Philip K Allan comes from Watford in the United Kingdom. He still lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and his two teenage daughters. He has spent most of his working life as a senior manager in the motor industry. It was only in the last few years that he has given that up to concentrate on his writing full time.
‘I became an author quite recently,’ he says. ‘I took a six month career break in order to spend the summer with my rapidly growing children. In my spare hours I also decided I would try my hand at some writing. I love books, and like many passionate readers I have often wondered if I could create something worthwhile myself. The book I wrote was a coming of age memoir about a time I spent as a teenager working on a farm in the Swiss mountains. When the children returned to
school in the autumn, I went back to the day job. But that completed script on the shelf nagged at me. After a few weeks I decided to send my book out to some literary agents to see if it had any potential. I was quite prepared for it to be rejected – most first books are after all.’
Philip was both right and wrong about his script. His expectation that it would be rejected by the agents who saw it proved correct. But not because it was not worthwhile. “Utterly charming, well written, but sadly not commercial,” was a typical reaction. Several of them went on to suggest that Philip had a good style for fiction, and that they would be interested in any future work of that kind.
‘My problem was that my job was so intense that I would never have the time to write in the evenings,’ Philip explains. ‘And as any parent of active teenagers can tell you, your weekends are not your own.’ Frustrated at being so close to a career as a writer, and yet unable to give it a go, Philip came up with a solution which he put to his family.
‘I well remember the evening around the dinner table when I first suggested that I should give up my job to try my hand as a novelist,’ says Philip.
‘So let me get this straight,’ my wife frowned. ‘Your plan is to give up work, cash in our savings, and write full time?’
‘That’s right,’ I replied. ‘And if I turn out to be the next JK Rowling, the girls can have ponies.’ My daughters beamed in response. This was their sort of plan.
‘And what happens if you turn out to still be plain Philip K Allan?’
Philip chose to set his first series of novels on board a Royal Navy frigate at the end of the 18th century.
‘It’s a period I know well,’ he says. ‘I studied it at university when I did my degree, and I have maintained a keen interest ever since. As novelists like C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien have shown it has great potential for a writer. On the one hand you have the strange, claustrophobic setting of the ship and on the other the boundless freedom to move around the globe wherever the author chooses.’
Philip has written his novels in spite of his dyslexia. ‘No one had heard of dyslexia when I was at school,’ he explains. ‘We were labelled as inattentive or lazy, and told that if only we made more effort we would surely get better. Well, I have read thousands of books and written millions of words, and guess what? I am still dyslexic!’
And does he think it holds him back? ‘Not at all,’ he says firmly. ‘Spell checking software helps to some extent and I do need to go over everything I write. But being dyslexic brings lots of advantages. I am always surprised at how many fellow writers I come across who have it. The latest research shows that dyslexics see the world in a more pictorial way than non-suffers. This gives them a richer view of their story, which they can then capture on the page.’