NEW editions out now!







NEW editions out now!

According to my Mum, on the hot summer night I was born, the electricity in the house failed, and all the lights cut out. Which means, of course, that I never saw her face clearly when it loomed in front of mine, and everything else in the world was confused by shadows and flickering candlelight. Does this explain the darker, weirder shades in my fiction? Maybe ... maybe not.

London, 1964. Me preventing my dad from falling in ...
London, 1964. Me preventing my dad from falling in ...

I was born in Sunderland, a city in the north-east of England. I don’t recall too much about my first 8 years of life other than I loved being outdoors especially in the woods near our house. I came home every night covered in scratches.

One thing I do remember is that our family was always moving, so I had to get used to a new school and friends all the time. Like most kids that age I was shy, and I came to dread that first day in a new class. 

 

Author Cliff McNish as a child

At primary school my reports were, to be honest, spectacularly average. According to my teachers I day-dreamed all the time. I didn’t read much, either, and when I did it was comics. One Marvel superhero, the Silver Surfer, zoomed around the universe on a beautiful, sleek, interstellar surf board. He was lonely, aloof, a genius. I identified with him.

 

My first real book memory is being given C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew by my English teacher, Mrs Baldwin. I loved that, and all the other Narnia books. In fact, I remember lying in bed in the dark, staring at the ceiling, and wishing with all my heart that I could be C.S.Lewis.

Cliff McNish as a boy
Sunderland. That's me, stripy shirt, in the middle.
Me with my sister, Caron. She's still a bit like this.
Me with my sister, Caron. She's still a bit like this.

When I was about twelve to thirteen I discovered Alan Garner’s fantasies The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath and Elidor. I still don’t think any better pure fantasy has been on offer since those Garner books written over fifty years ago.

However, the range of brilliant young fiction works available now is so much greater than when I was a boy.

 

Unlike many other authors, I had no burning ambition to write, although my younger brothers remember me writing short stories for them. They still recall some of my crazy characters like 'Stinky Linky' and 'Simon The Hippo'.


With no particular career in mind I just drifted along, finished my A-levels and went on to study History at York University. I left after 2 years, bored with the course and unhappy, without my degree and with a need to earn some cash. During this time I developed a love of science fiction, reading authors like Philip K. Dick, Brian Aldiss, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov among others.

 

Cliff McNish as a child
Teen me - I was good at Table Tennis!

My first job involved working in a warehouse. I put things into boxes. Not too difficult, you might think, but my attention strayed often. Instead of demoting me for incompetence at packing, they surprised me by promoting me into the IT dept.

I drifted along in computing and then on into Project Management, pursuing a career that lasted a full 20 years.

How did I become an author?

Doomspell cover
Original U.K. cover

I was used to making up short and funny stories for my daughter, Rachel. When she was about ten however she wanted a story about a really, really nasty witch. This time I put pen to paper and what started off as a tiny scrap of an idea got bigger and bigger and BIGGER. It became The Doomspell.


I was lucky with my first series of books. The Doomspell Trilogy was published in 26 languages around the world.

With my daughter, Rachel, the year The Doomspell was written
With my daughter, Rachel, the year The Doomspell was written

After I finished it, I continued my love affair with fantasy by creating The Silver Sequence, which I still think is probably my best and definitely my most original work. Following that, I tried to scare everyone half to death with a couple of ghost novels – Breathe and The Hunting Ground

 

In case they weren’t scared enough, I threw in a pure horror novel for good measure. Savannah Grey is about a girl who has something terrifying inside her throat – only to discover that what’s there is much more terrifying than she originally thought.

 

Between those stories, I sat back and wondered what it might be like to be an angel – ANGEL.

 

Cliff McNish

I could tell you more about myself, but the truth is that perhaps the biggest gift we can give anyone is our imagination and everything important I have to offer you about that is in the novels.

Writing is a solitary and rather self-absorbed way to occupy vast tracts of time, but it can be immensely rewarding. I've been typing away for 17 years now, and though some of my novels have been more successful than others I'm still enjoying myself.