So, what’s the background of your writing?
Well, I came over to Kyiv as a 24-year-old in 1996, looking for adventure and keen to try something different. Originally, I came to start a language school, holding a drama degree and PGCE teaching qualification. I ran the language school for a few months, before starting the drama department at Pechersk School, which I then did for 2 years before leaving to start a business. After that I returned to the UK to work for Siemens, selling hearing aids, often in emerging markets – something which took me to places such as Lebanon and Saudi Arabia at, shall we say, ‘eventful’ times.
How was the experience of writing a book?
I always loved writing, even back at school, but was often too caught up doing other things to finish longer pieces of work. Writing Hetman took 12 years, because in that time, before I was a full-time writer, life got in the way. However, since Hetman’s publication, I’ve improved my writing discipline and already finished my third full-length book. Hetman came out in 2008, Cold Black in 2010, Hetman: Donetsk Calling (a short novel), was written in one week this year. And later this year, Dangerous Deadly Elite will be released. I’ve also written a children’s novel, The Adventures of a Teenage Time Traveller, in 2010.
Now you return to Kyiv as a visitor, how is that?
It can be strange sometimes to return, and I certainly notice a lot of changes. Back then, Kyiv was much more of a frontier town, and there could be very little to spend your money on. I remember going to a kiosk for a hamburger, and it was literally just that – a bit of hot ham in a bun. I recall when McDonalds opened and everyone went along dressed to the nines, like it was the grand opening of a posh restaurant.
How do you feel about Kyiv and Ukraine?
I love Kyiv, I love Ukraine. I do touch on the hard realities of life here, however, in my books, and keep in touch with what’s going on through my connections, such as my in-laws. Ukraine is a beautiful country, and Kyiv was just crying out to be written about, as it hadn’t really been done as much as deserved. I still find Kyiv a very inspiring place: I like to wander around with a notepad, sit down at favourite spots and let the words flow.
Your wife is Ukrainian then?
She is indeed, Galya. I met her on my first day here, and we started dating two weeks after, marrying 7 years later. We’ve now been married for 9 years. Of course, this means I didn’t live the life that many young expats in Kyiv live. However, with my wife, we were certainly fixtures on the party scene and had our share of adventures; including one time I had to pass myself off as a diplomat to stop a friend being carted off by the police! Galya now has a high-flying career, and commutes to work in London most days.
In your books, you seem to know Kyiv pretty intimately. Where did you live in the city?
I lived in a few places around Kyiv, including by Lybidska metro, just by Passage, and near the previous Olympiskiy Stadium. That was a pretty interesting place to live, especially when there were matches on. I’d be frying eggs, hear the roar of a crowd behind me, and wonder if it was for me! In my final two years in town, I lived in the flat of my lead character in Hetman, Aidan Snow, on Pushkinskaya.
What are the realities of life as a modern author?
Well, it’s a busy life, for sure, with two sons. Alexander will be 4 in December and Jonathan is 2 ½ – we are hoping that they will be able to speak English, Ukrainian and Russian. When they’ve been fed, looked after, and are happily playing, I’ll go to my computer and get writing, researching or conversing with my readers.
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