Ross Greenwood, author of several books, was born in 1973 in Peterborough and lived there until he was 20, attending “The King’s School” in the city. He then began a rather nomadic existence, living and working all over the country and various parts of the world.
He found himself returning to Peterborough many times over the years, usually when things had gone wrong. It was on one of these occasions that he met his partner about 100 metres from his back door whilst walking a dog. Two children swiftly followed. He is still a little stunned by the pace of it now.
Lazy Blood was started a long time ago but parenthood and then four years as a prison officer got in the way. Ironically it was the four a.m. feed that gave him the opportunity to finish the book as unable to get back to sleep he completed it in the early morning hours. The Boy Inside is a more thoughtful book and would be a good place to start if you would like to try his writing.
Q: Who is the real Ross Greenwood?
A: Wow, tricky first question. I’m not entirely sure. In many ways, I still feel like I’m in my twenties. Yet, I have a fiancée, a house, two kids and a dog. I’ll be 45 next year which seems surreal. I wanted to see the world and saw work as a means to an end. Yet, I wanted children. It’s been hard at times tying them together.
Q: You worked in the prison system for 4 years, what other jobs did you have before deciding to become a writer? Do you now write full time?
A: With my attitude from my first answer you will understand it was a lot. I got sacked from McDonalds, Tesco Bakery and litter picking all by the time I was 18. I did telesales, manager for blockbuster video, Ladbrokes cashier, call centre manager, pensions adviser, data input, envelope opener and letter remover (not my favourite), share trader, and more. I took the job in the prison as I wanted to do something serious and physical. To challenge myself in new ways. I actually wanted to join the police but as you can imagine my CV was not pretty. I did 4 years in prison. It was a tough job. Much worse than I expected. It’s a dangerous environment to be short-staffed all the time. I left as with child care costs for two kids it meant I would be working for £30 some days. So I’m a stay at home dad. The kids now go to school or playschool, so I have about 20 hours a week to myself to write.
Q: Did you always want to write, or was this something that happened later on in life?
A: I’ve always loved the idea of getting a commission cheque for a book, even if it was a just a few quid. Even though it might take you a year to write a book, I still thought it was great that once it was done you could get a trickle of money forever. Even if it did work out at about 11p per hour. I had the idea for the bulk of Lazy Blood nearly ten years ago, but I couldn’t quite think of an interesting or exciting angle. The prison really helped with that!
Q: Would I be right in saying that you have travelled extensively? Where have you been? Did you ever have a moment when you were placed in a sticky situation when abroad?
A: When my travelling buddy got married last year and the party was really over, he gave me a zippo lighter engraved with Indonesia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia and Canada. We had no end of strange incidents. In Hue, Vietnam, we hired some bikes and cycled off along the paddy fields. Mad really, as we had no map, obviously didn’t speak Vietnamese, and the bikes were ancient. The chain came off one and wedged in the wheel. While we were trying to fix it, some lunatic came out of a field with a big machete, shouting and waving it around. He stood in front of us and shouted some more. It was very scary. He then bent down and fixed the bike for us. We gave him five bucks and cycled away, really, really fast.
Q: Describe yourself as a teen. Were you the wild one or the studious one?
A: Academically, I peaked around aged 8. I loved reading, even then, so was the best in the class. Later when I was supposed to be reading Biology or Economics books I would hide James Herbert books inside them, so my mum didn’t notice. Obviously I was only fooling myself. I wouldn’t describe myself as wild or reckless, more fun I hope. I passed my A-Levels, but didn’t have any direction. So I got a job for Pearl Assurance and spent the money on beer.
Q: In your book, Lazy Blood you trace the lives of 4 young boys from 11 until they are in their 40s. The book is quite depressing in places and their poor choices result in terrible consequences. Where did the inspiration for this book come from and how much of it is autobiographical?
A: A fair bit is autobiographical, except I’m not quite as naughty as Will. All the characters were a blend of people I’d met over the years. The main difference is I never knew anyone as bad as Darren growing up. My experiences of coming back to my hometown was the main driver, and how the years pass by and things change.
Q: Out of the 4 boys, which character is your favourite and why?
A: I liked Carl. I lived in Gibraltar for a while and then in Spain with an Italian guy. One of his friends was just a normal good looking boy. When he was twenty a stunningly beautiful woman pursued him, and dated him. It sent his confidence soaring and turned him into some trendy lady-killer with an arrogance and charm that would have women approaching him everywhere we met. I found him fascinating and based some of Carl’s metamorphosis on those memories.
Q: What did you find most surprising about human nature whilst working with the prisoners? Has your time there given you ideas for more books?
A: The most surprising thing for me was the self-harm. Someone close to me used to do it, so I was aware of it. However, it is rampant in the prison. Peterborough is the only dual prison in the UK. On the women’s side as many as 15% of the total population could be being monitored for suicide and self-harm. Harrowing stuff such as insertion, ligaturing, skin ripping, interfering with healing etc. I really wasn’t prepared for the type or scale of that.
Q: If you could have your life over again what would you do differently?
A: I think I would drink or smoke less. Both are tricky habits to get over. I try not to have too many regrets. I have some fantastic memories and a lot to be grateful for. I’ve probably made more than my fair share of mistakes but I guess I’m a risk taker. Some have paid off handsomely, but you can’t win them all. I try and remember that ‘someone, somewhere is praying for the things I take for granted.’
Q: You have now written two books – Lazy Blood and The Boy Inside. What is next for Ross Greenwood?
A: I’m actually in a bit of a quandary. I planned to write three books on three different aspects of life where prison features at some point. I’ve just finished the third, Fifty Years of Fear. The publisher of the first two liked it, but wants me to do a considerable rewrite. So, I need to think whether I do that, or publish it myself. I’m learning my trade as I go along, so it’s probably my best work yet, but self-publishing can be a lonely path. I have an idea for a straight thriller next, with no prison!, and I planned an idea for a dysfunctional family book which I will finish. That takes me up to September 2018, when both kids will be at school full time. So if I’ve not written the next Girl on a Train, I suspect I will be getting another job!