I was born in Swansea and grew up in rural Oxfordshire. Until my mid-teens it was my ambition to be a professional violinist and composer - I used to curse my parents that I wasn’t born either Russian or Jewish, for I was convinced that one couldn’t be a truly great violinist unless one was one or the other, and preferably both. My heroes were David Oistrakh and Jascha Heifetz. I am still an enthusiastic and active amateur musician, though these days I have switched my allegiance to the viola.
At university I pursued my other passion - history. I studied Modern History at Clare College, Cambridge and history and philosophy as a post-graduate at Yale University in the USA. In my twenties I worked briefly in publishing before turning to writing full-time, following the publication of my first novel.
In the mid-nineties I wrote non-fiction and journalism, and also taught creative writing in a prison. (No, I wasn’t a prisoner myself . . .) At this time I took a course in 16mm film-making (I have since taken other courses on camerawork and editing), and for ten years I worked as a producer, writer and director of TV and radio documentaries about history, current affairs and the arts.
I have now returned to my first love - writing, and am also teaching Creative Writing.
I have four children and live with my partner Judith in the north-west suburbs of London, in the heart of what poet John Betjeman called “Metroland”. I once planned to make a film about my lovely local park. The best thing about the proposal was its geographically accurate title - “East of Neasden”.