I started writing following a French degree at Oxford, when I opted out (nobody offered me a job) and worked as a gardener in the south of France. I spent two halcyon years cutting down everything that grew and writing travel articles, which got me commissions from the travel pages of The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Evening Standard.

In 1995 I won Travel Writer of the Year at the Travelex Awards, and in 2000 my travel book ‘Independence Day – A voyage around America with a broken heart’ was one of the New York Times’ top six travel books of the year.

‘Independence Day’ recounts how I went to Niagara Falls to ask my long-term girlfriend to marry me. Unfortunately, she said no, leaving me dumped in the Honeymoon Capital of the World. I then did what any strong, upstanding male would – I ran away, around America, seeking solace in California girls, Florida dolphin trainers and ultimately a Minnesotan cowgirl called Leah. I learned a lot about Americans – that they have nothing against the obvious, that they talk loudly because there’s so much space, and that America contains some of the most beautiful, intelligent people on earth, and their opposites.

Actually I must have learned more than that, because now I’m now married to a beautiful Montanan woman, whom I met in New York City. We live in east London with three goldfish.

My writing influences include Anne Tyler, Michael Ondatjee, John Irving, Nick Hornby and Charles. M. Schulz, the creator of Charlie Brown. Nick Hornby was actually my English teacher for two years at Parkside Community College in Cambridge, where he was an excellent teacher but a terrible football coach. I was the captain and we felt ‘Mr Hornby’ was admirably emotional, but tactically limited, a sort of Kevin Keegan of the Cambridgeshire Schools’ Under-14 League.