Biographical Stuff

I come from Coventry (England).

Possibly that's why I am so in love with words and communication, having come out of that city that is so improbably associated with silence. I was born there and lived there for the first seven years of my life: I spent the rest of my childhood in various parts of the British Midlands. Between the ages of 7 and 38, I just kept on moving, backwards and forwards across the centre of Britain -' I've lived in Dublin and Cardiff, Bangor and Leicester and Nottingham. But since the early 80s my sense of home has been tied to the city of Cambridge and that is where I live now. I'm a transplant, a migrant, a graft into the East Anglian landscape. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why I end up writing about characters who are rootless or displaced.

I'm mongrel, a mixture of Welsh and English: my ancestors come from North Wales and the Southern Welsh mining valleys, Herefordshire and Shropshire and Somerset and Birmingham. Many of those places are borders or centres of migration: the "timeless" countryside has always been a land of migrant workers, of emigration and replacement. The big industrial centres of the nineteenth century grew on the backs of immigrants who met and married and dispersed back to the countryside. I am neither one thing nor the other, neither Saxon nor Celt. If pushed to define myself, I say, "Well, I'm British, I'm a blend of the peoples of this place; I'm a Midlander, from that place between the North and the South that people tend to overlook. I have grown my roots into Cambridge, a city to which my ancestry has no ties. Home is where my partner and my cats and my (too many) books are."

I'm a historian. I've talked elsewhere on this site about how that happened. I have a PhD in mediaeval British history and my first career was university lecturer. While my specialisation is early mediaeval Wales (that's the period between around 400 CE and the Edwardian Conquest in 1283), I've also worked on early mediaeval Ireland, on Anglo-Saxon England and on the Vikings. You can find information on my non-fiction page. Other than that, I've been a barmaid, a tax officer, an administrator, a charity shop worker and a Personal Assistant.

I'm a fan - of books, of science fiction and fantasy, of Hong Kong cinema, of folk music and Hindi films and manga and swashbucklers. I am a creature of obsessions: I love to learn, to explore, to immerse myself in new subjects and passions. Wherever and whenever I am, I am always in the grip of some new fascination. I have books on Chinese history and language, on film theory and printing, on the Arthur stories and on France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, on Alexandre Dumas and silent movie stars. I'm interested in clocks and swords and orreries and architecture and travelling, in prison-camp memoirs and ferrets, cats and sharks and the Welsh language. There is always something new and fascinating to find and study.

And I'm a writer. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to create stories. I wrote my first "novel" when I was 8, and illustrated it, too - it was eight pages long and about ponies. In my teens I wrote new adventures for my favourite characters from books and television and films: somewhere I still have my tale about Sir Gawain written in an excruciating imitation of the style of Sir Thomas Mallory. I started writing original stories in my late teens, which is when I also started my first attempts at novels. My obsessions and my training, my personal history and the histories I've studied all feed back into my writing.

I live in Cambridge, England, with my partner and (currently) three cats. He is tolerant of and patient with my eccentricities and foibles. The cats are resigned.