I was born at Old Sarum, near Stonehenge, and for the first 3 years of my life we lived in Wiltshire and then in Lancashire. My father died before I was 4, and my mother and I went to live with my grandparents, in Southsea, beside the sea. I think I was about 6 when my grandfather took this family photograph.
I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. My mother always encouraged me. She wrote plays, which were produced in the theatre and on radio, but I really always wanted to write books – though I have also written radio plays.
I never expected to become a full time writer. I knew that although some writers do very well, most don’t earn enough to live on. So when I left school I worked in a shop for a while, then as a secretary. Later, I moved to London and worked in publishing. All the time I was writing, and then throwing away everything I wrote because I knew it wasn’t good enough. Eventually I wrote The Spring on the Mountain – and it became my first published book. (It has now been re-issued by Hodder in their Silver series.)
I had 5 or 6 books published before I was able to stop working for other people and become self-employed. Even then, I had to earn extra money. Among other things, I edited other people’s books for various publishers, and I also researched and wrote several Nicholson London Guide Books.
Now, counting the titles, I see I’ve had well over 50 books published. One of the novels, Awaiting Developments, won the Whitbread Children’s Novel Award, the Friends of the Earth Award and was commended for the Carnegie Medal, which was all very exciting.
I ‘ve also written non-fiction books. I think my favourite way of working is to have a fiction and a non-fiction on the go at the same time – that way, when I get stuck on one I can move over to the other.
People often ask writers where they get their ideas. Sometimes I know the answer and sometimes I don’t. The Stones of the Mooncame about while I was wondering why so many stone circles have the same legend attached to them, about the stones uprooting themselves in the night and moving to the nearest river to drink. The idea for What Is A Wall, After All? came to me a long time ago, when the Berlin Wall was being demolished. It was so good to see that wall come down, but so terrible when the walls of people’s homes are demolished, by earthquakes or bombs or anything else – and I started to think about how many different kinds of wall there are, and how many different uses walls have. The Burning grew out of a single image – the sight of a towering bonfire with the effigy of Guy Fawkes sending sparks into the dark sky. Storm-Voice came from several sources – from anger at a particular kind of mistreatment, from memories of seacoast towns in winter, and from thinking about the effects of guilt and memories.
When it’s going well, there’s nothing I’d rather do than write. When it’s going badly I prefer to go into my tiny garden and look at the frogs in the pond.