I spent most of my childhood overseas, in Europe and the Far East. Every two or three years we moved somewhere new. This meant I kept changing schools, but I didn’t mind because if I didn’t like that particular school, I knew I would soon be leaving!
I was a dreamy, shy child, who had a vivid interior world. I began writing when I was six, in smudged pencil. I’d been given a Dachshund puppy for my birthday, so I wrote ‘How to Train Dogs’ – all of five, misspelled pages! But later I wrote ‘novels’ which took up whole exercise books. These were mostly adventure stories, which I read out to my long-suffering younger brother. They had illustrations, maps, book jackets with blurbs, and a ‘Letter from the Author’ for my imaginary readers.
When I became an adult I worked in publishing, in both adult and children’s books, and as a children’s bookseller in Manhattan when my husband was sent to New York. While my two sons were growing up I became a publisher’s reader. I took an M.A. In Writing for Children and after that taught courses in creative writing for Morley College in London and Chelsea Young Writers, amongst others.
The first of my novels, The Ice Boy, was published as the amazingly lucky result of winning a competition, the Fidler Award for a first novel (now discontinued, sadly).
I’m a founder member of CWISL (Children’s Writers and Illustrators for Stories and Literacy), an enthusiastic and energetic group of committed published authors and illustrators who visit schools and libraries and organise festivals and workshops in London and beyond. Do take a look at their website!
I belong to CWIG, the Children’s Writers and Illustrators’ Group of the Society of Authors. I’m also a long-term member of the Scattered Authors Society, which links up authors from all over the UK, keeping us in touch with each other, and Historia, a small but committed group of authors who write historical fiction for children or adults.
I owe so much to the courses and retreats I’ve been on through the Arvon Foundation, Moniack Mhor in Scotland – a beautiful and peaceful place to retreat near Inverness – and Ty Newydd in Wales. I’d urge any would-be writer to check them out, investigate the generous burseries they offer and go if you can.
I live with my husband and a wire-haired Dachshund called Ludo, in Suffolk, where I belong to a conservation group and write articles for our local magazine. I love working out plots by going for long walks along our shingle beaches, with the sound of the sea and the cry of the marshland birds beyond in my ears.
This is where I write. My study is the smallest room in the house and the oldest. It was part of the original sixteenth cottage belonging to the village vicar and later had Georgian and then Victorian additions as the subsequent vicars became more aspirational. As you can see, it’s not exactly tidy but it’s womb-like and welcoming and I love it. It looks out on to some ancient, beautiful and very tall lime trees – trees that were traditionally grown near churchyards (the local churchyard is at the bottom of our garden, so the vicar had a very short walk!).