More About the Author
Where to begin on a life so varied, exotic, magical, adventurous and just plain fun? Not me, of course; that was the problem with my lead character when starting the first novel. Not that I'm entirely without those qualities - just provide me with the right setting and resources and stand well clear.
The exotic is probably accounted for by one strand of my family being Romany Gypsy only a couple of generations back. Magic and wanderlust seems to be in my blood. I have relatives spread out across the globe: my uncle Bill is a Doctor of English Literature in Sweden - I try to hide my deeply inadequate scribbling when he's visiting - and another uncle, Richard Gray, was an ambassador for the Irish Government until his passing a few years ago; he lived for a time in Chicago, Vienna and Spain.
For myself, I've spent various periods in Sweden and Seville and taught in an English Language School on Crete for two years - dealing with children can be much more colourful and exciting than any adventure along the darkest regions of the Amazon ( the river that is, not the website ). This last proved to be a wonderful and thoroughly mad experience that led to the writing of the first romantic comedy. I love Crete and fully intend to buy it once we shift enough copies of the books - not sure what to do with the current residents though.
Between travels I managed somehow to gain a BA with honours in Theatre Studies, which in no way qualifies me as some sort of drama queen; I'm level-headed, responsible and of entirely sound mind - ask anyone! Although acting was something I decided against, the course did offer screenwriting and story construction as part of my studies, which, needless to say, has proved very useful.
I've worked in many diverse jobs, some fascinating, some joyous, some tedious and exasperating, and some just seriously, irredeemably crap. All of them can be seen as experience of course, even if some experiences I could have happily lived without. At the moment I work for a major bank - please don't hold it against me if a world banking meltdown leads to the end of civilization as we know it; I'm a very small cog and my contribution to Armageddon is very limited. Just stock up on the canned goods is my advice.
As for the books, I've known Alan, my writing partner and best friend, for many years and we share similar passions, all of them legal, for travel, movies, books and brilliantly inventive sarcasm. Both of us wanted to write, so the rest was probably inevitable. His biography follows - he insisted on adding large amounts of CGI augmentation to the photograph so as not to frighten potential readers.
The first romantic comedy is here, with a second on the way. We also have the first in a series of paranormal thrillers, written as Alan Gray. I hope you enjoy the books and have as much fun as we're having writing them: if you do then please try to overcome any natural shyness, chronic reticence or fear of involvement and let others know; customer reviews are always welcome, unless they're negative in which case you can keep them to yourself - no, honestly, you can! If you do suffer from chronic reticence or fear of involvement I can recommend a really good trick cyclist that I happen to know, although not in any professional capacity of course.
Have fun, and as they say in Romany, language of the gypsies - kooshti santé! Good health.
We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish I could say that I had a disturbed and traumatic childhood, which always gives a certain cachet to writers - even if it's just sympathy - but my parents weren't forward thinking enough to cause the mental distress necessary for a future career blighted by neurotic fear, unfocused guilt and multiple unnameable anxieties. Instead they gave my three brothers, my sister and I a wonderful, glowing childhood.
It was straight out of Enid Blyton - this was the fifties after all - a warm, cosy time of childhood exploration and adventure in faraway exotic lands like the nearby apple orchard and greenhouses ( sorry about the many raids ), and the creepy old abandoned factory down the road; of family excursions to the seaside, smoky burnt-orange autumns and fireside winters when the entire family gathered to watch the same TV shows; of sun-blitzed summer days when the scent of new mown grass acted as a heady intoxicant to the headlong flight of fleet young feet along the pavements and undergrowth of golden childhood. I even loved the many schools I attended - no, they didn't keep chucking me out; my folks kept moving every few years ( Before they could get around to chucking me out ).
So, no interesting problems with the old angst then: but there were always books. I remember my desperation to learn to read, and once I could I devoured entire libraries, opening up a much larger world to me, beyond the pillaged orchards and greenhouses. It's probably no surprise that I went into bookselling after leaving school ( My first really traumatic experience - leaving school that is ). I had planned on art school, and the bookshop was meant to be a brief pause between school and graphics, but somewhere, somehow, I got lost in the scent of warm book paper on a summer morning - it had replaced the former drugs of freshly mown lawns and autumn smoke.
I spent the next forty years working in various Belfast bookstores. There was the APCK ( closed down years ago ), Cranes ( out of business ), and the bookshop at Queen's University ( gone, baby, gone ). I even did a summer stint in Books Etc. in London's Fleet Street - I wonder where that went to?
My last bookselling job started with Dillons before it went into receivership, shortly after I joined, of course: it was bought over and eventually morphed into Waterstones. Finally sussing that I was death-watch beetle to any bookselling enterprise, they cut me loose with redundancy and a pension. With no more bookshops to destroy, although I'm still looking, I got serious about the other thing I'd always wanted to do, and always thought I would do, someday.
I met my writing partner twenty years ago, when the wonderfully named Philippa Gray chose the University Bookshop for enforced labour/work experience. I found her to be quirky, funny, open-minded, irreverent, unconventional, and as seriously bat-shit crazy as I was - how could we not be friends? Despite the gulf of many years between us, the friendship was just meant to be. When she took a job teaching at an English language school in Crete she sent letters home. Reading them out to a group of friends, I realised that they read like the first hilarious chapters in a book. I had already been writing what became the first of the 'Rossi Sisters' stories, and when Pippa came home we began to turn the letters into fiction.
We quickly found that our humour, shared interests and similar writing styles made it a joy to write together, and in a now defunct café in a Belfast mall - not my fault, honest! - we sat each lunch time and giggled and argued and scribbled our way to what eventually became our first novel, the romantic screwball comedy LIPSTICK AND LEMON TREES.
Since finishing both the romantic comedy and the paranormal thriller DARKEST NIGHT, written as Alan Gray, we've been working on the follow-up novels - BELLY-DANCING FOR CATS is a second romantic comedy, and RED FOR REMEMBRANCE is the second Rossi Sisters thriller.
I'm also writing Westerns under the name Bill Shields. Published by Robert Hale of London under their Black Horse imprint, THE SNAKE RIVER BOUNTY and LAST MAN IN LAZARUS are both in print, and I'm working on the third. Screwball comedies, paranormal thrillers and Westerns - evidence of multiple personality disorder? What can I tell you? Read the books and decide for yourself.