely on a school playing field
  • My stomach aches
  • Tinnitus
  • Animal experiments
  • Losing those I love

HORROR-SCOPE FOR 2100:

  • Everyone will be back using pen and paper, following the People Against Software Revolution in 2059 (prompted by a proposal put forward by the Apple-Google alliance to develop a search-engine for human brains).
  • People will crave human touch after the UNA’s (United Nations of America) Anti-Terrorism ‘Physical Contact’ Laws of 2082.
  • Shakespeare will be resurrected from his DNA to host his own chat show, ‘That’s Shakespeare!’ but is sacked after he is snapped smoking crystal meth with a prostitute in a Stratford theme pub. The TV network then dig up Jesus to host a magic show and boost ratings.

ANNOYING THINGS:

  • Fundamentalism of all kinds (nothing is fundamental, not even nothing)
  • Lack of empathy (more empathy, less desire to bomb other countries)
  • People who think English teachers should focus on phonetics, punctuation and grammar at the expense of imagination
  • People who know their own mind (I’m just jealous. I NEVER know my own mind. I think.)
  • Panic attacks
  • Twitter
  • Tripping over in public
  • Literary cliques (all cliques, in fact)
  • The false divide between literary/commercial (most novels exist within the slash, including Jane Eyre and Great Expectations)
  • Books that are written solely to show off intellectual superiority rather than communicate human feeling
  • My deformed toes
  • Barmen who comment when I ask for a sparkling mineral water
  • Hornby-esque lists on author websites

FAVOURITE WRITERS WHO DON’T NEED FIRST NAMES:

  • Shakespeare
  • Orwell
  • Flaubert
  • Hardy
  • Plato
  • Ovid
  • Dickens
  • the Brontes
  • Larkin
  • Steinbeck
  • Twain
  • Byron

FILMS:It changes every day, but right at this second:

  • Stand By Me
  • Minority Report
  • Toy Story 3
  • Aguirre, or The Wrath of God
  • American Splendor
  • A bout de souffle
  • Bonbon El Perro
  • Any John Hughes scripted movie pre-Home Alone, especially the Molly Ringwald ones, and yes that does include National Lampoon’s Vacation
  • Y tu Mama Tambien
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Bicycle Thieves
  • Sleeper
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • Pinnochio
  • The Searchers
  • Black Swan
  • Die Hard
  • Central Station
  • The Apartment
  • Shadow of a Doubt
  • The Outsiders
  • Rumble Fish
  • Repulsion
  • Black Narcissus
  • Old Boy
  • Nosferatu (the Herzog/Klinski version)
  • Jaws
  • Marnie
  • Rope
  • Elf
  • Man on the Moon
  • Double Indemnity
  • Roman Holiday
  • The Ice Storm


FAVOURITE ARTISTS:

  • Edward Hopper, for capturing the loneliness of the human soul
  • Veronese, for turning the Bible into a Venetian orgy
  • Hieronymous Bosch, for the madness
  • Rene Magritte, for the Empire of Light (my favourite painting)
  • Ricky Swallow, for the wood sculptures


CHILDHOOD CRUSHES ON FAMOUS PEOPLE:

  • Penelope Pitstop
  • Betty Rubble
  • Kelly Le Brock
  • the original Daisy Duke
  • Madonna
  • Jami Gertz
  • Vanessa Paradis, circa Joe Le Taxi
  • River Phoenix
  • Cherry in the book of The Outsiders
  • Molly Ringwald
  • Beatrice Dalle

WHY I WRITE:

  • I didn’t like working in marketing.
  • I can’t do much else.
  • Getting the madness in my head down on paper, then organising it, makes me feel a bit more sane.
  • Stories, as Jonathan Franzen puts it, ‘will save our souls.’


FAVOURITE OPENING LINES:

  • ‘When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home’ – S. E. Hinton, The Outsiders
  • ‘Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo’ – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • ‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day’ – Jane Eyre
  • ‘Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions’ – Muriel Spark, The Girls of Slender Means
  • ‘Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-etre hier, je ne sais pas.’ – Albert Camus, L’Etranger
  • ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’ Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
  • ‘When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect’ – Kafka, The Metamorphosis

FAVOURITE CLOSING LINES:

  • ‘The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, but already it was impossible to say which was which.’ – Orwell, Animal Farm
  • and the one from Wuthering Heights about ‘how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.’


CHRONOLOGY:

  • Born in 1975 in Sheffield, UK, officially one of the 10,000 best cities in the world.
  • Grow up (or older) in Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire.
  • Age 13, walk in my sleep and unconsciously wee on someone’s head on a school trip to the Peak District in Derbyshire.
  •  After years of trial and error, I finally manage to develop the worst haircut in the country by the age of 15.
  • Spend teenage years in total fear of kissing and sex. Especially after Claire Newton tells me she’d rather not kiss me during a game of Spin the Bottle.
  • Develop tinnitus during the middle of my History A Level exam.
  • I end up at Hull University (misleading slogan: ‘It’s never dull in Hull’). Larkin used to be the librarian. There is still abusive graffiti about him in the lifts.
  • I fall madly in love when I am 19 with Andrea Semple. She guides me through some dark times in my early twenties (breakdown, panic disorder, drink problem, a taste for red sweaters) and makes life glimmer on a daily basis.
  • Do an MA in Leeds and nearly drown in a sea of Derrida and Baudrillard. Start writing a rubbish and pretentious novel called The Sun Rising.
  • Jobs I have walked out of: Oddbins worker (3 weeks), telesales (2 days), media sales (2 months), dish washer (1 night).
    Work for Manumission nightclub in Ibiza, and London, 1997-1999.
  • This century: Become sober. Quit smoking. Move to Leeds. Set up a marketing company with Andrea, my girlfriend. It does well. Make some money. Win a prize. Write a book on Internet PR. Do 8 more, including Brand Failures. It gets translated into twenty languages. Get asked to speak at lectures and conferences all over the place. Feel like Keanu Reeves in the Devil’s Advocate. Rethink life and start writing fiction . . .

NICE THINGS PEOPLE HAVE SAID ABOUT ME

  • ‘A writer of great talent’ New York Times
  • ‘Funny and fabulous and moving and strange’ Jeanette Winterson
  • ‘Delightfully weird’ Gerard Woodward, The Guardian
  • ‘Very funny’ John Boyne
  • ‘His writing cheers me up’ Val McDermid
  • ”So brilliant’ Julie Burchill
  • ‘A highly talented and clearly imaginative young writer’ Sunday Express

AWARDS

  • TV Book Club Best Read
  • Smarties Gold Medal
  • Galaxy Book Award (shortlist)
  • Yorkshire Young Achievers Award
  • Waterstones Children’s Book Awards (shortlist)
  • American Library Association’s Alex Award
  • Blue Peter Book of the Year
  • Carnegie Medal (twice commended)