Alumnus of the Month:November 2021
Dai Henley is our Verulam School Alumnus of the Month for November 2021. Dai left Verulam School in 1959 and is now, after a career in business, an award-winning author of crime novels.
Please tell us a little about yourself – where do you work and how did you get into this role?
It’s a long journey from running businesses to writing crime novels! I didn’t take up writing until I’d sold my businesses fourteen years ago. After giving a hundred percent of effort to my working life, I needed something else to occupy my brain. I joined a creative writing class and learned so much about the art and craft of putting a novel together. I’ve now written three.
What are some of your proudest achievements since leaving Verulam School?
Growing my software and vehicle distribution businesses and selling them at the right time to become financially independent. It’s allowed me the luxury of being able to devote my time to my writing. I’m especially proud of the success of my books – something I didn’t think was possible. Better still, my English teacher, D A Hopkins, wrote to me via my publisher, to say how proud he was about my achievements. It’s a letter I cherish.
What advice would you give someone looking to follow a similar career path?
One of my regrets is that I didn’t take my education seriously until I’d reached the Fourth Form. I was obsessed with sport – playing soccer in the playground, rugby at Sandpit Lane and focussing on athletics on sports days. When I realised that within two years, I’d have to make a living, I buckled down to my studies and left school with a modest four O Levels.
Running businesses and writing novels do have something in common. You need to plan, to choose a goal and to have the persistence and determination to overcome what sometimes appear to be mountainous obstacles.
In the early part of my career, I thought I knew everything. After all, I’d attended the grammar school! I soon realised that I didn’t. Once the penny dropped, I listened to my seniors, learning from their experiences. Many became my mentors and guided me through some tough times. For example, one of my early jobs was selling Rolls Royce cars during the 1970s Winter of Discontent, recession and three-day week!
How have your experiences at Verulam School contributed to your life and successes since leaving school?
I learned good manners, discipline and developed a life-long passion for rugby. Once I showed my teachers that I wanted to learn, they reciprocated by giving me more of their time and energy. It’s a model that I adopted in business, sports and life. The more you give, the more you get back. Most of the time, anyway!
What House were you in at Verulam School and can you describe one of your fondest memories?
I was proud to be in Hamilton House. Some of my fondest memories were competing on the sports days and cross-country runs, amassing sufficient points to beat Jennings, Brampton and Park! I love being part of a team. It’s something else that helped in my business and personal life. Writing novels is seen as being a somewhat solitary life. It is, but many authors work in groups with fellow writers who will critique each other’s work, suggest plot points, or character development. Also, when it comes to publishing, you must work with agents, editors, marketeers, cover designers, etc. We’re one big team.
As I write, my latest novel, ‘Endless Obsession’, is being launched. It’s an exciting time. It’s a testing time, too!
Will readers like it? Will they think it’s better or worse than the previous books? Has Henley lost his touch?
I stay calm, trying to convince myself that I’m witing only for my enjoyment. Trouble is, we all need affirmation, don’t we?
We love hearing what our alumni have been doing since leaving Verulam School. Each month, we are inviting a member of our alumni community to share their story of life after Verulam. If you’re an alumnus who would like to take part, or you’d like to volunteer an alumnus that you know, then please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.