About

ACS aged 6 yrs

School photo, aged 6

I was born in 1965 in Epsom, Surrey – home of the famous Derby horse race and Epsom salts. My Dad was a policeman who, in between catching ‘villains’ as he called them, 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.

Firework Poem

An early poem

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 Facebook and Skype); 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 Farnham, 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.

Other centuries and places I’ve visited on my writing travels include :

  • 1940s London – during the Blitz. Scary, noisy and very scratchy – well it was if you were wearing the woolly vest I had on!
  • 12th century Persia – Hot, sandy and spicy
  • 1930s Indonesia (or a place very much like it) – Jungley, sweaty and full of mysterious spirits.

But my most successful bit of time travelling to date has been back to England in 1605 when I met up with a boy called Tom Garnett and got mixed up with a bunch of spies, traitors and a plot to … but that would be telling.

You can find out more about what happened yourself if you read my new book, Black Powder, published by the wonderful Barry Cunningham (the man who discovered JK Rowling) and the team at Chicken House.

For more about me take a look at Author’s Q&As.