I grew up in a small Yorkshire market town. Since then I have lived and worked in many different parts of England. For a number of years I was a Youth Hostel warden and then I worked in various jobs within the rural economy. To my amazement I won first prize in an international poetry competition and several collections of poems followed this success. Novel writing did not begin until I married Rosi and we formed a literary partnership.
When I was a young guy I walked everywhere. Coming back to my rented cottage from a visit to friends early one misty autumn evening I took a short cut across the fields. Back then, after the cereal harvest was over in England, the fields were often left as stubble through the winter months, the new crop not being sown until spring. This particular evening, as I walked through the stubble, I became aware I was not alone. Shadowy figures were moving around me in the mist. After a few moments I realised they were wild geese.
There were a lot of them, a large flock, feeding on the grass that had grown up among the stubble. They didn't fly away at my approach, but just continued eating as I passed through them, stepping back and looking up at me, but otherwise unconcerned. They obviously felt that I presented no threat. I spent a magical hour with the geese, walking among them, listening to their flat-footed tramping in the stubble and watching them tugging at the blades of grass, which they continued busily grazing within inches of my feet, as if I had become invisible. Then, as one, with a cacophony of wild cries and a huge flapping of wings, they lifted away into the mist and were gone, back to the nearby lake to sleep safely for the night.
I have had many similar experiences with wild creatures, most of them better planned than my encounter with the geese. I have watched foxes, herons, brown hares and deer at surprisingly close quarters. It took time, but they got used to me. And I learned so much from them, observing their foraging and hunting routines and their learning through play. During these special times I felt I had at last arrived on planet earth, that I was connected, rather than simply watching wild nature fleeing, as usual, from homo sapiens, the dangerous intruder.
These experiences proved to me that we can live harmoniously with the natural world, but my everyday employment in farming and forestry demonstrated that we had moved a long way from this, becoming completely severed from the rest of creation and imposing our will on the natural world and frequently causing it serious damage. As the writer Dahr Jamail has said, we have for too long put profit before planet. But had it always been like this? I decided I had to find out.
I began in my free time to make a study of landscape, feeling that it held the answers to my question. Research and fieldwork in archaeology, history and folklore convinced me that another world had once existed in which we lived much more sympathetically with nature. All indigenous peoples have known this special time. I have spent periods with individuals and groups who have tried to live more harmonious lives, from organic growers to Romany travellers and they have proved there is another way to live. They have also given me ideas for poems and stories.
Other sources of literary inspiration have come from the areas of folklore and traditional magic. These are subjects which bring that alternative world much closer, but they have a darker side, one that leads into strange and sometimes disturbing realms, but which enriches the treasury of the writer's imagination. I am also interested in the rewilding movement that I feel has huge potential to bring the natural world closer to our modern lives and to liberate our troubled and disconnected spirits.
As mentioned above, my wife Rosi and I decided to combine our knowledge and interests and form a literary partnership for the writing of novels. We felt Rosi's strengths in the areas of character and structure would complement my own research into landscape and folk tradition and, so far, our instincts have proved correct. My poetry writing has always remained separate, but Rosi and I will soon have completed our sixth work of fiction, four novels and two novellas, that began with a study of carved stone heads that are still being found (and, presumably, still carved) in the valleys and moors of the old Celtic kingdom of Elmet, which roughly corresponds to present-day West Yorkshire. This study led to our first novel Catching Phantoms.
Time Of The Demon