He was born in 1975 in Falkirk, Scotland. David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, re-released, was at Number One in the charts that week. He grew up in Hallglen, a housing scheme on the outskirts of the town and the setting for much of his later work, attending Hallglen Primary School, Falkirk High School, and then Stirling University, where he studied English. After graduating he worked very briefly as an English teacher, before deciding to study for a PhD, supporting himself by selling books in Waterstones. He didn’t get the PhD, but he did publish his debut novel.
This was Boyracers, released in August 2001 by Polygon. He was offered a position lecturing in Creative Writing at Leeds University soon after, which is where he wrote The Incredible Adam Spark (Headline, 2005). In 2004 he moved to Glasgow, originally to take up a teaching position on Glasgow University’s Creative Writing MLitt. In 2007, Alan collaborated with the singer-songwriter Malcolm Middleton (Arab Strap) on the song ‘The Rebel On His Own Tonight’, for the Ballads of the Book album project which matched up Scottish writers like Ian Rankin, AL Kennedy, Edwin Morgan and Alasdair Gray with musicians like Sons and Daughters, King Creosote and Idlewild.
He left Glasgow University in December 2007, and has been working as a full time writer ever since.
Novel number 3, Death of a Ladies’ Man, shortlisted for the Scottish Arts Council Fiction of the Year prize, was published in 2009, also the year in which Alan started working in theatre. His first play, The Ching Room, a co-production between Glasgow’s Oran Mor and Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, ran at both theatres in March 2009 to great critical acclaim, and has since been revived at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre, the Royal Exchange, Manchester, and in Philadelphia. In the same month, Alan debuted his ‘one-woman’ show The Moira Monologues (then known as Times When I Bite) at the Aye Write literary festival in Glasgow. The Moira Monologues, which he wrote and performed himself, had an extended life in 2010, running in a double bill with The Ching Room at the Citizens Theatre and the Royal Exchange, as well as ten sold-out shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the National Library of Scotland. It is now in development as a series with the BBC. Alan also collaborated with The Moira Monologues’ director Sacha Kyle on The Confidant (Oran Mor, Glasgow and Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, March 2011) and Turbo Folk (Oran Mor) which was nominated for Best New Play at the 2010 Critics Awards For Theatre in Scotland.
In 2009, The Shutdown, a documentary short written and narrated by Alan and made by Adam Stafford, about Alan’s own experience of growing up in the shadow of Grangemouth Oil Refinery, with particular reference to his father’s injury in the refinery flare incident of 13th March 1987, premiered in competition at Edinburgh International Film Festival, IDFA and Silverdocs Documentary Festival in Washington DC.
To date, The Shutdown has won or been shortlisted for numerous international awards, including both the Jury and Audience Awards for Scottish Short Film at the Jim Poole Scottish Short Film Awards 2009, Best Short Documentary at the San Francisco Film Festival 2010 and the Palm Springs Shortfest 2010. It was also shortlisted for a Scottish BAFTA in 2011.
Polygon published an updated tenth anniversary edition of Boyracers, including a new afterword by Alan, in April 2011. Pack Men, Alan’s fourth novel and a sequel to Boyracers, was published by Hachette in September 2011, after a launch at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Alan is currently working on a number of projects. A film version of Boyracers is in development with Hopscotch Productions, after receiving Creative Scotland funding; a BBC version of The Moira Monologues is being scripted; and he is working on a show, Nikki and the Gang, for Youth Musical Theatre UK and a new play entitled The Red Hourglass.
He is very much in demand as a live act, and as well as appearing in countless schools across Scotland has performed at prestigious international festivals in New York, Toronto, the Hague, Melbourne, Bejing, Zagreb and Kikinda (Serbia).
In 2008 the Daily Record newspaper named him the 46th Hottest Man in Scotland. He hasn’t been on the list since, which he very much laments.