I was born in Epsom, Surrey – home of the famous Derby horse race and Epsom salts. My Dad was a policeman who, in between investigating crimes, once had to round up a goose that had escaped from a London hotel kitchen too. My mum worked in an office ‘looking after’ scientists and spent the rest of her time looking after me and my sister.
My very first pet was a bad tempered black and white cat called Cindy. Fortunately, nearly all the other cats that came after her – and there were quite a few – were much friendlier, although the goldfish weren’t very chatty. Something to do with the cats probably…
I grew up in a world full of stories. The ones my mum read aloud to us – Winnie-the-Pooh, The Elephant’s Child and Mrs Tiggywinkle were my favourites. The ones my dad made up especially for us about a magic coach called Charlie. And the mini-plays and TV dramas my sister and I invented and acted out. Much to her annoyance, I always took the starring role! (Well, being the oldest has got to have some pluses!)
In spite of this, when I first started school, I really struggled to read for myself.
It wasn’t until we moved house and I went to a different school that I began to make sense of all those black scribbles on the page. But once I learned how to do it, there was no stopping me. Reading became my all time favourite hobby – and I really liked writing my own stories and poems too.
I can’t say I’ve only ever wanted to be a writer – I wanted to be an Egyptologist first, digging up mummies and poking around under their bandages for golden scarab beetles and other more yukky things. But writing came a close second. And as it turns out, one way and another I’ve been doing it most of my life. At school where English composition was my joint favourite subject (along with history); while I was an au pair in Belgium, writing epic letters home (this was in the days before WhatsApp, Facebook and Zoom); at University – where I also did a bit of time travelling while studying for a degree in medieval history and French. And then, afterwards in the different jobs I had including working for a short time as an editor and a much longer time in public relations and marketing. But I didn’t start seriously trying to write my own stories until 2009, when I had the chance to study for a Masters degree in Writing for Children at the University of Winchester. And once I got going, I knew I would never want to stop.
In the here and now I live in Surrey with my husband and a garden full of wildlife including too many greedy squirrels and woodpigeons, some very noisy foxes and hedgehogs (but only at night!) and the occasional frog and sparrowhawk (although not usually at the same time).
But when I’m writing I can be living at anytime and anywhere in the world – which is what makes being a writer so much fun– although of course there’s lots of hard work involved too.
Centuries and places I’ve visited on my writing travels so far include :
- England, 1605 at the time of an infamous plot to blow up the king and parliament involving gunpowder and a certain Mr Guy Fawkes
- 1940s Suffolk during the Battle of Britain, with Nazi treasure-thieves and an Anglo-Saxon ghost on the prowl
- King Henry VIII’s royal palace at Greenwich in 1520 with treasonous plotting afoot
- And most recently, 120 CE and the gladiatorial arena in Roman London
You can find out more about what characters I found and the adventures we had in these places if you follow the link to my books, all published by the wonderful Barry Cunningham and the team at Chicken House.
For more about me take a look at Author’s Q&As.
You can also listen to a half hour radio interview about me and my books here.
(29 minutes 42 secs running until 1hr and 55 secs)