A young father who has written his first book about a wolf is something of a dark horse. While admitting there is something of his character in The Wolf, Joe Smith is somewhat unwilling to talk about his connection to a story that was snapped up by the prestigious publishers, Jonathan Cape and has just won critical acclaim in the Telegraph, Guardian and Time Out.
He says: "I don't like talking about it because I find it a bit difficult and embarrassing.
"Once someone is reading it, it's their book. I don't want to get in the way of the process. There are aspects of the wolf in me; I love movement and my surroundings, but I am definitely not him.
"I have been disappointed if I know too much about the author. If I sense the author coming through, that puts me off. I am cautious about too much association between author and character although undeniably the two are inseparable and I will say the wolf undergoes a change in nature."
With a few stops and starts. the book took five years to bring to fruition and, at 29, Joe seems bemused at its reception.
He says: "My agent sold it to Cape in three weeks. I was numb.
"I have had some great reviews; the Guardian was nice about the prose and Time Out said: 'there's a bit of a wolf in all of us', which I appreciated. I have my moments when I punch the air."
So did The Wolf leap out of his imagination or was the progress more stealthy?
Joe, married to Louise and father of three-year-old Clarke, says: "I started writing it when I was doing philosophy and politics at Durham University.
"It took about five years from birth. It was the first thing I truly committed to.
"I did a rough version and then left it. Then I had an epiphany and realised it had to be in the first person.
"I was in a pub on my own and realised I had to rewrite the whole thing. The inspiration came out of the ether, which is why I stuck at it for five years.
"One of the reasons I chose to write about an animal is that it's more abstract than writing about a human character. I am not ready to write about humans because that takes a greater degree of subtlety."
For those salivating to know more, I did manage to wrest a brief storyline from Joe. It is a 'journey' of how the wolf, starved and weakened by a harsh winter, faces another predator, a competitor, who he knows he should kill. The Wolf forces us to see the world through the eyes of a hunter.
Joe, of Temple Road, Ealing, went to Gunnersbury Catholic School for Boys in Acton, and always enjoyed reading.
He says: "I loved my books from a very early age. I was reading Jaws and thought I was very grown-up for reading it. I liked science fiction and then discovered adult classics."
He studied philosophy and politics, although tried unsuccessfully to switch politics to English.
He says: "I always knew I would try writing. It was never just a hobby for me. I feel compelled to write."
While he was sharing a house and doing some secretarial work, Joe wrote less. He says: "When my housemates left, I felt more committed. I would sometimes get up at 5am before work but at other times I wouldn't write anything for days. I was committed in my mind but not in my flesh."
While he had some thoughts of becoming a property developer, he became more immersed in The Wolf when he came back to Ealing to live with his parents, working in administration for the Treasury Solicitors Department and Imperial College to keep going.
He recently did a reading at Pitshanger Bookshop, Pitshanger Lane, Ealing which was packed.
Joe says wryly: "There were a lot of people there, but they were all my mother's friends."
He is currently working on his second book, not surprisingly cloaked in secrecy. All he would say is that it is "fiction and in a similar vein".
* The Wolf by Joseph Smith is published by Jonathon Cape, ISBN 9780224085199, RRP £10