As one of my primary school teachers once said: “Alan is easily distracted.” As a child I was always making up stories in my head, having adventures building gang huts and play-acting. When I discovered books, the stories took me off on fantastic adventures and fired my imagination even more.
My real passion at school was acting - I loved the thrill of being someone else and the buzz of performing in front of an audience. On leaving school I wanted to do something creative but the career advice at the time was limited, and even though I had enough qualifications for University, I ended up leaving my home in the Scottish Borders and traveling up to Edinburgh to become an apprentice hairdresser. (My wife and friends are very happy about that as I still cut hair!)
Edinburgh was a great place to get involved in drama and music, which was a growing passion in my life. But after three years of hairdressing and still not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life, I spent an amazing year in Kenya doing voluntary work. I returned to Edinburgh in 1985 to study nursing, specialising in the operating theatre - lots of drama with lights and action, but unfortunately not the type of theatre work I was really interested in.
Music became a major part of my life in the early ‘90s when I had a break from nursing to complete a diploma in Modern Music and formed a band called Splendid. I developed my craft of songwriting and as a band we released three independent albums. We had moderate success, touring extensively with some of Scotland's top music artists.
I continued to write songs and in 2009 released my first solo album. After taking on a series of leading roles in Borders’ amateur operatic society productions, including 42nd Street, High Society, Calamity Jane and Annie - I started working with Sticky Kids, alongside the founder Anne Butler. We toured in a live theatre sing-along show for nursery school, P1 and P2-aged children, performing in schools and theatres around Scotland and Northern England. It was during this time that I created the character of Mac (very loosely based on Old MacDonald). Molly (Anne Butler) and Mac got up to all sorts of antics on stage and I thought it would be great if I could take Mac from the stage to the page, using my songwriting skills to write a CD of catchy pop songs for children to accompany the book.
Encouraged by my wife and good friends Vivian French and Anne Butler, Mac’s first picture book tells of his adventures with his dog, Bob. Mac and Bob: The Unexpected Visitor was published by Little Door Books in 2014. The book is beautifully illustrated by Dave Sutton and includes an audio-book read by Vivian French, plus four of my original songs to complement the story, and a traditional favourite, too.
Since then 2015 saw Mac and Bob: The Party Problem come out. Then, in 2016 A Puppy’s Tale was published. This year (2017) sees the launch of One Button Benny, a robot story about heroes and the unexpected places you find them.
I currently live in the Argyll and Bute area with my wife and our two mischievous cats -Sparkie and George.
About writer's work
I write the sort of stories that I loved reading as a young person - fun adventures with the odd twist and moral tale. In schools, when I come to do a Mac and Bob author visit, I arrive in character, as Mac, so the children get a live version of the character on the page. There is a lot of fun and audience participation, and as Mac (and I) love singing, we do lots of that too. I have included counting and healthy eating ideas in the books and songs, as it’s a great way to teach children without them realising it.
A Mac and Bob author visit is an action-packed show, giving young children (nursery, P1, P2) an entertaining introduction to live theatre; with storytelling, songs and fun to encourage them in their reading and the use of their own wonderful imaginations.
I also do events for slightly younger nursery age children with my book A Puppy’s Tale. These events are filled with songs and visuals on how the book and all its lovable characters were created. There is storytelling and we make up stories and songs about what could happen next. We also do some colouring from the books and learn how to draw certain characters.
For older primary groups I do Q&A sessions about what it is to be an author and publisher - how a book is put together, how we choose the right illustrator etc. I explain the different processes that a picture book goes through - from writing to printing and publication, with examples of initial rough illustrations right up to the point of production.
Websites featuring the authorMac and Bob Little Door BooksAuthor's WebsiteTwitter | Little Door Books
Current events and projects
This year (2017) will see the publication of my fourth picture book One Button Benny. I am really excited about this book, the illustrations by Chloe Holwill-Hunter (A Puppy’s Tale) are fabulous.
Alongside my work as an author I am now a full-time publisher. Having set-up Little Door Books in 2014, initially to publish my own books, things have progressed at speed in a wonderful way. Vivian French was so impressed with what we were doing, she asked if she could work with us to publish her fabulous 2016 picture book Captain Crankie and Seadog Steve. As a publisher we now have books by Mike Nicholson, Barry Hutchison, Colin MacIntyre, Vivian French and Emily Dodd in the pipeline over the next few years. I am looking forward to taking part in many events as an author and even some putting on my publisher’s hat.
I am the Director and Co-Founder of children's publisher Little Door Books. We specialise in publishing children's picture books and aim to enthuse a young generation of readers with great stories, wonderful illustrations and splendid songs to sing along to.