About Me

I was brought up in the countryside in a big old house with a huge garden. At the bottom of a spinney of lilacs there was an Anderson shelter, where people used to take cover from air-raids during the war. My brother and I used to make extremely dangerous concoctions and potions in there at the weekends.

hayDen in the haystacks

I lived a life of den-building: I built dens in the hedgerows; dens up the trees; dens in the haystacks in the surrounding fields (they were the best dens of all); and when it grew dark, dens inside the house.

BonfireBonfire expert

I was also an expert at building bonfires, though one day I managed to set light to the railway embankment at the bottom of the garden, and all the trains had to be stopped while the fire brigade put the blaze out.

I loved reading too – especially Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to be like the characters in the books…as far as I was concerned I was the characters in the books!

Fawkham ChurchConkers

At my first school I had lots of freedom. It was a tiny school in the middle of nowhere and we were always going for nature walks in the woods and tearing around the field opposite, collecting conkers in the autumn and making daisy-chains in the summer. There was a little church at the bottom of the field – my model for the church and graveyard in The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43.

And then… secondary school

Sadly for me, my secondary school was not in the middle of nowhere – but I still managed to have a pretty good time there. We had some real characters as teachers: my German teacher used to scream (very high and very loudly) if we forgot to put capital letters at the start of our German nouns; my music teacher was convinced that we all hummed different notes in her classes (perhaps we did…); and my geography teacher aimed bits of chalk at students she didn’t much like and once smashed a classroom window with a window-pole!

I had my moments of mischief at school. One day I locked my poor music teacher in the cupboard as a dare and I used to pretend I was dangerously ill in science by sticking my thermometer under a hot tap. One morning I even ran away from school for about 25 minutes because a complete dragon of a teacher told me off for something I hadn’t done.

The Bungle-Bashers

When I was thirteen I wrote a book with a friend called The Bungle-Bashers. It was about weird and wonderful monsters. We spent hours illustrating it…a very bad idea, since I am the worst artist that has ever roamed the planet, and my friend wasn’t a lot better. Of course the book was never published, but it gave me a taste of things to come.

After school I read English Literature at Oxford, where I had a wild and wonderful time meeting loads of fantastic people, rowing on the river as the sun was coming up, going to endless parties as it was going down…and reading a few books. I also discovered I had a singing voice – and after I left Oxford I trained as a professional singer.

The Writing ShedThe writing shed

I now live in the middle of nowhere again with my husband and four young children – and still spend a lot of time building dens in the garden. Some weekends I get to dress up in lovely long dresses and sing concerts in big halls and churches and cathedrals. And the rest of the time I write my books in a special den all of my own at the top of the garden.