I used to go to an all boys’ school.
I have one leg longer than the other.
I have had one jaw-joint removed.
I do press-ups every day. Well, nearly every day.
I used to be a professional cook.
Each time I have a new book contract, I buy new boots. I am a bit obsessed by boots.
I have had around 90 books published.
I am hopeless at maths and useless with left and right.
I hate slugs and frogs.
I hate my hand-writing and always use a computer.
I like change, adventure and the future.
I am addicted to the internet and emails.
My favourite possession is my iphone.
Somebody once tried to abduct me (and my dog…).
I can gut fish, use an electric drill, tile a bathroom, put up shelves, and once made a mosaic table.
I cannot use my hands at the same time as talking, so I can’t drive, make tea, type or put make-up on unless I stop talking. Seriously.
I have been knocked unconscious twice after falling off a horse.
The most difficult writing I ever did was some Thomas the Tank Engine books.
My Odd Childhood
The oddness of my childhood began on 11th November 1961, the day I was born: in a school. My parents lived in the school and presumably thought it was a perfectly sensible place to have a baby. We moved several times in my childhood, always to schools. My father was a headmaster. In fact, he was my headmaster, teaching me English and French while my mother taught maths and science. All that is odd enough, but what was odder was that they were boys’ schools and I am, I assure you, not a boy.
It was a childhood of huge freedom. The schools were in the country, so in the holidays my sisters and I had free run of amazing facilities and endless countryside. I spent my days climbing trees, building rafts, making bows and arrows, and riding my pony in the woods.
At 11, I went to a girls’ boarding school. Strangely, no-one there was at all impressed by my tree-climbing or weapon-making skills.
I did Classics and Philosophy at Cambridge. Philosophy was the best bit – endless discussions about meanings, and meanings of meanings.
It was all very well being trained to discuss meanings of meanings but exactly how was it going to earn me a living? I desperately wanted to write but I also knew I had to have a ‘proper job’ to tide me through the rejection letters.
I became a teacher. I taught English in such a small school that I was the whole English department. This school led me into the world of children with reading difficulties like dyslexia. I did a Diploma in teaching people with reading and writing problems, and when my daughters were young I was able to combine motherhood with teaching from home.
Through this work, I became interested in how all children learn to read and over the next few years I created and ran Magic Readers. Groups of pre-school children came to my house to have fun with all sorts of pre-reading activities. By 1999, I’d had quite a few home-learning books published and my writing was becoming successful. Soon I stopped teaching altogether. Magic Readers became The Child Literacy Centre, which I ran for many years before my writing took over completely.
My first novel for teenagers, Mondays are Red, was published in 2002, and over the next few years I wrote a number of novels and non-fiction books, mostly for teenagers but some for younger children. I have written around ninety books altogether, including Thomas the Tank Engine books and the best-selling UK home learning series, I Can Learn.
I’ve also written hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles for adults, and now spend quite a lot of time writing and speaking about how to become published. My book on that topic, Write to be Published, comes out in June 2011.
Over the years, I’ve been on lots of award shortlists and have won a few, including the Scottish Children’s Book of the Year for Sleepwalking in 2005. Wasted was also nominated for the Carnegie Medal and was on many shortlists. I’ve also written non-fiction for adults: Write to be Published and Tweet Right – The Sensible Person’s Guide to Twitter.
I live in Edinburgh but also have a flat in London. I am married with two grown-up daughters. Very sadly, my gorgeous yellow Labrador, Amber, died in 2012. She is very much missed.