As a child
I grew up in Shropshire, England, where there are rolling hills and deep woods. At home there was always a messy pile of books next to my bed, plus a sketch pad and a pot of felt-tip pens. My duvet was covered in felt-tip pen stains. On weekends I used to make little stapled-together books with my friend across the road; we created a whole series.
As an adult
I thought I wanted to be a costume designer. When I was at university, I spent much of my spare time designing and making the costumes for university theater shows. It turned out I wasn't so good at the sewing side of things. After a few office jobs and a few years of illustrating for greeting-card companies, my growing desire to make my own stories led me to pursue a master’s course in children’s book illustration at Cambridge School of Art. During my time at Cambridge I got the idea for my first picture book, Seen and Not Heard: it was inspired by a visit to an art museum. I’d been standing in front of an old, grand portrait of four children in very fine clothes, and I wondered what the children were really like: whether they were as angelic as they seemed on the canvas in their fancy frames, or whether they had another side to them.
After the book came out, the children of Shiverhawk Hall just couldn't leave me alone: it seemed they wanted to share secrets of further adventures, outside in the moonlit grounds of their house and into the woods. These secrets turned into my next book, Hide and Seek. Now that I make children’s books as a job, I don’t just design the costumes, I also direct, write the script, design the lighting and the set, and create all the actors’ voices! It's hard work but great fun . . . and luckily for me there is very little to do in the way of sewing.
Things you didn’t know about me
1. I once lived on the top floor of a museum, up five flights of stairs, in a very old, rather spooky building.
2. I can say the alphabet backward: my granny taught me this important life skill.
3. My favorite meal is boiled eggs with soldiers (“Soldiers” as in toast cut into strips for dipping. Although it might be interesting to share a boiled egg with some real soldiers).