Q: Are you willing to visit schools?
A: Usually, yes.
Q: When did you start writing?
A: As soon as I learnt how to put words on paper, but I was grown-up before I had my first book published.
Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: I still don’t quite know how to answer this one. Obviously it depends a bit on the length of the book, but it also depends on how much research I have to do and how easy or difficult the book is to write. Often I’m working on more than one book at a time, which is great because when I get stuck on one I can move over to another. I think, for example, Are You An Ant? probably took about six weeks – and some of that time was spent learning about ants. A longer book, for example Awaiting Developments, probably took a little over a year, but I would have been working on something else at the same time.
Q: Do you write by hand or straight onto a computer?
A: I start off writing by hand in large, spiral-bound notebooks. At the end of the day I usually type what I’ve written into the computer, and at the end of each chapter I print out what I’ve done and then make changes and corrections all over it in biro. Then I key in the changes, print out, and probably scribble all over it again.
Q: Do you rewrite much?
A: Yes. A lot. Sometimes the changes are small, but often I have to rewrite whole chapters, and when I first wrote Something Rare and Special I had to scrap the whole thing and start again from the beginning.
Q: Where do you write?
A: Mostly I write in a room that looks out over my tiny garden. This is possibly not a good idea because every time I look up there’s something interesting to watch – birds on the bird feeder, frogs in and around the pond, wood-mice who live under the garden shed, and sometimes a passing fox.
Q: Do you illustrate your own books?
A: No, I have no talent for drawing at all. The books for older readers don’t need illustrations anyway, but I’ve been lucky enough to work with some wonderful illustrators on the younger books – especially Alan Baron, who illustrated What Is A Wall, After All? and Tudor Humphries who illustrated the Animals at Risk series and the Up The Garden Path Series.
Q: How many books have you written?
A: More than 50, not counting some non-fiction information and guide books, including London Travel Guides, which I wrote a long time ago.