When I was a child, dreaming that one day I might be an author, I used to gaze longingly at the N shelves in bookshops and libraries, and imagine my own books parked next to E. Nesbit’s. She’s still there, with her classic stories The Railway Children, Five Children and It, and others. Philip Pullman, nearby, takes up an awful lot of space, but sometimes there’s room for me between them.As a child I used to do a lot of secret writing in my bedroom. I rarely showed anyone, and certainly not my teachers. At that time I was rather unwisely trying to write complete novels. Later, when exams got in the way, I began writing poetry – because poems could be short!
When I was a teenager, there was no such thing as teenage fiction – you went straight from children’s books to adult books. It wasn’t until much later, when I was training to be an English teacher, that I came across teenage fiction, and excellent writers such as K. M. Peyton, Aidan Chambers and Jill Paton Walsh. Before long I wanted to have a go.
My first young adult novel, Run with the Hare, was accepted by Harper Collins and published in 1988. At that time I was working full-time as an English teacher, so did most of my writing in the summer holidays, and concentrated on young adult fiction for the next few years. Gradually, though, I tried short stories, the occasional poem, and chapter books for younger children – and eventually gave up the day job.
I’m now a full-time writer: when I imagined this, I used to picture myself sitting at a desk for hours on end, writing. In practice it rarely happens like that. I read a lot, go swimming and for walks, look after my garden, stare out of the window, play with my cats, cook, drink too much coffee and send far too many emails … and somehow produce quite a lot of words in between.