Where do you get your ideas from?
I usually start with a news story in a newspaper or on television. For Salvage I had read about birth families contacted adopted children through Facebook and thought it was an interesting idea, but wrote another book instead. Then about a year later I was watching my son play football and another mother who works as a social worker said she had an idea for me – it was the same idea. So I thought I’d better write it.
Are any of your books being adapted for screen or stage?
Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery is going to be a musical. I’m writing it along with composer Paul Herbert and lyricist Andrew Kady, working with Perfect Pitch productions. You can find out more here (http://www.perfectpitchmusicals.com/networkshows.php)
Did you write lots of books before getting published?
No, the first book I ever wrote was When I Was Joe which was published in January 2010. But I had worked as a journalist for nearly 30 years before that so I knew how to write – I just didn’t know how to write fiction. In January 2008 I went on a course of evening classes in Writing for Children at City University in London run by Amanda Swift, and started writing When I was Joe. Eventually I took over teaching the course, but then I handed it over to the very talented Tamsyn Murray because I was just too busy. I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to get started as a children’s writer.
Do you base your characters on real people?
Sometimes, but I change every detail so no one can work out who it is. There are generally a few family insider jokes in every book.
What is your favourite book?
My favourite children’s book is Masha by Mara Kay which is about a girl going to boarding school in nineteenth century St Petersberg. It is a wonderful book which is inexplicably out of print. Coming a very close second is The Ready-Made Family by Antonia Forest (and the entire series of Marlow books), Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, which used to be called Wintle’s Wonders and The Outsiders by SE Hinton.
My favourite book for adults is The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a love story set in Amsterdam where I lived for eight years. I’m also writing a historical novel set in Canada (where I have never been). And then there’s the musical to work on too.
Any tips for aspiring writers?
Don’t beat yourself up trying to write a perfect first draft – sometimes the best thinking is done on the page.
Try and write something every day – I aim for 1,000 words.
If you can’t think of what comes next in your story, jump forward to something exciting. You can always fill in the gap later.
Don’t get hung up on logistics – we don’t need to know how someone got to the place where the exciting stuff is going to happen.
Write the book that you want to read.