Oxford University makes you wear weird clothes

Oxford University makes you wear weird clothes

Being a stay-at-home dad is serious business, even 1500 feet above Chicago.

Being a stay-at-home dad is serious business, even 1500 feet above Chicago.

Antony John

The short version:

Antony John was born in England and raised on a balanced diet of fish and chips, obscure British comedies, and ABBA's Greatest Hits. In a fit of teenage rebellion, he decided to pursue a career in classical music, culminating in a BA from Oxford University and a PhD from Duke University. Along the way, he worked as an ice cream seller on a freezing English beach, a tour guide in the Netherlands, a chauffeur in Switzerland, a barista in Seattle, and a university professor. He lives in St. Louis with his family.

The long version:

I always wanted to be a composer—at least, I did as soon as I took up a variety of musical instruments as a teenager. From then on, it was all about music . . . at school, every evening, every weekend. But this is a writer's website, not a composer's, which goes to show that things don't always work out the way you expect.

I was born in 1972 in England, and grew up in a seaside town called Bournemouth, where the ocean is cold and the sun likes to hide behind dense cloud. I was good at arts classes and bombed everything remotely scientific.

Now I'm married to a scientist. Go figure.

After high school I studied music at Oxford University, which was inspiring and enormously fun. A particularly memorable moment was getting back the first draft of my senior thesis. My professor had written just three words. “This is illiterate!

Now I'm a writer. Go figure.

I really enjoyed studying, so I spent a year as an exchange student at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. Then I worked in a Swiss ski resort for a year—partly to brush up on my French, but mostly to brush up on my skiing—which reminded me how much I liked the USA. So I hopped back to the States and did a Ph.D. in composition at Duke University, in Durham, NC.

Duke was wonderful—not just because I got to compose all the time, but also because I met my wife. I did a lot of academic writing too, and my roommate was studying English, so the conversation frequently turned to books. It occurred to me that if I wasn't so dead-set on being a composer, I might actually like to try writing a book of my own one day.

After teaching stints at Duke and the University of South Carolina, my wife and I moved to Seattle, where we welcomed our first child. I took a break from music to stay home with our son, and when he took naps—which wasn't very often—I started writing a novel. It turned out to be pretty awful, but taught me loads about what not to do as a writer. My next novel, Busted: Confessions of an Accidental Player, was picked up by an agent and a publisher.

Busted was released in October 2008, a year after our second child was born, and just months after we'd all moved to St Louis. It was followed, in 2010, by Five Flavors of Dumb, which won the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award, and has been shortlisted for ten state book awards. I had two books come out in 2012: Thou Shalt Not Road Trip, and the first book in the fantasy trilogy, Elemental. The second installment, Firebrand, arrived in 2013, and the final book, Renegade, in 2014. My latest novel, a Hollywood thriller titled Imposter, was released in 2015.

Now that my kids are in school, I get to write full-time. I also do lots of school visits and attend book festivals, which I love. It’s not exactly composing, but it sure is a lot of fun.



Ted Malawer - Upstart Crow Literary