I was born in Ireland. When I was ten, the family left for England like so many Irish families at the time, and even now. We settled in Brixton, a working class South London neighbourhood. Growing up in Brixton, the only thing I excelled at was getting into fights, which wasn’t hard for a mouthy kid with glasses and too much attitude. I left school knowing no university would take me, and headed for America. After wandering around for a few years, working as a cook in New York, Boston and Toronto, I arrived in Montreal at the start of the great Anglophone exodus that followed the election of the Parti Québécois, the province’s first separatist government. I figured, if the old establishment was running for the lifeboats, the city could be an interesting place to be. I was right, and quickly came to love Montreal like no other place. I continued working as a cook at various greasy spoons but I also began to dream.
Concordia University had a mature student program with night classes. They let me in with a deal that if I did OK, I could stay, if not, I couldn’t. I did OK enough to get into McGill Law where I worked as a breakfast cook from 5.30 am to 11 a.m., and then went to law classes. Now I practice international law at one of Canada’s largest firms and, in 2012, was recognized by The American Lawyer as one of Canada’s leading 500 lawyers. In case you’re wondering, yes, there are more than 500 lawyers in Canada.
I’ve been writing fiction since I left school, but the demands of raising a family and building a law practice meant that there was never enough time. The sock-drawer filled up with unfinished pieces. I figured writing legal briefs was close enough to writing fiction. But it wasn’t. It still isn’t.