I was born in Yorkshire, England, 1966. Which makes me, oooh, about that big. *holds fingers quite far apart*
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was small. Either that or an air hostess (great uniform), Olympic gymnast (also great uniform) or a playwright. I would have liked to be a top fashion designer, but my stick figures, despite years of practice, were never going to make the cover of Vogue.
My father was in the army, which meant my childhood was spent travelling. I spent my toddler years in Malaysia and went to school in Hong Kong. We also lived in Berlin and Norway. Meanwhile, I studied French and Italian at school and university, so I got to spend lots of time in Paris, Provence, Florence, Venice and Rome. I have seen the inside of more art galleries than Anne Hathaway has worn dresses to the Oscars.
All the time, I wanted to be a writer, but I was too scared to actually do it. I entered the Vogue talent competition, but didn’t get very far. Instead, I got two degrees in literature and worked in a range of jobs – from tour guide and earring packager to lobbyist and management consultant. I’ve done a LOT of stuff.
Then, in about 1997, I read about a new young writer called JK Rowling, who had a children’s book coming out. (Whatever happened to her?) Hearing her story gave me the confidence to give up my job and spend six months writing.
Which I did, on and off, for the next ten years. I wrote three adult detective stories, a TV screenplay, several short stories and a couple of movie treatments. Reader, I was rejected. A lot. Most published writers are in the early days, so don’t worry if it happens to you. Meanwhile, I got married, went back to work, had children, and kept hoping that one day I’d write something worth publishing.
In the summer of 2008, while my husband stayed at home and looked after our new baby, I went off to the local library to write another story. It was for children this time, and it was about a secret teenage fashion designer with a troubled past. I called it Threads and submitted it to the Times/Chicken House writing competition.
This time, to my astonishment, I won. The prize was a £10,000 contract to publish my book – and the man awarding it, Barry Cunningham, was the person who discovered JK Rowling. I’ve since seen the very chair he was sitting in when he first read Harry Potter.
By then I’d already written the first 10,000 words of the second book, and Chicken House wanted to publish that too. Threads came out in September, and Beads the following May. By which time I was finishing off Stars, the third and final book in the series. Thanks to the competition, I’d become a full-time writer, with more Young Adult books in the pipeline.
Nowadays, I usually only get the chance to travel for work. By ‘work’ I mean visiting schools and festivals to talk about writing. It’s not really work, and I love every minute (except for cold and windy train platforms with no coffee shops – I hate those). I’m proud to be Patron of Reading at The Abbey School for 2015.
Occasionally people ask me what my advice would be to aspiring writers. Check out my writing tips page, on this site. Write every day, and rewrite even more. Don’t aspire to a Ferrari, but love it when people get lost in your stories. Follow your heart.
I did, and it got me here. Yay!
For more information, see the FAQs page on this site. You can also check out these interviews:
- Tall Tales and Short Stories in 2009, when Threads came out.
- The Mile Long Bookshelf (2010)
- The Book on the Hill (2010)
- Marjolein Bookblog (2010)
- A Reading Daydreamer (2012) My relationship with fashion
- Fashionable (2015) My life as a writer