Not until I was in my forties did I really dedicate my life to fiction. I'd wanted to be a writer since reading Wuthering Heights at the age of sixteen – an unusual inspiration for a working-class English boy – and started writing as an undergraduate at Cambridge. For two decades, I traveled and taught. I lived in Spain and Poland for periods of less than a year, Portugal for ten years, and the United Arab Emirates for eight years. I played semi-professionally in a band. I visited Africa and the Far East, trekked in the Himalayas, and scoured Europe on a 'savage pilgrimage' reminiscent of D.H. Lawrence's.
In 1998, I moved from the southern Arabian Desert to the Sonora Desert, to begin an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona.
After another stint in the Middle East between 2000 and 2003, I returned to the USA and began work on Stoning the Devil, a novel-in-stories that portrays life in the oil-rich emirates, and the cultural and psychological gulfs that abound there: between men and women, Arabs and expatriate westerners, the wealthy and the poor. I'd taught female undergraduates on a women's campus of an Arab university for five years, so I had some rare insights for a western man. While my stories were getting published in national magazines, I began work as a professor of creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas, where I remain.