HOW DID I GET HERE?
The message below is part of an email that went out to my email list. I cover a lot in the series from all aspects of my illustration and fiction work to other life hacks and tips so sign up for free today!
Hello from Brooklyn -
As this is my first email to a wider group I thought I’d explain how I got here first before I dive into more interesting topics.
I was born in Manchester, England and grew up listening to Joy Division, The Smiths and The Stone Roses.
Manchester had such a great music scene as it was a city undergoing a savage decline. It was one of the birth places of the industrial revolution but after World War II it was unable to adjust to the new world. As a teenager I was surrounded by derelict warehouses and run down docklands with hulking, rusted ships left to rot.
Needless to say I left as soon as I could and picked architecture as a career for practical reasons. Education was free in the UK back then; I really wanted to be a comic illustrator but as this was the 1980’s that just wasn’t a career option. Instead I took the most artistic course I could find that had a profession attached.
I loved university and studied in Portsmouth and London then traveled. My first stop was New York, where I worked for a year, then I spent another year Sydney, Australia and finally a year hiking and climbing in India and Nepal (I'm the one in non stripey pants) ...
It was weird coming back to London, but I soon got job at Grimshaw Architects. They’d been an inspiration of mine as I student so it was fantastic to work there. It was everything I expected architecture to be - collaborative, creative and challenging.
After five years, however, I felt like a change and spent a lot of time considering my future and what I wanted to do. One thing stood out to me - writing. I’d had no formal training, knew nothing, but gave it a go. I wrote my first novel over late nights and weekends. It was called UKULTRA and was a spy story set in an alternate history. I loved the whole process but there was one problem - it was rubbish.
Architects work horrendous hours which left little time to write so, sadly, I left Grimshaw and joined the London office of the KPF Architects. They gave me a part time contract, 4 days a week, and treated me fantastically well.
Over the next year I wrote my second novel, Honeysuckle, about an alcoholic priest trying to pay off a gambling debt. This novel got good feedback from literary agents but it was clear that it was still rubbish.
At this time KPF asked if I would be interested in moving to the New York office. I’d had a wonderful time there after graduation so the decision was easy and I moved the next month.
Writing took a back for a while after that as there was fun to be had; I fell in love and got married. However, no matter how much I denied it to myself, I missed writing so after a struggle I gave in and wrote a third novel, MECH, which was runner up in an international Sci - Fi competition run by Tor books. Very close but no medal.
By now I had moved back to Grimshaw Architects (their new New York office) and my wife was pregnant. After ten years work I had made exactly $0 from writing and with a kid on the way tried, again, to give it all up. I gave being a ‘grown up’ a real go and took a corporate job. It was a terrible mistake and they fired me after a few years. You live, you learn - sometimes a failure is just what you need.
What could have been a terrible experience (we came close to losing our house and by now my wife was pregnant with our second child) turned out to be the best professional event of my life though as it gave me the chance to ask myself again:
What did I want to do? Write.
What could I do? Draw.
In a world full of bad computer images the illustrations I had done as part of my architectural career had been a hit, and I felt there was a gap in the market. I set up my own company and have worked crazy hard these last two years building a business while writing my fourth novel, The Streets and The Skies.
And so here we are.
This is more than enough from me today, again I just wanted to say hello. I will be delving into topics soon but feel free to email me anytime and please make sure you have fun in whatever it is you’re doing. We’re all I this together!
Me, last week, outside my house ...