About Me


 

I always wanted to be a writer.

 

          I had an older cousin who was a hairdresser, and when adults asked me what I wanted to be 'when I grew up', I used to say, 'A hairdresser,' because that was considered a good answer, and shut them up.

 

I never wanted to be a  hairdresser.

 

          From the age of about 7, when my Dad gave me The Jungle Books and The Just-So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling, I wanted to be a writer.

          But I came from a family of Black Country factory workers, none of whom - at that time - had ever gone to University, or ever written a book.

 

 

          But I read a lot - I read everything - children's books, adult books, newspapers, comics, magazines, sauce bottles, cornflake packets, adverts, graffitti my mother didn't want me to read...  That's how you learn to write.  At 14, I  realised that, to be a writer, I only had to be good enough.  There were no college courses (at that time) to be passed, no exams to pass.  So, at 14, I started to read critically - my own work, and that of others.  How was this writer getting that effect?  Why did I find this writing laughable and unconvincing?  Why had this story of mine failed?

 

If I could figure out the answers to these questions, I could improve.

At 15, and at 16, I entered the Children's Writing Competition, and won one of the three 'special' prizes in that age-group.  This spurred me on to write my first book, The Devil's Piper.  Acting on advice from a judge in the competition - the poet, Michael Baldwin - I sent the book to the Literary Agency, A M Heath, where it was taken on by Osyth Leeston. 

           She sent it to Faber, where the children's editor was Phyllis Hunt, who said that if I could rewrite the book to a higher standard, Faber would publish it.  I abandoned my education and rewrote it.  Faber published it - but because I was only 16, my father had to sign the contract.

Receiving the Carnegie Medal
Receiving the Carnegie Medal

 Since then I've written over 63 books, for all ages, from Nursery age to Young Adult - and my YA books, such as The Sterkarm Handshake, are read by many adults.

     I won the Carnegie Medal, the most prestigious award a writer for young readers can win in the UK, for my book, The Ghost Drum.

 

     For my 'cross-over novel' The Sterkarm Handshake, I won the Guardian Fiction Prize. Both these books are under film option as I write.

 

I began self-publishing in 2011, and am a founder member of the Authors Electric Blog.

     My own blog is the Nennius Blog, named after the medieval monk who said that, in his writings, he had 'made a heap of all he had found.' I occasionally contribute to the Awfully Big Blog Adventure, and The History Girls.

 

I am a member of the Scattered Authors Society (affectionately known by its members as 'the other SAS'), as well as the Society of Authors.

 

I often work for the Royal Literary Fund, that wonderful organisation which does so much to help writers.