Frequently Asked Questions

face2How do you write? It depends. When I have lots of free time I sit glued to my computer for hours (usually in the small hours of the night!) When I’m out and about visiting schools I always have a notebook with me, to scribble down ideas as they come to me. But most importantly I’m always “writing” in my head. I am always aware of the stories and ideas that I am working on and they seem to grow by themselves, much as a plant grows even when you’re not watching it.

Where do you write? I have an office in my garden. It looks like a shed from the outside.

Why do you write? I’ve always loved telling stories. As a child I used to love making things up and pretending they were true – adults used to call it lying! In a way, I’ve always been a tell-tale!

How much do you get paid? For every book that gets sold with my name on the cover I get the equivalent of a Mars Bar!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAre you famous? Not really. Really famous people can’t go shopping without being stopped for their autograph or waved at. I’ve been going to Waitrose for years now and that’s never happened to me!

Did you always want to be a writer? I actually wanted to be a footballer! I used to dream of playing for Arsenal! (Actually I still do!) The main thing that prevented me from fulfilling that dream was the fact that I was particularly useless at football! So I decided to do something I was good at. (Wise move, really!)

Do your stories take a long time to write? Some do. Stars took me almost eight years to complete and the idea for Henry’s Boots is almost as old as me!

Do you have to think about the text for a long time? The sad truth is that it is possible to spend hundreds of hours re-writing and still not be totally satisfied with the text. But it’s important to get it as good you possibly can. I’ve spent hours over some sentences.

Where do ideas for the stories come from? Everywhere and anywhere! From the things I see and hear, from my own childhood, from the newspapers from the talkative squirrel who scuttles over my garden-office at night!

How do books get published? Authors submit manuscripts to publishers. They decide if it is the type of story they can sell (no publisher will publish a book they don’t think will sell!) Once they have agreed to publish the story it has to be designed, illustrated, edited (even though it has been accepted there will still be lots of changes to make!) and marketed. It’s quite a long and sometimes tortuous process!

Who inspired you? Mrs Hawthorn. She was my teacher when I was 10. She used to tell me how much she enjoyed reading my stories. (I’m sure she told all the other children the same thing! She was a great teacher!) I remember her bringing my mum in from the playground after school one day and getting her to read a story I had just written. I still feel that lovely tingle of pride when I think about it!

Who do you most admire? In the world of literature – there are too many to mention. But I have always had a soft spot for Alan Garner, I remember losing myself in his books when I was young. Outside the world of literature, Nelson Mandela; what a man!

What were you like at school? I like to think that I was a brilliant student who shone like a star – but in reality I was just another spotty kid with far too much to say for himself (not much changed there then!)

 What did you want to be when you were a child? I used to dream of playing for Arsenal – even when it was obvious that I was useless at football (again, things haven’t really changed there either!)

 When did you last have a really good laugh? This morning, when I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror.

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 What do you do as a hobby? Reading, going to the cinema, walking and supporting Arsenal.

 What strange habits do you have? Far too many to admit to here.

What’s your favourite food? Succulently cooked lamb.

 What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done? Sunk a car on Southport beach – don’t ask.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Manager of Arsenal!

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 Do you feel younger or older than your current age? Younger – of course!.

What has life taught you? To be ready to grab opportunities when they present themselves.

Was there a specific moment in your life when you decide to become a writer? I used to love making my own books as a child – so I suppose it was then.

Where do you do your writing? All the time – in my head.  Also in my garden office.

What are the best and worst things about being an author? Best – being able to share my stories with so many people. Worst – never having enough time.

Where do you get your greatest ideas from? From overheard conversations.

 What book do you wish you had written? The “His Dark Materials” Trilogy by Philip Pullman.

 What advice would you give to aspiring authors? No writer EVER got it right first time.