What is your most famous book?
In England, that would have to be ‘Wicked Tales’. In the USA it’s ‘The Muselings’.
What is your favourite book by any author?
‘To kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee.
At what age did you start writing?
At one year old, but that was only scribbles! My first bit of writing I have a copy of is “My bike”, written when I was six. It runs something like this: My sister Debby had a bike. It got stolen. My sister Candy had a bike. It got stolen too. I had a bike. It broke. Now we don’t have any bikes. As you can see, my stories at school were just like yours!
Who is your favourite author?
I like soooo many. For children’s books, C S Lewis, J R R Tolkein, Lewis Carroll, Joan Aiken are high up there, together with Roald Dahl and J K Rowling. As for adult book writers, there are too many to list but I’ve recently read books by Chesterton, Dickens, Forrester, Graham Green, Maxim Gorky, Constantin Paustovsky (last two are Russian writers) and of course Raymond Chandler (American crime writer from the 1930s-60s).
When was your first book published?
‘The Muselings’ came out in 1990. I released a new edition of it in 2012.
How many books have you written in total?
Number 16 was published in 2016: ‘The Adventures of SuperBaby’. My first three books were published by Kingsway in the UK and Inter Varsity Press in the USA. Kingsway later dropped out of children’s publishing so I formed my own publishing company and now publish my own books, plus some books for other people.
Are you writing a book at the moment?
I’m writing several – I tend to start them & then leave them for a while. There’s the third book of the Akayzia Adams series… one about a family of mice that live beneath the floorboards… one about a boy who rescues a mouse that turns out to be the king of the mice in another world… one about a slave girl who runs away with the King’s unicorn… one about a girl who keeps dreaming about a world of animals & then finds it isn’t a dream… and a few others!
What was the first short story you made up?
I think it was Alicroc the Alien, who tries to be a teacher for four-year-old children – the scariest job in the world! Alicroc is based upon me, when I’m trying to entertain small children. Or maybe it was the Gorilla, who escapes from a lion, a crocodile and a hyena. Or the Thundertroll, a story I made up in the middle of a thunderstorm in Georgia.
Which football team do you support?!?
Liverpool, of course! They were tops when my children were young and we used to have football games in the garden, pretending to be the Liverpool team players or their relatives. I was always Ian Rush’s grandmother.
How long does it normally take to write a book?
About a year, sometimes two. I can think of a story outline quickly, but then you have to spend time writing it down…… more time changing it… more time checking that it all makes sense…… MORE time making sure the grammar is good…… and lastly, MORE time just making the whole thing flow when you read it.
How long are most of your books?
The shortest is about 30,000 words. The longest (the first Akayzia Adams book) is over 200,000 words.
What hobbies/pastimes do you have?
Running, cycling, swimming, writing books, helping out on wildlife conservation projects. I also worked for 16 years as a volunteer therapist at a Hospice for people suffering from cancer.
How big is your family? Brothers/sisters?
I have 4 scary sisters, 3 children and lots of grandchildren! Most of my children and grandchildren have drawn illustrations for my books, as have many of my friends. I love having extra pieces of artwork to add to the professionally drawn pictures.
Where do you come from?
I was born in Pensacola, Florida in 1954… on Bastille Day (which is why I like to go to France for my birthday!). My sisters etc all live in the USA. I came over to England when I was 14, went to a school here and then went to Cambridge University where I studied Natural Sciences. Then I got married, had children and stayed!
What is your favourite holiday destination?
Fort Walton Beach, Florida in the summer (for the beach) and Obertauern, Austria in the winter (for skiing). Oh, and the Florida Keys for scuba!
If you were not an author, what job would you have?
I’m also an accountant / software writer / IT manager / therapist at a Hospice, and I like all that!
Which one of your books is your favourite and why?
I love all my books, for different reasons. My favourite series is the Wicked Tales books. My favourite fantasy book is ‘Billy Jones, King of the Goblins’. If I had to choose a favourite novel, it’s probably ‘Mattie and the Highwaymen’, which is historical fiction set in the 1800s. I once taught in the building that used to be the Andover Workhouse, and it had an eerie feel to it: so I HAD to write about it. I think Mattie is my most visual & evocative book.
Why do you have Easter Bunnies in all the Wicked Tales Books?
I wanted to write a new version of Snow White. I didn’t want dwarves so… I just chose bunnies! And they became Easter Bunnies because the wicked stepmother turned the visiting princes into rabbits on Easter Day. The bunnies were so wonderfully funny (especially when they turned up with machine guns) that they had to return for another story in the second book Wicked Tales… and every book after that. There’s one less bunny each time, because they keep marrying princesses (which they dread, because they think romance is yucky).
Why do you like writing books?
Firstly, I like making up stories: I enjoy taking a tiny idea and making it grow bit by bit into something interesting. Second, I like entertaining people: I like my readers to laugh, cry, feel and think. I also hope my books have some important ideas for the readers to think about. Even my craziest stories have a serious side – but I think life’s like that: it’s fun and serious at the same time.
What is your favourite step in writing books?
The start! I have ten or twenty beginnings of books in my head or on my computer… and I would have a lot more hiding in there, but I have to stop myself from imagining them.
Why did you decide to become an author?
I used to tell my children stories every night. One night, the story went on too long & I had to continue the next night… and the next etc… and then my children told me to write it down, so I did that & sent it to publishers. That’s how ‘The Muselings’ got started.
Did you enjoy writing stories when you were younger?
No! I hated writing things by hand! I used to scribble down stories as quickly as possible and tell the teacher “I’m done, Miss!”…. and then my scribbly piece of paper would be given back to me, and I was told to write more.
How many schools have you visited?
Over five hundred now – including some in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Florida.
What is your favourite car?
We had a cute little Hillman Imp when I got married. It usually broke down halfway up the motorway to London, but we loved it.