When I was seven, I broke our portable black and white TV. From that moment Sesame Street and Neighbours had disappeared from my afternoon ritual. I was going to have to find something else to do. After experimenting with being outdoorsy, then being a DJ making mixed tapes and a Fimo jewellery designer, I decided to take up the less taxing option of – reading.
It was cheap and easy and there was a library down the road which I could get to with a bit of running the gauntlet across a busy main road. The books in this tiny library were worn and smelt of must and formaldehyde, both of which became addictive.
My parents also loved books and they were everywhere. My dad first got me into writing when I was eight. He gave me a bug bottle to catch woodlice with and then write a review about. And so my first published work appeared in 1988 in the Journal of Biological Education (Volume 22, Issue 4).
My favourite picture books growing up were strange and wonderful. Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There, Yurtle the Turtle (Dr Seuss), Jerry Gibbs and the Magic Toothbrush, The Moon Man (Tomi Ungerer) and anything by Richard Scarry.
When I got a bit older, I fell in love with mad-cap adventure stories like Oscar and the Ice Pick (Judy Corbalis), Mr Browser and the Brainsharpeners (Philip Curtis), Agaton Sax (Nils-Olof Franzén), The Witches (Roald Dahl) and The House that Sailed Away (Pat Hutchins).
When deciding what to do for my 5th year work experience, writing never popped up. Instead I toyed with being an artist or illustrator. In the end, I decided to try being a Vet and spent the next week helping spay cats and looking after sick parrot (one particular parrot lived with a bearded man – in his car!)
At university I veered between studying the Classics and quite enjoyed some of the feminist literature, but then decided Social Anthropology was for me. After several afternoons of watching Inuit eat seals, I changed to Modern History. Even there, I veered towards the slightly zanier topics; the history of science and characters like Buckland who tried to eat his way through the animal kingdom. My final dissertation was on the History of the Rabbit.
So with such a background, what would be my chosen career? It turns out I still didn’t know, so I pitched up at a recruitment agency on Tottenham Court road and asked them to decide my destiny.
It turned out, that all my past veterinary experience and my in-depth knowledge of rabbits was useless. But the fact that I could type 80 words per minute was very interesting to them.
And so I was sent off to five interviews. The first was as an event planner for the Marriott Hotel. The second was as a wedding planner. The third was to manage the then sixteen restaurants in the House of Commons. The fourth – and the most bizarre – was to be an aide to the Ambassador of South Korea. And the fifth – was to be an editorial producer at a Radio advertising company. Incredibly, I got offered 4 out of the 5 jobs, but took the radio one.
I spent a hellish year living in a broom-cupboard with two New Zealanders and working long hours trying to get interviews placed on radio stations. I then did a few odd jobs before deciding to go back to studying in the USA. After that I had an amazing job as a researcher and then producer/director at the BBC. I started in news, then documentaries and religion and ethics. Every day was different. One day I could be doing an undercover piece, and the next playing a criminal for a reconstruction. My best conversation was when a drama producer called me from Morocco to ask my advice on whether ducks or chickens should be on set in 2nd century Israel. I’ve interviewed exorcists, Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), written ancient scrolls for props, and investigated miracles at Lourdes
I eventually moved into independent TV where I started specialising in writing new programme ideas. I loved being able to turn dry subjects like chemistry, water, climbing, medicine into exciting stories for television.
I think that is where I started writing for children. I realised I enjoyed the writing process, coming up with the right words, conjuring up the beautiful worlds and zany characters that I had read as a child.
And so after some more studying, some more job changes, a beautiful child and three moves – I finally finished my first book – Sam and the Yeti.
Feel free to contact me.