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 many much-loved, shapeless and even holey jumpers that no one is going to chuck out, ever. So there.
My dad was an army 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, Staffordshire and Hampshire. I 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, four years apart). Imagine having that ‘first day at school’ feeling eleven times! But often I was at school with other services’ children who had also changed schools a lot. So I didn’t always feel too much of an outsider.
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 (now Farshore) accepted it (and one, who shall remain nameless, lost the manuscript but found it a year later, and liked it. But by then it was too late.). I still have a copy of Egmont’s cheque on my wall. The rest, as they say, is history. Seventy-odd books later, it’s my full time job. So if you’re thinking of writing yourself – give it a go!