All about me – where to start? Well, I was born in Kenya, courtesy of the fact that my dad was working out there as a veterinarian. We moved to Ireland (where my parents are from) when I was 7, and that’s where I grew up. Did the usual school thing, whilst becoming an avid reader of just about any genre, but especially military and historical fiction. I spent nearly all my pocket money on books and devoured the contents of the local library. Favourites included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s medieval tales, Sir Nigel and The White Company; I did love the Sherlock Holmes books too though. Other top books were Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth and The Silver Branch, Henry Treece’s Viking sagas, as well as loads of fantasy – JRR Tolkien, Guy Gavriel Kay, Julian May, Roger Zelazny and Stephen Donaldson. I’ll stop now…
Although I loved reading, I never really thought about studying English or writing. Why, I’m not completely sure. As a real animal lover, all I’d ever wanted to be was a veterinarian, so that’s what I put on my university application form. Five years in college followed – a great time was had by all – and then a career in veterinary started. In 1996, I moved to the UK to concentrate on ‘small’ animal practice. But my itchy feet took me abroad in 1997, on a 3 month solo trip along part of the ancient Silk Road. Visiting the ruins of Merv, in Turkmenistan, started my interest in the Roman campaign into Parthia in 53 BC.
I felt the urge to travel again soon after returning, and in 1998, I set out on a trip around the world which lasted for nearly 3 years. It was during this prolonged time abroad that I first had thoughts of writing military historical fiction – sparked first I think by wondering what I could do apart from being a veterinarian.
I returned to the UK in early 2001, dragging myself back to ‘reality’ and the ‘real world’ of a career, a mortgage and so on. The terrible Foot and Mouth outbreak occurred a month or so after my return, and I volunteered almost immediately. The work took me to the stunning county of Northumberland, and the buzzing city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where I was to spend nearly a year. While the work of slaughtering livestock was truly awful – to put it mildly – I was able to visit some of the amazing Roman sites and museums along Hadrian’s Wall as well.
These were places that I had longed to visit as a child, and my imagination ran riot as I stood on the craggy ridges looking north, and wondering what the Italian legionaries first posted here must have thought. How had the Scottish tribes reacted to the mighty structure which dwarfed anything they’d seen before? My determination to become a writer emerged then, and I started writing not long afterwards.
What started as a hobby soon became an obsession, and about four years later The Forgotten Legion emerged into the light. Through the hard work of Charlie Viney, my amazing agent, I managed to land a book deal in the summer of 2007. Things since then have been a bit crazy – working as a veterinarian, writing, having kids etc. but it’s great fun too. Thanks to my wife and son and newly arrived baby daughter for keeping me grounded, most of the time.