On the home page you’ll see me as a baby. Here you can see me aged 9, when we lived near Lichfield in Staffordshire. Cute, huh? I am wearing my favourite maroon sweater with the bobbles down the sleeve. It was out of shape and holey and too small and I totally adored it and lived in it. Except, of course, when I had to wear school uniform…
One day I came home from school to find that my mum had thrown out the sweater. I was devastated. But now that I am a children’s author I naturally have a huge collection of much-loved, shapeless and even holey jumpers that no one else is going to chuck out, ever. So there.
My dad was an army bandmaster and director of music. Having a dad in the army meant that we moved around a fair bit when I was a child, so I lived in Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong as well as places in England, including in Devon where I live now. I recently worked out that I went to ten different schools, or eleven if you count going to the same school twice (that was in Hong Kong). Imagine having that ‘first day at school’ feeling eleven times! But often there were other children whose parents were in the services too and who had also changed schools a lot, so I didn’t feel too weird.
I have always enjoyed words but it took me quite a while to discover that I wanted to be a children’s writer. After university I worked for a short time as a journalist and then for a much longer time editing and sometimes writing books for grown ups. But I always liked writing funny stories and verses. When I was best man at my brother John’s wedding I even wrote my best man’s speech in rhyme.
A few years later, my wife read that speech and said I should do more of that kind of thing. After we had our first child, Theo, and then (in 2001) moved from London to Devon, I started taking children’s writing seriously. I joined a creative writing group and in 2004 took a course run by the excellent Arvon Foundation. In 2005 I sent the text of A Lark in the Ark to fourteen publishers. Twelve of them said no thanks, but Egmont accepted it. I still have a copy of their cheque on my wall.