Here are some of the questions I often get asked, and the answers to them...

When did you start to write?
I'm a late developer; I started only when I was 26. All the other writers I know began sensibly, when they were children. If you are thinking of being a writer, however old or young you are, start now!
Why do you write for children?
When I began to write, I was living at home with a baby, and missing the children I had been teaching. I didn't feel very grown-up, and I realised I knew a lot about what my second formers had liked to read, and what they had not liked. I thought I might manage a story to please them. By the time I found out how hard it is to write a good story simply and well enough, I had grown very interested. I'm still trying to do it well, and I'm still interested...
How long does it take to write a book?
It varies a lot, depending on what the book is about. Some stories only need thinking about, some need travel to far off places, or lots of work in libraries. The longest time I've ever taken was three years, for The Emperor's Winding Sheet, because I had to learn Greek to read about the background. The shortest time I have ever taken was for the picture book, Babylon; I had been thinking about that for some time, but it got written down one Sunday afternoon. The average time is about one year.
Where do you get your ideas from?
All over the place! But I don't try to think up books starting from nothing. I keep a notebook, that I take with me everywhere, and I scribble things down in it - observations, and descriptions and conversations and thoughts. If ever I need an idea I can go lucky-dipping in my notebook. Keeping a notebook is easy, and fun; you could do it too. But don't leave it lying around for anyone to read; that can be risky!
Do you put real people in your books?
I hope the people in my books are real to you. They are real to me. Sometimes I seem to be able to hear them talking in my head. I don't make up what they say; I just listen and write it down. But they aren't portraits of people that I know in real life. You can't put actual people into books, because you don't know enough about them.
What would you want to be if you weren't a writer?
A writer is the only thing I would want to be. If I hadn't managed to become a published writer, I would have been a dejected, unpublished one. But there are other things I like to do - like patchwork, and photography, and seeing new places and old friends.

Is there something else you would like to ask? Send me an e-mail


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