I grew up in on the outskirts of London, England. My school was a mile away, and I walked there and back on my own. This gave me the chance to muck around and get into all kinds of mud and trouble each morning and evening.
I was always rubbish at sports, and the last to be picked for any team. At high school I thought up clever ways to avoid shivering on an icy football pitch, but always seemed to get caught and punished anyway.
My dad was an engineer in the construction industry, and I thought I wanted to be one too. However, when I went to college I discovered that I couldn’t do the math. There were about ten computers in the whole country: we had to do long calculations using mechanical calculators that had handles you turned. I changed my course and studied graphic design and photography instead.
When I graduated I soon found that what I did best of all was writing. I had a knack for explaining complicated facts in a way that everyone could understand. I started writing about photography: first magazine articles, then books. I got a job editing children’s books, then went on to write them.
I’ve written more than eighty books, mostly information books for children. My first book for Candlewick was Castle Diary. Writing it terrified me, because I had never written stories before. I had a wonderful editor who gave me great advice and helped me improve the book. When Chris Riddell and David Parkins drew the pictures for this book, and for the three more diary books that followed, they managed to capture the characters of all the people in the stories exactly as I’d imagined them.
I love writing because people pay me to find out all this fascinating stuff about strange, wacky, and obscure subjects. I spend far more time than I should trying to find amazing facts that bring a subject to life. I trawl through books at home (I’ve got 3,000) and in dusty libraries.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I keep chickens in my back garden.
2. I always tell very bad jokes first thing in the morning.
3. I can make string out of stinging nettles.