I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school, but that dream got forgotten for a while. It wasn't until my late twenties that I picked it up again.
I grew up in the semi-rural Melbourne suburb of Warrandyte, which is about 30 kilometres north-east of the city (yes, I had to google the distance!). We lived on an unmade road and my brother and I spent a lot of time on our BMXs and exploring the creek over the road. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but it really was an awesome place to grow up and is the setting for This Thing of Darkness (even though I call it Andersons Creek in the book).
When I was ten my family moved to Taiwan. We stayed there for three years, and still today that period is the most vivid of all my childhood memories. I learned to speak Mandarin but went to an American school. Taipei American School was exactly as you would expect an American school to be -- we had cheerleaders and a track team, dances and a middle school. There was a class president and once we got to ninth grade we were called 'freshmen'. We ate our lunch off trays in a huge cafeteria.
Expat life in Taiwan was a dream. My brother and I had lots of freedom and that led to lots of adventures. Maybe I'll write about them one day.
I came back to Australia when I was thirteen and started at Warrandyte High. That's the school I usually picture when I write the school scenes in my books now. High school is hard when you feel a bit on the outer. But, on the plus side, my high school experience has given me a lot of material to draw on!
Coming of age
If I were to write my own coming-of-age story, it would be set in London (UK) in 1994. I deferred from my media studies uni course to spend the year there when I was nineteen. It was the first time I'd been on my own. I had to get a job, find a place to live, cook my own meals and wash my own clothes. It really showed me what I was made of. Being anonymous meant I could be whoever I wanted to be, which was very freeing and led to all sorts of (mostly legal) adventures. Looking back now, it was a very important time in my life.
I worked in hospitality in London -- first on the desk at a hotel and then as a waiter in an American 1950s-style diner (on Sundays we served on rollerskates and regularly danced on the bar for our customers -- check out the photo to the right).
I kept working in hospitality when I got back to Australia, then after a stint living in China moved into film and video production. I did communication-type work until I became a freelance writer and editor in 2006.
I love being a freelance writer. I love being my own boss, and the solitary nature of the work suits me. I started writing creatively when I was in my late twenties, beginning with adult crime fiction because that's what I liked to read back then. After three dead-end manuscripts (pun totally intended) I swapped to young adult fiction. It wasn't a conscious decision, but it felt right. This Thing of Darkness came to me easily in comparison, probably because I knew what I wanted to say from the beginning and by then my novel-writing skills had improved a bit. It took me a long time to find a publisher and in the meantime kept working on more YA novels.
I am very settled in Melbourne now with my wife and two teenage kids. Having teenagers is great for my YA novel writing, but I wonder what will happen when they're all grown up and move away? I don't like to think about it...