I spend a lot of time writing about the dark side of family life. I’ve created some sinister and downright evil dads and some bitter and twisted mums but they’re nothing like my own family. My mate Phillip Gwynne (author of Deadly Unna, Nukkin Ya and Jetty Rats) told me (perhaps paraphrasing Leo Tolstoy) that happy families are boring for writers. There’s no tension. Take a happy family and make it unhappy and the story will start to come to life. Take an unhappy family closer to happiness and the story will also come to life, but happy families are boring.
I tend to agree.
My home life was good and boringly happy. I think my work as a counsellor and youth worker introduced me to wobbly families. Some of the people I’ve worked with have survived families from hell. It’s the fact that they survived that intrigues me. And the fact that every sort of family hell is unique.
I can tell you that there is a lot of my real life scattered through my fiction, I just can’t tell you which bits are real and which are made up. That could be incriminating and, at the worst, embarrassing.
So here’s a silly snapshot of my family and my childhood. It’s the closest I’ll get to a memoir and if you can psychoanalyse me and my books through it, you deserve an honorary doctorate. Most of the photos were taken by my parents and they were all laboriously scanned from slides by my angelic Aunty Kay.