How many books have you had published?
Thirty one (both fiction and non-fiction) .... and five more being
published in 2004.
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
No, I wrote for Mr Crompton, our English teacher - but I did enjoy writing (... not half!)
Have you always earned your living as a writer?
I used to be a teacher (in this life) and a Roman galley slave (in one of my previous lives) but didn't earn a living at that because those tight-fisted Romans only saw fit to reward me with harsh words and blisters the size of hens’ eggs (come to think of it, it wasn’t all that different from being a writer).
I also used to paint watercolour landscapes and whatnot which I sold through art galleries to anyone smart / shortsighted / discerning .... enough to buy them.
When was your first book published and what was it called?
It was called Pointless Horror and consisted of two stories: ‘Melvin’s Arm’ and ‘Dead Blondes Don’t Giggle’. It was published in 1996
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Yes, especially as it was withdrawn from the shops on more or less the same day it came out, due to some legal scrap between two publishers.
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
That one, because everyone who read it laughed their socks off but now
it’s languishing in a home for terminally bewildered and cruelly clobbered works of fiction ... where it may well end its days ( cue violins / vile lions / Vera Lynns)
Which is your favourite children’s book written by someone else?
Ging Gang Goolie It’s An Alien by Bob Wilson
How long does it take you to write a book?
Between two and three months but sometimes I’m doing two or three at once so it’s hard to count / think / remember who I am
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I use a computer (plus one of those sausage-dog shaped first draft excluders)
Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like
I write every day (apart from the days when I’m not writing).
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
Like it usually, unless I’m being asked to do radical joke-ectomies i.e. harshly hack back the humour
Have you ever belonged to a writers’ group? If so, did it help?
Never. And it didn’t help much either.
Do you have an agent?
Yes: Mr XRFB3 - tall, dark glasses, black suit, shaved head - follows me every where I go - hides in bushes and cupboards whilst bleating like a lamb and making strange grunting noises when I’m doing my author appearances (really offputting, but he says it’s for my own good).
I also used to have a literary agent but not any more.
Why do you like writing for children?
a) I like finding out masses of amazing stuff I never knew before then telling other people about it in the funniest and most interesting way I possibly can
b) I like making things up in my head then elaborating them to the point where it feels as if they’re true.
c) I enjoy hiding inside other people’s imaginations
How do you get your ideas?
Mail order usually but sometimes flocks of idea fairies land in our big apple tree where they chatter ceaselessly, in which case I scribble down notes as fast as I can.
Do you draw the pictures for your books?
Don’t do my own pictures. I can do cartoons and illustrations but it takes me about three months to draw one cartoon cow.
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
By all means do it - but please wait until I’ve become millionaire before you start.
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
Yes. Anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales. Age groups between 5 and 14. Group sizes 15 to 150
I can be contacted by
Have you won any awards or prizes?
Yes: The Scholastic - Independent Story of the Year Award 1996