About the author
I am an historian, archaeologist and author whose work has seen me munching on spiders in the steamy jungles of Papua New Guinea, trying not to get lost in Australia’s vast national parks and exploring the major Viking sites across the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany - and of course the fjords of Norway.
While working (daydreaming) at the National Museum of Australia, I found a little-remarked passage in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle about an unlikely truce between the Vikings and the Britons of Dumnonia, the last great British kingdom of the Dark Ages. Nobody knows exactly why these sworn enemies decided to join forces, but I was determined to find the answer.
Or make one up.
Thus was born the Wolves of Dumnonia saga.
I am passionate about bringing the stories of everyday people in the Dark Ages to life. My post-graduate research on living history for the University of Canberra has focused on the different ways we remember the Vikings and tell their stories and why even today they have such a grip on our collective imagination.
I now live with my wife Jo, son Ethan, and whippet Lola in the beautiful English Lake District, where the ghosts of the Norse settlers can be heard in the many Old Norse names that pepper the Lakeland landscape. I am currently completing the fourth instalment of the Wolves of Dumnonia series.
What fuels my creative flame?
I'm a dreamer
I always have been. At school I would often sit in the classroom daydreaming: imagining being the captain of a starship in a far-flung galaxy; an explorer discovering a lost city in the Indian jungle; a wizard fighting dragons; or a knight of the Crusades, riding through the deserts of Persia on his war-horse.
I think I’ve always wanted to escape the reality of my life, although in more recent years as I’ve grown older, the reality has become more enjoyable. It’s not to say I had a terrible childhood - far from it. It was filled with adventure and exploration. I suppose I just wanted to be out there, not stuck in school, and later, the office.
At first my main form of escape was the ‘boys-own adventure’ novel - Willard Price and Ronald Welch being chief among the authors I loved. Then in 1978 I discovered role-playing games, which became my salvation. Three games captured my imagination: Traveller (space adventure), Dungeons and Dragons (the most famous of the role-playing games), and Boot Hill (with its sixgun-toting Western theme). I became engrossed to the point of obsession, often staying up all night playing. I loved being a character in those imaginary realms, able to express myself in a way I could never do in my ordinary world. As I became more confident, I began creating scenarios myself, and eventually derived great pleasure as a game master - not because I had control of the game, but because I was able to let my imagination run wild. I have rarely experienced that kind of joy in adulthood.
The writing bug
I can vividly remember the day I was bitten by the writing bug - it was a hot, sunny summer’s afternoon, 28th December 1988. I had just finished Marion Zimmer-Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon a couple of days before, lent to me by my friend and boss at the National Museum, Jenny Bell. The book had left me in a daze. I suddenly found that I had to know more about that period in history. I searched my parent’s home for anything on Dark Ages Britain, and came up with Winston Churchill's History of the English-speaking Peoples. I couldn’t put it down. I then found an old (stolen from High School I’m ashamed to admit) copy of Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth, read it, then went to the bookshop and bought every title of Sutcliff’s they had. I had become entranced by the world of Roman and Dark Ages Britain.
Then my dear friend (and now wife) Joanne lent me one of her most treasured books: The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge. This remains one of the most powerful books I have read, and in fact at the time I couldn’t finish it. I simply didn’t want the story to end. It took me three years (it’s true!) to actually read it through to the last page. I have not read another book which has so thoroughly captivated me, with the exception perhaps of Wilbur Smith’s The Sunbird. I decided I wanted to be able to write like that (I can’t by the way).
Over those summer holidays I began writing what was - many years later - to become the Wolves of Dumnonia series. I became completely lost in that world, and for two and a half years was the happiest I had ever been. I wrote for no one else but me. That world was real. The characters were alive, and I was among them, experiencing their life just as I had when I was reading the Eagle and the Raven.
Much water has passed under the bridge since that time; I have had a varied career in museums, heritage, and latterly ICT. I’m a husband and a father. I’ve moved all the way around to the other side of the world. But, most importantly, I’ve finally decided to return to my dream, my purpose: to write. So here I am, laying down the story I had first imagined way back in my early twenties.