I graduated from Reading University, although that was nothing to do with me, really. I started taking a US Studies major and British History minor at Bulmershe College of Higher Education. This is now a car park for a housing estate. But its first step along the road to oblivion was selling out to the more prestigious University of Reading the year I was due to graduate.
But no matter the prestige, the only jobs forthcoming back in the John Major years in Leicester for me were in the Fresha Bread Factory or behind the bar at the Clarendon Hotel. I did both, then went to America. My old man pulled the only strings he had - his best man had worked his way to editor of a small town newspaper in the South and could put in a good word. And lo, I was appointed General Assignment Reporter for the Log Cabin Democrat of Conway, Arkansas. I wrote obituaries, weather reports and fetched biscuits for the real reporters. Then, also nothing to do with me, Bill Clinton was elected President and suddenly Arkansas was on the map.
But this new rise in prestige once more had no impact on my journeyman trajectory, and I duly landed my second proper job as a reporter at the Jacksonville Patriot in Arkansas, but now covering the world's largest C-130 Air Force base and its 30,000 drums of Agent Orange that were seeping into the groundwater. This is where I became an award-winning journalist. Though not for the obvious Pulitzer-prize story festering on my doorstep, but for the headline "Pot-belly pig proponents pass pork to politicians." Arkansas AP Third Place Best Headline for Small Dailies 1995, oh yeah.
Other career highlights? I managed to last nine months at Voice+ The Magazine of Computer Telephony before hanging up (see what I did there?) and heading off to Japan. There I taught English at Berlitz until I could find a job in journalism. All I could land was a position at the Daily Yomiuri, the English language translation of the Japanese language Yomiuri Shimbun, the world's best-selling newspaper (if you believe what you read in the papers, which you shouldn't).
Then it was back to Blighty and stints as a sub-editor at the Birmingham Post, Nottingham Evening Post and Derby Evening Telegraph. It was there that I finally learnt how to write news copy, and also that working for the benefit of media moguls and megalomaniacal editors was not what I really wanted to do with my life.
So it was back to Japan to do something independent. Teaching English by day and writing by night fit the bill. And something strange happened. I started to enjoy writing again. Because I realised how liberating it is to write your own way and to seek an audience for your own work, yourself, on your own terms.
I've written a novel and edited two anthologies about the Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown and written a diary of a Japanese general election. My latest work is a combined essay and watercolour sketchbook of a road trip through northern Japan, called Children of the Tsunami. I'm thankfully working on lighter-hearted projects now, including a second Hana Walker mystery, textbooks for children learning English as a foreign language, and a collection of my own essays. I live in Abiko, Japan, with my wife and daughters.