I live in a converted barn in Cumbria, with my family and pets.
My first book, ’The Nowhere Boy’ was published in 1997. Before becoming a writer, I was a teacher, which I loved and I still enjoying going into schools to give talks or creative writing workshops.
My books have been translated into many languages including Japanese, French, Spanish, Estonian, Swedish, Dutch, Italian, German, Norwegian, Danish, Welsh and Portuguese.
- 1 Are you as rich as JK Rowling?
- 2Is it true you have lots of pets?
- Not so many as we used to have. In the past we’ve kept stick insects, gerbils, hamsters, cats and a lovely lobster called Bob. Currently we have 2 dogs, four rabbits, a goldfish and some tropicals including an enormous catfish.
3 Where were you born?
Me with my dad
and my dog Mitzi
I was born in Ashton and brought up in Droylsden, Manchester, where I attended Manchester Rd Junior School and Fairfield Girls’ High School.Both were brilliant schools, where, amongst other things, I developed a passion for reading.
4 What did you want to be when you grew up?
- From about the age of 7, I wanted to be a teacher. I certainly had no thoughts of becoming a writer. Probably because I’d never met any writers and I guess I thought they were all very clever people, very special people; not ordinary people like me.
- 5 Is it true you’re a member of the SAS?
- Yes … the Scattered Authors’ Society... a group of children's authors. Not quite as exciting as the other SAS perhaps; the elite fighters who wear balaclavas and carry out secret missions, but we do write a lot of exciting books between us.
- 6 What were your favourite books as a child?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
- 7 Which books do you like to read now?
Anything, I love reading!
I like all the ‘old stuff’, especially Jane Austen, Thackery, Dickens and the Brontes. Yes, even Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer!
Favourite modern authors include: John Irving, Brian Moore, Douglas Adams, Pat Barker, John Fowles, Jasper Fforde, Terry Pratchett, Margaret Atwood, Iain Banks, Thomas Keneally and Peter Ackroyd.
But I discover new favourites all the time!
- 8 How old are you?
- I was born in 1953…so quite ancient, really!
- 9 Who are your favourite children’s authors?
There are so many brilliant children’s writers, it’s hard to choose.
But I like:
Rosie Rushton, Melvin Burgess, Anne Cassidy, Julia Jarman, Jacqueline Wilson, Griselda Gifford, Brian Keaney, Helena Pielichaty, Mark Roberts, Malcolm Rose, Louise Rennison, Richard MacSween, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Mark Birchill, Anne Fine, Patrick Cooper, Dick King-Smith, Hazel Townson, James Riorden, Colin McNaughton, Hilary McKay, Jan Mark, David Almond and Adele Geras…………..
To name but a few!
Check out your local library and you’ll soon find your own favourites!
- 10 What’s your most important possession?
- My home
- 11 What could you not live without?
- Family. Friends. Pets.
- 12 Which is your favourite book of the ones you have written?
I like them all!
- 13 Have you had any bad reviews of your books?
- Only one, so far. I got in a huff and threw it away, which was silly because authors have to be prepared to accept criticism. Not everyone will like everything you write. Luckily I get lots of nice comments about my books!
- 14 Where do you get your ideas?
Usually plots come to me when I’m out walking my dogs, Muppet and Morse but the basic ideas are usually inspired by something I’ve read, heard or seen.
Sometimes the stories are based on my own experiences. I wrote ‘Breaking the Rules’ after visiting my aunt, who was in a residential home for the elderly and ‘Crazy Games’ at the time when my sons had a passion for computer games.
I wrote ‘Spiked’, for example, after reading newspaper articles about the spiking of drinks
- 15 Do you ever base your characters on real people?
- No…I wouldn’t want anyone to sue me! I sometimes use ‘tiny bits’ of people I’ve known but it’s more fun to make up characters. The exception is my dog, Bonnie, who appeared in The Nowhere Boy as ‘Meg’. Sadly Bonnie died, aged 17 but I’m glad she’s still around in one of my stories!
- 16 How long does it take you to write a book?
- It varies but about six months is average.
- 17 Do you do your own illustrations?
- No and if you’d ever seen my attempts at drawing, you’d know why! Most of my books are for older readers, so they don’t need illustrations but I loved the ones Derry Dillon did for ‘Deadline’ and I’ve had some great covers done by people like Tony Ross or Cumbrian artist Geoff Taylor.
18 What are your favourite TV programmes?
- I watch a lot of serious programmes like the news, Question Time and documentaries but I also like things that make me laugh: Bremner, Bird & Fortune, re-runs of Fawlty Towers &Blackadder.
- 19 Do you write full time?
- More or less, yes, though I do some other jobs, related to my writing. I give talks/workshops, teach creative writing to adults and review manuscripts for a literary agency.
- 20 What do you like best about being a writer?
- Everything really. Working from home is great. I love researching, devising plots and making up new characters.