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I was born in Scotland, grew up in Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, and currently live in Cape Town, South Africa.
I obtained my doctorate from the University of Cape Town, and have led an exciting and unusually diverse research life as a genetic engineer; studying some of the tiniest known viruses, maize rust fungus, tuberculosis susceptibility, HIV vaccine development, and engineering novel gene expression systems in plants, bacteria, and in insect and animal cells.
Having written a great deal of fact, I left science in 2009 to write fiction. When not writing, I keep tropical fish, read and enjoy being in Cape Town with my family and friends.
So how well has my life prepared me for a writing vocation?
Living in Africa is not for those who want a complacent life. Africa challenges me daily to take nothing for granted but to question every facet of my existence: a boon to fiction writing (as well as in learning to become a better human).
And the vocations of scientist and novelist are not so far apart as they might seem at first glance. Scientific research provides a rigorous and invaluable training in precisely the same set of skills needed for fiction writing. Like good fiction writing, good research is impossible without imaginative thinking. I have had long years of daily explaining the unseen, turning ideas on their heads and asking "Why?" and "What if?" Moreover, scientists need and therefore develop excellent practical writing skills (writing with precision, revising, editing, formatting, and proof reading). The fiction publishing world has nothing on the world of publishing peer-reviewed scientific papers - I learnt early to accept and profit from criticism and rejection. And of course, both vocations require a love of reading, the enjoyment of researching around a topic, and the ability to self-motivate and work alone.
My family and life in Cape Town? Like many another writer, some of my best ideas have germinated from chance remarks and happenings around me. And of course, for a writer, family support is crucial.
The fish? Who knows?