I attended a Catholic primary school, St Teresa’s and later Chanel College in Masterton. At the end of the school years I moved to Wellington, and completed a degree in Economics, then trained to become a high school teacher.
The teaching career kicked off at Otaki College in 1990. It was there I first learned to love the classroom. An added bonus was the wide range of extra-curricular activities on offer; I developed a love of hiking and mountain biking, and first began directing plays.
In 1993 I moved to Tokyo, and spent six months working part time as an English language tutor. It was this lifestyle, with its long empty days, that gave me the chance to try my hand at writing novels. Over the next three years I wrote five books, none of which were publishable. In 1997 the clumsy phase of the apprenticeship drew to a close, and the novel Lester was accepted for publication by Longacre Press, a truly wonderful place to land.
By then I was working at Onslow College, a school with a particularly strong drama programme. I made use of the talent available and began writing and directing my own plays. The first of these was Terence, in 1995. Two stand outs for me are Malcolm and Juliet, which was first performed just after the death of my youngest brother, John, and Double Exposure, written with ex-student Duncan Small.
My first three published novels (Lester, Redcliff and No Alarms) were all written in the gaps while I was teaching. That changed in 1999, when I spent the year traveling in Europe and spent many a sun soaked afternoon with pen in hand. Jolt and the novel adaptation of Malcolm and Juliet were both completed during this time.
Home Boys and Deep Fried (written with my now-wife Clare) rounded out the first decade of my writing career. With seven teenage novels to my name, and a couple of national awards, I felt solidly established as part of the local YA scene. With Clare I experienced my first, rather inglorious, entry into international publishing, when Deep Fried was released in Australia, and largely ignored.
About this time Jolt was turned into a radio play for Radio New Zealand, featuring a group of my students from Onslow college. The broadcasting of the play in England led to an opportunity to develop a screenplay of Jolt, working with an Australian producer and British director. Although the film was never made, it gave me my first taste of writing in this medium.
An opportunity to try something different presented itself in 2005, when I was awarded a Royal Society teaching fellowship, which meant spending a year at The Allan Wilson Centre, an international leader in the field of molecular biology. Initially I intended to use the opportunity as the foundation for my first adult novel, Acid Song. When this project foundered, I turned to an idea I’d been playing with for a few years, a teen sci-fi/metaphysical thriller, and so Genesis was written.
Despite being intended as a side project, Genesis became the book that introduced me to the international market. It was sold first to Text Publishing in Australia (my current, superb, publisher, following the sale of Longacre to Random House) who onsold world rights to Quercus in the UK. It’s now gone into 30 territories and has been translated into more than 20 languages.
Meanwhile, I completed Acid Song, along with a work of non-fiction, Falling for Science, an examination of the philosophy of science, and particularly the relationship between story telling and scientific modelling.
I married Clare in 2008, and in January 2010 became a father, with the birth of twins, Sebastian and Alexander. Writing, which I’d always considered more of a hobby than a career, slipped another notch down the list of priorities. I moved to part-time teaching in order to give as much time as possible to Clare and the boys.
In 2011, August was published. Where Genesis had focussed on the conundrums of consciousness, August took as its theme Free Will. It represented the second in an intended trilogy of metaphysical novels. In 2012 I took a year’s leave from Hutt Valley High School, to be the Victoria University Writer in Residence. During the first half of the year I finished the third of the metaphysical novels, Lullaby, abandoned it and began a new project, which inherited the same theme (death) and name, but nothing else. It was released in 2012, and as yet has remained fairly anonymous. With the birth of our third child, a delightful, albeit nocturnal, young chap by the name of Avery, our family is complete. I couldn’t be happier.
These days parenting and teaching are where my focus lies, with writing growing weed-like in the cracks. In 2016 I happily combined two of these, writing a novel for my sons Alexander and Sebastian (a fantasy, featuring twin boys and their adventures in a parallel universe). I wrote a new section each day, to be read to them each evening and the final result, A S Normal and the Tunnel of Dreams, has been picked up by Text publishing, which is fun.
Since 2017 I’ve also been working on the play Two nights, which I created alongside Anna Flaherty and a talented bunch of teen actors, looking at the way pornography is corroding our notion and experience of intimacy. We’ve been that through schools for the last two years, provoking conversations that need to be had. In many ways it stands as the most satisfying creative endeavour I’ve engaged in. It’s the difference, in the end, between looking for something to say because you want to write, and wanting to write because you have something to say.