When did you start writing?
I suppose it’s fair to say I have been writing for most of my life. As a precocious 5 year old I won a literary competition run by the local library service for a short story and won a fistful of book tokens. My father was a successful crime writer so I suppose it could be in the genes. I gained a degree in English Literature and since then, apart from a pivotal year teaching English in Greece, one way or another I have earned my living from writing. I worked as a journalist at the BBC before moving to Fleet Street and Telegraph newspapers then on to websites and numerous national magazines as editor. I still do the occasional travel piece for Saga Magazine but, apart from this, writing books is my full-time occupation.
Why do you specialise in writing about Greece?
I had always known that I wanted to write books but like many would-be authors the time went by and I had never fully committed to writing one. So when I did start work on my first book, The Greek Islands – A Notebook, it was an exercise in seeing whether I actually had the discipline to achieve just the writing of one book. ‘Always write about something you know about and love’ is the advice so often given to writers who are starting out, and that is why I chose Greece as a subject. I found I had more than enough material to write about, and when I had finished my second book about Crete, it became a natural progression to move on to other islands I know well and love to visit, specifically Rhodes and Corfu. I have been to Athens and the Peleponnese on numerous occasions but, other than that, my experience of mainland Greece is limited. But I always seem to be drawn back to Crete, the first Greek island I ever visited as a young teacher in 1982, and where we have returned several times a year since.
Where, when and how do you write?
I write wherever I am, but at home I have a study where I work. I make a point of writing each morning, every day from Monday to Friday. It is how I earn my living, so I have to be disciplined. I am quite organised and meticulous although to look at my study you wouldn’t believe it. I get up early every day and go to my study with my dogs who sleep whilst I get to work. Even if I’m having a bad day I make myself write something. As a journalist I suppose I have the training to meet deadlines. Also that training has been invaluable as I work reasonably quickly and am experienced doing research. I use a PC laptop for writing on and a Mac for my research. When I’m on the move or at our home in Crete I use an iPad.
What do you enjoy reading?
This changes all the time and is under constant revision. Much of my reading is about Greece and inevitably the names Lawrence Durrell, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Henry Miller, and Nikos Kazantzakis come to mind. I also remember enjoying John Fowles’ The Magus, but that was a long time ago. As I get older I am getting more into crime writing and enjoy Andrea Camilleri, Henning Mankell and Donna Leon to name a few, and for mysteries with a Greek theme Anne Zouroudi and Jeffrey Siger are hard to beat. For those who need a regular fix of writings about or set in Greece I can also recommend works by Marjory McGinn, Sara Alexi, Jennifer Barclay, Victoria Hislop, Yvonne Payne and Beryl Darby. For those interested in books about Greece or with a Greek connection, there is a wonderful Facebook group ‘A Good Greek Read’, the brainchild of another favourite writer on Greek themes John Manuel, which gives a comprehensive list of links and recommendations to a wealth of titles. Why not check it out at:
Where do you live?
I live with my wife Denise in a 160 year old Victorian cottage in a village near Tunbridge Wells in Kent in the UK. We have lived here for more than 30 years and our family grew up in the house and still live nearby. My daughter is a veterinary surgeon in the village and lives with her partner and our granddaughter in a house just up the road and my son is a musician and he and his wife have a house not far away. We are also lucky enough to have a small house in the village of Epano Elounda in Crete which we have bought since I gave up the daily grind of the commute to London. It is an ideal base for family holidays, writing and for me to travel around the island doing research for my new book, a full-colour, illustrated sketchbook of Crete which I am lucky enough to be working on with the immensely talented artist Martin Thompson.