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 maps and sketches for each book when I am creating it. This helps me think about what will happen on each page and helps me imagine where my characters live. I especially like drawing 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 and funny. As a child, I was fond of 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 adventures 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 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. 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 291,000 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, two short stories, flash fiction and a poem which won a prize at Shoreham LitFest. Work not yet published includes a story for 5-7 year olds about a rat called Rodney who yearns for a life of excitement, a novel for older children called The Stone Feather and a chapter book for children aged 7+ about a girl called Ruby, a dog called Barney and how important it is to be kind. I’m currently working on a book about bees!
11. Do you help other writers?
I enjoy helping other writers as a mentor and through editorial support. I have worked with writers living in South Africa, the USA, Australia and France as well as here in the UK! You can find me on some other websites, including Cornerstones, Jericho Writers and The Darling Axe.