Alan Smith's first novel was published just before his fiftieth birthday. ' I was one of those people who always intended to write a novel but went to the pub instead. It finally dawned on me that being a writer might entail actually doing some writing and so I resolved to write a page a day. Any fool, me for instance, can write a page a day.’ The publication of this novel, Big Soft Lads, and a second, What About Me, liberated Alan from school teaching and lead him into journalism, university and prison.
His part time job teaching philosophy in prison came along at the same time that The University of Northampton offered him a job teaching Creative Writing and The Guardian began publishing his articles about prison. This split three ways part time life went on for fifteen years. 'It suited me down to the ground, I was never taken over by any one of the jobs and I was never really a part of things. I could drop in and take a good look at things, take notes and write about it. Being a nosey outsider is what, I discovered, I really liked being and just the best way for me to be a writer.’
Alan was born in Sheffield into a family of steelworkers. He went to the Central Technical School in Sheffield where he spent several years in the machine shop, drawing office and foundry. 'They also gave us a good academic education and because of this I went to the University of York to study philosophy. It was the late sixties and some of my recollections are a little confused. Fifty years later I came back to live in York to be near my daughter and her family.'
Having a book published means that a writer has to be involved in publicity and sales. 'I discovered how much I enjoy showing off and being at the centre of attention. An American colleague took me to one side and gave me a scolding. "English diffidence," she said, "we don't want any of that crap." I never looked back.