I was born in Shrewsbury, England, in 1973, the son of a Scottish salesman and a Shropshire Lass. My family moved several times when I was young. I’ve grown up “on the road” in Shrewsbury, Guisborough near Middlesbrough, Formby near Liverpool and in Yate near Bristol.
I am the eldest of two children, born on 1st August 1973. For me, the fact that my family moved around the country a lot during my early childhood, has shaped the person that I have grown up to become. I love travelling and I can easily adapt and feel at home in most environments.
After finishing my A levels at Chipping Sodbury School near Bristol, I enrolled at the University of Derby where I graduated in 1994 with a BA Honours degree in American Studies and English Literature. It was while at university as an undergraduate that I first began to write. I published some poetry in the university magazine and wrote extensive travel diaries about my adventures during the summer breaks. I dabbled with the idea of becoming a newspaper journalist, briefly enrolling on an NCTJ course in Sheffield while working as an intern at the Derby Evening Telegraph before the bright lights of London stole me away. After a number of failed attempts to find work in the media in London, I went on to complete a Post Graduate Certificate of Education in English from Brunel University College. I taught English at a comprehensive school in Feltham, Middlesex for three and a half years before deciding I needed a completely different challenge. From January 2000 until January 2006, I’ve worked in a variety of roles in teaching, administration and creative media in Spain and Switzerland. I speak Spanish, Catalan and French fluently, and recently became a French-British dual national.
Following my return to England in 2006, I have taught in and led secondary school Film, Media and Modern Foreign Languages Departments.
‘Peter and the Dwarf Planets’
In May 2017, I took my two small children out for a walk down to our local public library in Cambridgeshire. The library had a fantastic little area for pre-schoolers and infant school age kids! There was a little red train that the youngest could sit on that was full of colourful picture books. Nearby was a really comfy area where all three of us could sit and read a number of different stories together.
I’m a huge fan of the Julia Donaldson collection of rhyming stories for kids of between 3 and 8 years old. I particularly like when she works in collaboration with the illustrator Axel Scheffler. I remember we read a couple of her stories that day, The Gruffalo and another that I can’t recall the name of. But, we read a number of other similar stories by other authors, and I remember thinking to myself, “I could do that!”
At the time, my son was absolutely crazy about stars and planets. We’d given him some books and some posters for his room, and he also loved a series of You Tube songs that explained all about the planets and the dwarf planets. He was particularly crazy about the name “Pluto” at the time and was always asking me at bedtime what came after Pluto.
So, that same afternoon, after the library while my wife looked after the kids in the garden, I went upstairs and penned my first piece of rhyming verse in nearly twenty-five years. At first, I named it after my son, as the story behind the rhyme is based in fact and is about my relationship with my boy.
After reading the story back over to myself several times and liking it every single time (this is very unusual for me – I am quite a perfectionist and have binned most of what I’ve written creatively throughout my life), I showed it to my wife who also loved it. She advised me to change the name of the main character to more of a solid, universally recognisable boys’ name. I chose “Peter” for three reasons. In terms of a solid name, there’s nothing more solid than a name that traditionally means “stone or rock”. Then, Peter alliterates well with Planets, and finally, my best friend at university was called Peter Aliferis. He sadly passed away in December 2009. I felt that this would be a fitting tribute to him. He was always a dreamer and a nice guy, just like the characters in my story.
The illustrator, Laura Coppolaro is a former pupil of St Ivo School in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, where I helped to set up a Film & Media Department during a 9 year stint there as a teacher. She is a graduate and freelance design artist and I knew that she’d already collaborated by completing the artwork on a poetry anthology written and published by a friend of mine a few years earlier. I am a huge fan of her style.
I sent her my story and my requirements for each page and then just let her come up with whatever she envisaged would work with my story. The end result is fantastic. Peter and his daddy have been brought brilliantly to life by a genuine genius with a light pen! I particularly love that she’s included a cat in the story. Laura did not know at the time that we have a cat that pretty much follows me everywhere around the house.
I would advise anyone, not just aspiring authors, but anyone at all, that through hard work and perseverance; daring to dream and to pursue your dreams regardless of the pitfalls that you will meet along the way, you will one day get to where you want to go. You will be who you want to be and all will work out great!