Left school at the age of 16 and joined the merchant navy as a navigating cadet. I spent the next 7 years sailing around the world on cargo ships, passenger ships, bulk carriers, ferries and even a dredger! I left the sea because I wanted to be a rock star but ended up being an ice cream van driver instead. Eventually I went to live in London, where I put my vast experience in the ice cream industry to good use by working in the ice cream parlour in Harrods. I got a band together called Subi Kechil, named after an island I used to pass in The South China Sea. Then one day I saw an advertisement in The Stage newspaper looking for actors for a play. I turned up for the audition, green as the proverbial hills and got the part. It was a very weird play. It had goats in it. Real goats not pretend ones. Anyway then I got a job with a childrens’ theatre company and did that for a couple of years - touring round schools and theatres and stuff - before trying my hand at stand up comedy. (We’ve reached 1984 now by the way if anyone’s wondering). So I was a comedian for about 10 years. That’s pretty much all I did - unless you count appearing as an extra in various forgettable pop videos! I called myself Johnny Immaterial - but only so that I could walk on and say “My name is Immaterial. Johnny Immaterial”. Pretty funny huh? A few people obviously thought so because I won a Time Out magazine award for comedy. I was nominated for The Perrier Award for comedy at The Edinburgh Festival in 1993 with a show called My Booze Hell By Little Johnny Cartilage. I later wrote and acted in a series of the same name on BBC Radio 4. I did my last comedy gig in 1994 and since then my job description has been writer/actor, strictly in that order.
About writer's work
As well as writing books for a wide age-range, I write for TV and radio as well. Amongst many TV writing credits I have written 2 x 13 part TV series of Yo! Diary! for CBBC, based on my own Yo! Diary! books as well as several episodes of The Hoobs and Carrie And David’s Popshop for CBeebies. Co-tutored a week long Arvon Foundation ‘Writing For Children’ course in 2004 & again in 2007. In 2006 I taught creative writing to P6 children in an Edinburgh primary school for a 5 week period. I don’t consciously set out to write about any particular recurring themes or social issues, but I do like to think that my writing is accessible and not especially heavy, or difficult. Having said that, I guess humour is a bit of a recurring theme in my work, even when tackling subjects that aren’t especially funny.
Current events and projects
Very keen to dispel the myth that anything to do with books, writing, writers and authors is “boooooring!” Prepared to do pretty much anything to achieve that aim! See ‘Author Visits’ page on web site for proof.
On the Money, published by Scottish Book Trust. Standard Life and Learning Teaching Scotland, 2007