Things you might like to know...

When I get letters from people who like my books, they always ask loads of really interesting (sometimes weird!) questions. So this page is meant to answer all the questions you can possibly think of. Or at least all the ones I can possibly think of.

You can always leave me a note or contact me using the buttons above if you have more!

I was born in London in 1976, but now I live just outside Reading, with my husband Jon and my three children, Ash, Robin and William.

I haven’t always been a writer. I used to work as an editor at Scholastic Children’s Books…

My first job

I first went to work at Scholastic Children’s Books when I was 15 to do work experience (when you go and find out what different jobs are like, and mostly do photocopying). I went back every summer and begged and begged until they gave me a job after I left university. I loved being an editor.

But when I was much younger I wanted to be a librarian, because I thought that librarians got to spend the whole day reading all the books in the library. I was very disappointed when I found this wasn’t true. (After that I wanted to be an archaeologist, but I gave up on that idea after I discovered most archaeology was not about pyramids but meant getting wet, cold and muddy, and involved a lot of very complicated science.)

Being an Editor

Editors do actually get to spend a lot of the day reading. And making coffee. How exciting to read books by fantastic people even before they are finished, and be able to say, “Oooh, I really liked that girl with the red hair. You should put more about her in. In fact, why don’t you write a whole book just about her?” And that sort of thing.

Now that I write books, it’s very useful, because I can try to think like an editor about my own work (except it’s very hard to do when it means cutting bits out). But at least I’m less grumpy when other people tell me I need to change things, because I’ve made so many other authors do it too…

My First Book

I wrote my first book while I was still working at Scholastic. Editors sometimes come up with an idea for a book, which they suggest to an author, and that was the plan with the Triplets series. I came up with the idea of triplet sisters who looked exactly the same, but were totally different underneath. By the time I had named them Becky, Katie and Annabel, and given them a family and a school and thought about how they’d react if a rat ate their bridemaids’ dresses, I didn’t want to let anybody else write those books!

I wrote the first book, Becky’s Terrible Term, on a train – actually, lots of trains.

Scribbling on the Floor

I lived in Reading by then, but the Scholastic offices are in London, so I had a half-hour train journey every morning and evening. I had a big spiral bound notebook, and I scribbled (my writing is very messy) all the way from Reading to Paddington, sometimes even if I was sitting on the floor of the train (those trains are extremely busy). The scary part was showing the other editors I worked with – none of them knew I was planning to write the book myself. Luckily, they liked it enough to tell me to keep going.

Often people want to know how old I was when I wrote my first book. I loved writing and making my own books when I was much younger, but Becky’s Terrible Term was the first actual whole book I wrote, and I was 28.

Lots More Books

I stopped working as an editor when I had Ash, my daughter. I did go back, but only for six months, because I felt like I never saw her. So I decided to work from home, copy-editing (which is when you make sure the author doesn’t say someone has blue eyes in chapter one and brown eyes in chapter three) and writing. Eventually I gave up editing, and now I just write. And drink coffee.

Quite often people ask how many books I’ve written. At the moment, it’s 137!

Where do my ideas come from?

Lots of people want to know where I get my ideas from. I think this is probably the question most authors dread. It’s so hard because there isn’t really one simple answer, like, from under the bed. It’s a whole mixture of things. Sometimes someone will suggest an idea to you – for the Rose books, my editor Kirsty asked me if I could write something about becoming magical. But that was it! I had to take it from there, and in fact I went through two other ideas first, neither of which quite worked, although I have a secret fondness for one of them, and might go back to it sometime.

Are any of the stories true?

Lots of the things that happen in my books really did happen, but not to me (and none of the magic has happened to anyone, unfortunately, it’s all wishful thinking). Some of the animal stories are based on stories from newspapers, or stories about animals that belonged to friends, and lots of them are based on my own pets. My three cats, Milly, Poppy and Star, are doing their best to keep me supplied with cat-gets-into-trouble plots!

Some of the people are real, too, but disguised. Becky, from the Triplets books, is a not-very-well disguised version of what I was like at school. Except I probably read more books than she did, and I didn’t have two identical sisters. I was horribly shy though.

Also, practically every character I write is scared of spiders! I am stupidly terrified of them!

An interview by Samantha

This is a brilliant interview by Samantha, who lives in New Zealand. She emailed me such interesting questions that I asked if I could put the interview up on the site.

First, of all, when did you start wanting to be an author and why?
I didn’t! I wanted to be a librarian so I could read all the time. I actually worked as an editor for children’s books, and I started writing my first book because I came up with an idea in an editorial meeting. I was supposed to suggest it to an author, but I fell in love with it myself!

What inspired you to be an author and how?
Working with all the amazing authors while I was editor – I loved the job, so much reading.

Where do you write your stories?
In the back half of our garage, which is now a tiny writing room, big enough for a large armchair and a lot of bookshelves.

Did your patience ever suffer when you were stuck in a hard bit in your story?
Often. But I also tend to have lots of books on the go at the same time in different stages, so I usually go and work on something else for a bit, and it’s amazing how a book unsticks itself when you’re not worrying at it.

Do you prefer writing 1st, 2nd or 3rd person?
I usually write in the 3rd person – but diary entries and letters are really fun to write and a great way to break up the story.

Do you plan the whole story beforehand, or does the story unfold as you write it?
I do, very carefully – but if the book is going well, new characters and ideas will just arrive. What I do then is add them to my plan, so I have an idea of where I’m going…

Where do you get your ideas from?
Lots of places – my own pets have been great for my animal stories. Newspapers, real events, stories from friends! I’m working on a book about the First World War at the moment, and a lot of the story is true, even though I’ve invented the family I’m writing about.

Are any of your stories based on real people or any experiences you have had?
I’ve written at least three books based on the stupid adventures of my cats!

What made you write for this particular age group?
I actually write for several age groups, which is great as it means lot of variety.

Who helps you the most through your journey of story writing?
Coffee. And chocolate.

What book (that you have written) is your favourite?
The one I’m working on – all the characters are in my head, and they feel real. It’s a wonderful feeling! But my first animal story, Lost in the Snow, is really special. It’s based on the memory of stories my mum and I made up. We used to tell them about our stray cat, Rosie, who turned up in my dad’s office a while before I was born.

What are the five words you love to write in your stories?
Hmmm. I’ve not been asked this before! Worryingly, I seem to use “just” and “really” far too much! (Plus too many exclamation marks!) But I love words that describe animals – if you counted words in my books, fur would probably be near the top. Squidgy is a great word too, and wodge…

Finally, do you enjoy writing or think it as a job?
Both. I work at it very hard and it’s definitely a job, but I love it.

Thank you so much, Samantha!