I was born (in 1954!) and brought up in London and still live there. I discovered books and stories when I was at primary school, and soon became the kind of person who reads all the time! I dimly remember liking the Thomas the Tank Engine books when I was very young, but it was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit that really got me hooked. A great teacher called Mr Smith read it to my class, and it wasn’t long before I sought out The Lord of the Rings. I borrowed the trilogy from the library, a place I spent many happy hours in.

“…I was soon reading voraciously – literary fiction, poetry, biography, history. I loved words and language, but the key thing for me then – as it is now – was story.”

I found my way to the historical fiction of Rosemary Sutcliff, and she’s still one of my favourite writers – I regularly re-read The Eagle of the Ninth, Warrior Scarlet. I was a fan of the Viking stories of Henry Treece, the science fiction of HG Wells, John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, and was soon reading voraciously – literary fiction, poetry, biography, history. I loved words and language, but the key thing for me then – as it is now – was story. I love the feeling of being drawn into a story, the delicious sense of tension that comes from wanting to know what is going to happen next and almost being afraid to find out. That happens when you read the best stories – and as I found out, it can happen when you write a story of your own, too.

 

“…I also got married and became a dad – and that’s when I discovered children’s books.”

By the time I hit my teens I’d pretty much decided I wanted to be a writer. I went to university (Queens’ College, Cambridge) where I spent a lot of time avoiding lectures. I did a lot of reading and going to the cinema. I became a journalist after I left, and worked in the music press for a while. But I also got married and became a dad – and that’s when I discovered children’s books. I started buying books to read to my oldest daughter, and then I took a job on a magazine called Parents, which ran features about family life and kids. Within a few months I was writing a regular column of children’s book reviews, and taking the books home. This was the early 1980s, the beginning of the new Golden Age of Children’s Books. I remember taking home Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Peepo! And The Baby’s Catalogue, Where’s Spot? And Alfie Gets in First. I read to all three of my children every night for years – and that includes stints of reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (they asked me to stop eventually).

“…it all comes down to one thing – a love of reading. Somehow I don’t think that’s ever going to change…”

By the mid-1980s I was writing my own stories and things went well. I wrote a couple of collections of poetry that were published by Puffin, lots of picture books, and the Dilly the Dinosaur stories which were very successful (Dilly is still going – click here to see!). I’ve also reviewed for the national press (click here for my latest review in The Guardian), appeared at major literary festivals and done hundreds of school visits, talked about children’s books on the radio and TV, and been active in writers’ organisations. But it all comes down to one thing – a love of reading. Somehow I don’t think that’s ever going to change…