I was born in 1973, in Chingola, Zambia.
My childhood was spent there and in the UK (in Cornwall, and in Surrey, Worcestershire and Kent), the US (in Colorado, and Nevada) and Jakarta, Indonesia. My father was a mining engineer, and my mother was a teacher. They took my brothers and me with them wherever they travelled, until, later on, we went to English boarding schools and flew home for the holidays.
I studied English at Worcester College, Oxford, where I was a choral scholar. During my degree I worked as a musician, a waitress, a barista, a film extra, and in a chrysanthemum factory. My first job on graduating was at Blackwell’s Music Shop in Oxford. I worked the till in the CD department, and was their jazz buyer. I had a radio show on Oxygen FM that year, playing and talking about the jazz I was buying for Blackwell’s, and going back and forth to London to record interviews with jazz musicians who were in town for live shows. A year or two on, I went to law school, then qualified as a commercial lawyer with Clifford Chance LLP. At the firm’s London office, I worked in insurance litigation, corporate finance and pensions. In their Singapore office, I bought and sold aeroplanes and gas power projects, and assisted with the litigation coming out of the collapse of Barings Bank.
At around that time, I read an interview with Ian McEwan. ‘If you want to be a writer,’ he said, ‘get a job which requires you to write every day.’ Taking his advice, I became a reporter for the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (the ICLR), covering cases from the High Court and the Court of Appeal. For several years, I worked in and around the Royal Courts of Justice, watching stories unfold, and writing them up for publication in the Law Reports and the Times Law Reports.
In my late-thirties, when my short fiction was accepted by Stand and The Warwick Review, I wrote my first novel, Every Contact Leaves A Trace. The novel was published in the UK in 2012, and later in the US and in translation. In 2013 it was longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award. My second novel, Silver and Salt, was published in April, 2017.
I live in London, where I am an occasional freelance reporter for the ICLR, a reader and judge for the Society of Authors and the Royal Society of Literature, and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. I am a Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick, in the English and Comparative Literary Studies Department, where I run weekly workshops for the MA in Writing. I also mentor new writers one-to-one (giving a tailored 6-month course as a first novel progresses, or my own ‘MOT’ of a completed manuscript, with notes and edits) and give creative writing workshops for small groups. And I am very happy that Jonathan Cape will publish my 3rd novel, Slack-Tide, on January 17, 2019.