He wrote a number of mainly education-related articles (specifically on alternative learning methods) for various magazines including the Readers' Digest, and began experimenting with short stories. In 2001 his supernatural tale, A Day to Remember, was published by New Fiction in a collection of short stories. Inspired by this, Joe continued writing in the short story and poetry genres and in the years that followed had more stories and a few poems published (see Publications).
Around the same period - and inspired by some of his teenage music students - Joe felt that young people would benefit from a motivational text to help guide them in certain areas where critical advice, delivered in an unpatronising way, seemed to be lacking. So he set about putting down on paper words of inspiration from some of history's most successful and inspiring individuals, together with his own techniques for self-motivation, applying them to pertinent issues for this age group.
The result was Get Motivated, a book in 8 chapters covering topics including Study and Exam revision techniques, Health & Fitness, Accepting Others and Occupation Choices.
The book attracted the attention of an educational publisher who suggested that if a similar text could be written to accommodate the school PSHE curriculum it would make an attractive publishing project for them.
Joe obliged with a new book, Personal Solutions for Everyone but, unhappy with certain contractual aspects, he decided to solicit the book to some other publishers. Among these, crucially, was Hodder Gibson (an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton) who, whilst having no requirement for a PSHE book at the time, were sufficiently impressed by Joe's book and qualifications and invited him to write a proposal for the music component of a new series of books they would be producing for the Scottish Standard Grade and Higher courses.
The proposal was accepted, and work began on How to Pass Standard Grade Music.
It was a fortuitous turn of events for both author and publisher since, although the two previous books had to be set aside for the time being, How to Pass Standard Grade Music would become a top-selling academic work in its genre, winning the Times Education Supplement and Saltire Society academic book of the year award in 2005 (see below). Furthermore, Joe was retained as music author with Hodder Gibson for whom he has written a further three books to date (see publications).
These books represent a considerable creative undertaking as Joe not only wrote their content, but also composed original music for some of the exercises and composing workshops, in addition to compiling the 60 minute CDs which accompany each book. He even had some input in the books' graphic content!