M. William Anderson was born in Cornwall in 1971 and brought up in the small coastal town of Falmouth.
His mother was an usherette in the town’s Odeon cinema, and it was there she met his father, a secondgeneration Dutch dockyard worker. Though neither parent was particularly literary and proud of their workingclass roots they encouraged their son to read as much as he could understand and write and draw as soon as he was able to hold a pencil. As a boy, apart from his collection of books he called his ‘little library’, his most prized possessions were a typewriter his mother saved hard for from the housekeeping and a seemingly endless roll of computer printout paper his father brought home from a factory that he then cut up into sheets for his son to type his stories on.
Being an only child, he preferred the friendship of his imagination to that of other children, spending hours telling himself stories and often his mother would chastise him for reading by torchlight the books he had hidden under his pillow before the lights were turned out. Many times his parents would wake to find their son sitting at the top of the stairs, surrounded by the pile of books he had dragged from his room. The earliest stories he can remember with any vivid fondness are Enid Blyton’s ‘The Faraway Tree’, Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’, a book of Greek myths by Robert Graves and his mother’s Bible, which fascinated (and terrified) him with its parables and tales of redemption. Schooling was the local comprehensive but when it came to choosing the right subjects toward a career he was left with a dilemma: with his aptitude for writing the only literary option open to him was to train as a journalist; something he wasn’t particularly interested in. His Art teacher suggested that, with his talent for technical drawing and eye for detail, he might do well as a graphic designer so after studying at the school’s sixth form college he was accepted to Falmouth School of Art and Design. There he studied for a further four years, his writing pushed aside in favour of graphic design though he would often try his hand at copywriting.
With the death of his father from cancer in 1993 he abandoned his hope of continuing to a degree, deciding the monetary demands on he and his mother would be too great so instead he found work in London in a variety of design and advertising agencies. It was while working for clients such as the Department of Health, BBC and Powergen that he started to dabble with writing again.
Answering a BBC Talent competition in 2001, his ‘Casualty’ script was shortlisted but failed to win although, because of its strong theme-led approach, the BBC Drama department encouraged him to send further ideas for new series. This led to a submission to Buffalo Pictures, Martin Clunes’ production company, who were looking for scripts for one-hour children’s dramas. ‘Angeleyes’, a story about a drag act who inspires a young girl to find a way through her father’s consuming grief after the death of her mother, was considered for production but after eighteen months was ultimately rejected.
His first YA novel came about because of a competition held by Waterstones in conjunction with Faber & Faber to find the next big thing in children’s publishing called ‘The WOW Factor.’ With only ten days left before entries had to be submitted, he wrote the synopsis and the first three chapters of a story that had been in his mind ever since he was a little boy.
Colleagues and friends who read the chapters and liked the mix of the macabre, the biblical and the mythological elements urged him to see what literary agents thought of the story. Choosing agencies who represented some of his favourite children’s authors, he was surprised to receive a message from one agency within two days, asking if they could read the rest of the manuscript. Then, a few days later, another agent also asked the same. The only problem being was that there was no full manuscript the agents could read! Setting himself a deadline of a year to finish the book, the pressures of being a full-time creative director of a communications company began to take their toll on the writing and when he was told his submission had made it into the regional shortlist of ‘The WOW Factor’ out of 3,500 hopeful submissions he knew this small success, along with the agents’ interest, was too important to ignore. In June 2006 he left his job to concentrate on what was now a three-book series.
With the first book complete, the second volume is currently being researched along with a literary novel; a collection of encounters running through the twentieth century that challenges the understanding of grief.
M. William Anderson lives midway between a field and the M40 in Buckinghamshire with his partner and his extended family of books. He is represented by William Morris Literary Agency.