When I was at school in Scarborough, England, all I ever wanted to do was be a veterinary surgeon. I loved all animals, especially dogs and horses. Unfortunately I found I needed to be really good at science and math — all I was good at was art and English! In my spare time I worked at a riding stable, walked on the beach, or drifted among the shelves at the library, lost in stories and dreams. When it came time to leave school and decide what to do, it was either work with horses or go to art college. My art teacher won the day! I packed my bag and went to study in York. I loved creating art, but I wasn't a good student and never graduated. I went back to work with horses and then joined the Royal Navy in search of a career. Luckily they taught me to be a graphic designer, a career I pursued until I came to live in America many years later.
Even though I'd had a couple of careers already, I allowed myself to dream about writing and illustrating books. I began to doodle around and create stories, but I never seemed to finish them. It took a lot of courage for me to go to bookstores and look at the amazing books in the children's section. I dreamed of having my name on the spine of one of them. It seemed impossible. Gradually I started to create a portfolio of artwork and sent it to publishing houses. After several years of hard work I illustrated my first book for children. Finally I was creating books!
My love of animals had not diminished. I had a whole gaggle of rescued dogs and cats. But it wasn't until I moved to Maine that I met Toby — a small, terrified white poodle who’d had a bad start in life. We adopted him (one of a family of nine rescued poodles). As he began to trust me, I began to write about him. And I finished his story! By this time I'd illustrated several books for children, but I'd not yet achieved my dream of seeing my name as author on the spine of a book. That changed that when Candlewick published Toby’s story. My journey to writing and illustrating books has been roundabout, but looking back I see that, along the way, I learned everything I needed to know to be able to write about things that matter to me. I create art and stories in my studio in Maine with Toby and our other poodle, Lucy, to keep me company.
Three things you might not know about me:
1. I did a parachute jump and broke my leg.
2. I painted a portrait of Princess Anne.
3. My favorite food is lobster, even the green mushy bit in their heads.