1. How old were you when you wrote your first story?
I was nine. It was about rain, and it had a surprise ending: the revelation that, despite the cold, the wet and the grey skies, I really like rain! I remember how much I enjoyed creating it. I always illustrated my own stories and, later on, my homework – just for the fun of it (no wonder it always took me so long). I guess that’s why I now like writing picture books.
2. Where do you get your ideas from?
Mostly they just pop into my head, often at night. I write them down quickly, with whatever sort of pen I have handy. That’s why my first drafts are usually in purple felt pen or green biro with plenty of doodles.
3. Do you draw the pictures too?
No – I love drawing and painting but I’m not a trained illustrator. I do draw a ‘map’ or plan of each book when I am creating it, though, so I can see how many pages I’ll need. This also helps me think about what will happen on each page. I like drawing and painting maps (especially tiny trees) as you can see from my blog.
4. What’s your favourite book?
My favourite picture book is The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr – although it was written many years ago it is still fresh, funny and original. As a child, I was fond of Milly Molly Mandy and the Miffy books by Dick Bruna because I liked the style of the illustrations. My favourite older children’s authors are Geraldine McCaughrean, because her language is poetic and beautiful, and Emma Carroll because she is brilliant at writing creatively about things that happened long ago, like a tsunami in Somerset!
5. Do you write other things?
I write stories for adults too and have won some awards for this. I help and support other writers through two companies called Cornerstones and Jericho Writers and as an editor and mentor. I work a few days a week at a children’s charity called Action Medical Research. My work there involves lots of writing, too.
I recently went back to school and wrote some giant essays! I studied for a PhD at Southampton University. For this, I wrote a children’s novel, and thought about why so many books have maps in the front and how these tell stories. I made lots of notes and drew many pictures. My project was inspired by my love of made-up places (especially forests). This sort of independent study is called a doctorate. Now I am technically a doctor (but definitely not the medical sort!).
6. Do you like being a writer?
I love it. It’s always been a natural thing for me, and I can’t imagine ever wanting to stop.
7. If you weren’t a writer, what would you do instead?
I have had lots of other jobs: when I was a teenager I cleaned taxis (cold), picked strawberries (delicious) and pulled pints (difficult). To earn money as a student, I used to get up at 5am and work for a chef who let me make enormous pastry leaves for giant apple pies. He was a nice boss!
8. What’s the first book you ever had published?
This was Snappy Little Numbers, a rhyming, pop-up book that started a whole series of Snappy books.
9. How many books have you sold?
Santa’s Suit, which was my first story for Campbell Books, is a best-seller and has sold 290,000 copies. It has been published in seven languages including Welsh, Italian, French and Japanese. The Snappy series has sold 6 million books worldwide – that’s a lot of books!
10. How many books have you written?
I’ve published six picture books so far. I have written a book for 5-7 year olds about a rat called Rodney who yearns for a life of excitement. I have also written a story about a girl called Lily who has a different adventure every half term holiday. I’ve enjoyed writing for older children with a novel for called The Stone Feather. I have just finished a chapter book about a giant who loves poetry!