One of the key moments in my life as a writer was when I sat down for the first time to write for young readers. I had been a professional author for about three years, and was a parent of two small children. When I started to write to write a children’s story—it was called Ms. Wiz Spells Trouble — I quickly discovered that I was having more fun writing than I had ever had before. It was as if I was reaching an entirely new part of myself. I think maybe that those who write for children tend to be more connected to their own childhood—perhaps there is something unresolved in their own childhood selves—than those who write for adults.
These days, I write for young readers and also for adults—four novels, a biography, and newspaper columns. Hearing from readers of my children’s books from all around the world continues to be extraordinary thrill for me. Occasionally, even now, I have to remind myself how lucky I am to earn my living by telling stories. When I was a child, at a rather miserable boarding school, the idea would have seemed like the strangest of fairy tales. Perhaps that is why I only plucked up the courage to be a full-time writer when I was in my thirties.
Today I’m still writing every day at my home in Norfolk, England, where I live with my partner, Angela, our dog, Ruby, and some hens— with visits, of course, from the occasional passing rat.
If you are a writer, all the important bits of your life—beliefs, enthusiasms, loves, hates—will eventually spill into your work. If it matters, it will be there. I have always loved animals, both wild and domestic, and rats in particular have fascinated me since I was a child. As scientists are now beginning to discover, rats have powers of communication and empathy which we are only just beginning to understand. Some of their secret talents, invented for The Twyning, have been proved since I finished the book to be real.
Yet for centuries mankind has feared and reviled them more than any other animal.
For many years, I longed to use rats—such wonderful animals, so misunderstood by humans—in a story about good and evil, cruelty and love. That story is The Twyning.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. My brother, Philip, and I were described by the headmaster at a school Assembly as “the two most disobedient boys in the school.” What had we done wrong? It was something about climbing a tree.When I was small, I dreamed of being a jockey.
2. When I grew up, I rode in steeplechases as an amateur jockey. Philip became a professional.
3. I play the guitar, write songs, and perform at music festivals. There is a song inspired by The Twyning.