‘Born in Malaya in 1949 and brought up on a garrisoned rubber plantation during the ‘Emergency’, Alan Gilliland’s first, mountaintop, boarding school was reached by means of a 1930’s American armour-plated car, WWII Dakota aeroplane and Saracen armoured personnel carrier.
A year later, aged six, he was transferred to a new school, memories of whose white hot sandy beaches were to remain ingrained upon his psyche long after leaving for this drizzly island we call home. With his departure, Malaysia became independent and its anti-colonialist insurgency lost its rationale. Alan quickly learned the uses of the cricket bat, macintosh and other essentials of integration into English society. Performing passably well throughout his boarding-school years, he fell at the final hurdle, being expelled for revising for his art A-level exam.
Undeterred by this setback, he did not go to art college, preferring devious paths to the realisation of his creative ambitions via film-making, architecture, photo-journalism, newspaper cartooning and news information graphics – with 18 years and 19 awards as graphics editor of The Daily Telegraph – before finally arriving at the decision to write and illustrate fictions less ordinary than his own life.
Casting himself adrift with his long-suffering wife upon a tiny barque of of talent with its pencilmast, he draws from the very winds the inspiration to fill the sheets and carry them across the ocean of skepticism that lies between hope and fulfilment. On the shoreline, his six children and three grandchildren, wave their little hankies, litorally wondering if ever he will make it.’
Ok, so what has he actually done? He wrote and illustrated a nonsense kid’s adventure, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion (and Us!) in the Land at the Back of Beyond’ with 800 pencil illustrations in 176 pages, together with a real map. He designed and published this as an hardback at £14.99. It sold over 9,000 copies in the UK and another 9,000 in translation in China & South Korea. He sold mainly though singings in Waterstones branches from Plymouth to Durham by ‘talking kids into the story’ using two A2 illustrated storyboards with a 90% conversion rate. He also wrote, for adults, a Gothic ghost tale, ‘The Flight of Birds’, under the pen name Alan Howard, published this as a 400-page trade paperback with French flaps at £9,99 and sold around 3,000 copies.
He also wrote, illustrated and published a book of poems and short stories, ‘Ana Thema’, as Alan Howard.
His sales were abruptly terminated in late 2012 when Waterstones issued a blanket ban on all-day signings.
‘Thus, the following breeze having blown itself out, his tiny barque has been sequestered in the doldrums since then, lost to the world of literature.’
He also illustrates for publishers (incl. Penguin, Hachette, Windmill and others including a 200-part Russian ‘Great Battles’ series) and prominent architects (mainly on Grades I & II listed buildings).