Born in Chicago, the youngest of three children, of a Danish immigrant mother and father of Lithuanian ancestry, I moved to England (for the first time), at the age of only nine months. Accompanied by my mother and sisters -- Michel Ninon and Vanessa Lee -- we made the journey to England aboard the Queen Elizabeth I ocean liner. Prior to sailing, during a bon voyage party, my mother requested of the steward that he bring me some ginger ale to drink. Some time later, my mother noticed the steward laughing hysterically in the corner of the stateroom. When she inquired what was so amusing, he raised a finger and pointed at me, saying, “Your baby just drank three glasses of champagne.” I spent the entire voyage, from New York to Southampton, unconscious.
We lived in the town of Weybridge, England, for the next nine months. My father worked for American Express and we were soon transferred again, to France, where I began attending school in the town of Jouy-en-Josas, not far from Versailles, the location of the famous chateau built by Louis XIV (The Sun King). We lived in the hunting lodge of the chateau of Jouy-en-Josas. The stone fireplace in the main hall was so large that all three children could walk into it, arm in arm!
Less than two years later, we were transferred to Rome, Italy. There, my sisters and I attended St. George’s English School during the next four years. Our family lived on the top floor of an apartment building on the Via Poggio Ameno, in a part of the city that was – at that time – still relatively undeveloped. A tempestuous child, I frequently ran away to live with the gypsies who were campled out nearby, in hand-painted wooden caravans in the poppy fields surrounding the building. While in Italy, I also developed a love for acting. At the age of nine, I performed on the legitimate stage at the Goldoni theatre as a mouse in Cinderella, and in a full-length motion picture produced by Dino De Laurentiis, starring Walter Chiari, called Il Giovedi.
Click on the photo above to view a clip from Il Giovedi featuring yours truly (in the cowboy hat). Note also Else Hvingtoft Sandom, my mother, playing a "Gernan" nurse who gives Walter Chiari a look that I saw all too frequently as a boy!
My family then moved to San Rafael, California, where I attended the 3-Rs school, and where I first developed an interest in writing. While in 5th grade, I wrote a 3-page poem that was so precocious that even my parents had a hard time believing I was the author! Thus began my lifelong love affair with poetry and fiction.
After less than two years in San Rafael, our family was transferred back to Europe; we resided at the Wentworth Estates in Surrey England, not far from Virginia Water -- where a key scene from RESURRECTION MEN is set. I attended boarding schools for the next five years: the Fernden School in Haslemere, Surrey; and Winchester College in Winchester, Hampshire, founded in 1382. During this period, my parents were transferred back to the United States, but I remained in boarding school in England, and only returned to the U.S. three times a year -- during the Easter, Summer and Christmas vacations.
While abroad, my family traveled extensively throughout Europe. In addition to living in England, France and Italy, I spent holidays in such far-flung locations as Denmark -- the home of my maternal grandparents; Yugoslavia -- where I learned how to swim; and Monaco -- where I learned how to play roulette.
I returned to the United States at the age of 15, with enough credits to go to college (kids in Europe start school earlier than those in the U.S.), but my parents decided that I was too young. So, I spent two years at New Canaan High School in Connecticut until I was accepted to Amherst College in Massachusetts. I took a semester off from college in order to work on a freighter which traveled to Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique, and then returned to graduate from Amherst with honors with a double major in English and philosophy. While in college, I helped launch a literary magazine called Writing at Amherst, won the Academy of American Poets Prize, and studied under a variety of “visiting writers,” including Robert Stone, Julian Symons and the Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney.
Following graduation, I spent several months traveling throughout the Sahara, primarily in southern Algeria, while working on my second novel (although I still consider it my first; THE SEED OF ICARUS was my apprentice novel). I then moved to New York City where, for the next two decades, I made a living as a freelance copy writer, public relations and advertising executive, corporate spokesperson trainer, Net entrepreneur and novelist. In the summer of 2000, I had a daughter. In 2010, I moved to the city of brotherly love -- Philadelphia.
In total, I've written nine novels (although not all have been published) in both the adult and young adult (YA) categories.
T.K. Welsh is not my “real” name. Since some of my novels are not appropriate for young adults, I publish my YA works under the name T.K. Welsh, and my"adult" novels under my birthname, J.G. Sandom.
THE SEED OF ICARUS is my first YA novel, a science fiction story that I began writing in high school, and finished while in college at Amherst.
THE UNRESOLVED (Dutton, August – 2006) is my second YA novel, and was inspired by the events surrounding the World Trade Towers tragedy. The sinking of the General Slocum steamship was the worst disaster in New York City history prior to 9/11.
RESURRECTION MEN (Dutton, March – 2007) is my third YA novel. Set in Italy and England, it draws heavily upon my memories of these countries and their peoples.