I was born in Sussex in 1954 - far too long ago. I was an extremely dreamy and shy child, and I used to used to wander round muttering to myself and playing games with imaginary friends. My parents had to shout - "He's in the land!" to explain to people why I apparently couldn't hear what they were saying to me. I did very badly at school - I was daydreaming too much to concentrate on anything much.. It wasn't until I was pretty nearly grown up that I started to think that the world around me might be at least as interesting as what was going on in my own head.
I did poorly at school, although occasionally teachers would think I had a lot of promise. In those days we had an exam called the eleven plus, which you did just before you went to High School. If you were a clever kid with a good brain, you passed and went to Grammar School to learn brainy things, and if you were a dumb kid, you failed and went to Secondary Modern School and learnt how to do things with your hands. I was a kid with hands. I went to Secondary Modern School.
I wasn't very happy at my new school. I remember having a lousy teacher there, who bawled me out for doing a story in a way she hadn't ordered - I'd done it as a diary. She was furious! - called me out in front of the whole class and made a fool of me. So, she got no good stories out of me. My parents moved again, to Reading in Berkshire. This new school was going comprehensive - children of all abilities were to go there. I got on much better there, due to one or two very good teachers who helped me along, but I was still a poor worker, and came away with two very bad A levels, in Biology and English. Mine was only the second year to do A levels - I'm sure, if they hadn;t been just gagging to let anyone do them, no one would have let me near the exams at all..
Life got rapidly better for me after I left school, but for the first few months I hadn't got a clue what to do. My dad eventually filled in an application form for a job as a journalist with the local newspaper. Somehow I got the job and went off to do a course for six months training.
The course was great - it was my only real time as a student - but by the end of it I had decided that I really wanted to write and that no other career would do. I packed in the job as soon as I got back home, much to the editor's disgust. "I think the saddest, thing, Melvin, is that you have deprived someone else of a career opportunity," he intoned. Then I got on with writing my first book, which, of course, no one wanted to publish.
For the next fifteen years, I wrote on and off, had casual jobs here and there, spent a lot of time out of work with not much to do, and I enjoyed myself enormously. I moved to Bristol after a couple of years where I lived until I was thirty. Inner-city Bristol was a great place to live, with a big racial and cultural mix. I learned a lot there and got my feeling for life. My book Junk is based on Bristol in those years, and although it is not biographical, you can pick up a lot of the atmosphere and meet a few of the people in its pages.
I was living in London aged about thirty five when I began to think it was time for me to really try hard to see if I could make writing work for me. I'd written a great deal off and on for years, a lot of it experimental, but I'd never really put getting published over writing what I felt like writing. So I had a a go - I did short stories, radio drama, and children's fiction. I had some success in all three, but my book The Cry of the Wolf, was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal. So that's what I've been doing ever since.
I now live in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, with my partner Anita.