For years, I wanted to be a writer but from about 1990, when I was first taken on by my agent, Carolyn Whitaker, I started to write more seriously completing one book each year. I was the Head of Film and Media Studies at the Blackpool Sixth Form College and, as most teachers, was exhausted when I got home. My wife was a post lady, getting up for work at 4am each morning. So I decided to get up early too (but not quite that early!). I would write from 6-15am to 7-30am each morning before going to work. At that hour words came easily; especially dialogue.
I was aiming at the adult market, hoping to become the next Tolkien but, after over ten years of rejections, Carolyn suggested I try writing for children. My second attempt was picked up by Charlie Sheppard of Random House Children’s Books and I signed a three-book deal which has subsequently been extended to nine. When the USA agreed to publish the books I finished teaching and now write full time.
The Spook’s Series is partly influenced by Lancashire folk tales and places of local interest. For example, the stone graves, featured in ‘The Spook’s Curse’ actually exist and may be viewed at Heysham. Some places have been given name changes: the village of Chipping has become Chipenden, whilst Lancaster has been shortened to just Caster. I actually live in the village of Stalmine (referred to as ‘Staumin’ in ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’) which has a boggart of its own called the ‘Hall Knocker’ which was laid to rest by a priest, bound under the step of a cottage belonging to the local church. Lancashire is the home of real boggarts rather than the shape-shifting variety invented by J.K. Rowling. Lancashire boggarts are more like poltergeists.
Thus, boggarts and witches are the main routine enemies of the Spook and his apprentice, Tom. But the Devil also features in many Lancashire Folk Tales such as ‘The Schoolmaster of Cockerham’. Thus, the Devil, mainly referred to as the ‘Fiend’, has entered the Spook’s Series too. He is the dark personified, the adversary that Tom was born to fight; a deadly struggle that begins in ‘The Spook’s Battle’ (published in June 2007) and will probably continue until the last book in the series.
I attended Preston Catholic College but left at 16 to become an apprentice fitter. Whilst working full-time, I did A Levels at night school before going to Lancaster University to read English. On graduating I attended St Martin’s College, Lancaster to train as a teacher.
Much later, in the 1980s, I wanted to become a computer programmer, so I completed an Open University degree where I struggled with subjects such as maths and electronics but enjoyed computer programming. My favourite language was ‘Forth’ – ‘words within words’. I finally decided it would be a good idea to add ‘touch-typing’ to my computer skills. So I thought I’d have one more go at a novel whilst I practised. I still peck with my fingers but I did finish the novel and I’ve been writing ever since.
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
St Joseph’s Hospital, Mount Street, Preston, Lancashire.
I have lived in Stalmine since 1983. It’s a Lancashire village across the River Wyre from Fleetwood and Blackpool and has its own boggart called ‘The Hall Knocker’. In fact Stalmine is right in the middle of boggart territory and moving to that village gave me the inspiration to write ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’.
Walking, reading, writing (it’s still my hobby), sipping beer in the sun, watching football and travelling.
Spook’s Book Awards:
Winner of ‘The Sefton Schools Super Reads’ (2006) for ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’.
Winner of ‘The Hampshire Book Award’ (2006) for ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’.
Joint Winner of the French ‘Prix Plaisirs de Lire’, (2006) for ‘L’apprenti epouvanteur’.
Lancashire Book Award: (2005), ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’; (2006) ‘The Spook’s Curse’ and (2008) ‘The Spook’s Battle’.
Salford Book Award: (2006) ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’.
Manchester Book Award: (2006) ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’.
Lincolnshire Book Award: (2005) ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’; (2006) ‘The Spook’s Curse’.
Warwickshire Book Award: (2006) ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’.
Priz Ado-Lisant, France: (2007) ‘L’apprenti epouvanteur’.
Blackpool Teenage Fiction of the Year: (2008) ‘The Spook’s Battle’.
In addition to being published in the USA under the series title, ‘The Last Apprentice’, the series, at present, has been translated into 24 foreign languages for publication in countries such as Germany, Greece, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, Romania and China.