1. What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
I don’t really have one – I always told stories one way or another. My early interest in film came about from a desire to take the pictures I saw in my head when I told stories and sort of put them directly into other people’s heads, so everything has always been connected.
2. What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
I came across a story I had written years ago in a box of junk and thought that perhaps I should write some more stories about the people in the same town. The first thing that I thought of was a girl with lank black hair sitting on a table tomb in an overgrown graveyard and she sort of took over from there.
3. Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Yes. (Though I hasten to add that I haven’t actually been to the Land of the Dead or battled poisonous Night Ravens.)
4. What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
I read tons of fantasy when I was younger, so it’s hard to know where to start. I love the Alice books, particularly Through the Looking Glass (the Jabberwocky is the only poem I know all the way through by heart) and have read them more times than I can count. I also liked the Narnia books, of course. Alan Garner’s books were my favourites, though, partly because they took place in a world I recognized. Elidor was set in inner city Manchester, which was the first time I’d read a book with magic in it that wasn’t set in a distant time or in some country house or village. I also liked E. Nesbitt and George MacDonald. In adult books, I really enjoy Peter Ackroyd, both his fiction and non-fiction (well, except for the History of London which was a bit OTT – you’d think it was the only city in England if you read that!). Jane Austen overandoverandover. I also really like Dickens, I love the density of his writing. Mostly I read history, though. At the moment I’m reading “The Lore of the Land,” which is a collection of myths and legends from all over England, organized by county. I’m up to Somerset.
5. What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
I love cooking. I really enjoy organizing dinner parties and have at least one a week, usually on Sundays. Music is a big part of my life too – I like all kinds and I like it LOUD. I also collect antiquarian books, mostly pre-1890 cookbooks. I also collect pre-1890 magazines and periodicals (I love the scathing reviews critics of the time gave to books we now regard as classics!).
6. Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
I don’t really have any. Though I think ones that influenced me would be Mervyn Peake and Ronald Searle. And Tenniel.
7. What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
Just write. It doesn’t matter if you finish things or not. Just write and one day you will.
8. What inspired some of the historical/mythological aspects of Spellbinder?
When I was younger I really enjoyed reading books that then led me to other books or completely different fields of enquiry, which is one of the reasons that I have tried to make the history in Spellbinder as accurate as possible, so if anyone reading it wants to look anything up they will find that it is correct.
9. How would you inspire a child to be interested in writing?
When my nephew was 4 my sister and her husband started him on piano lessons. She said it was not because they wanted him to be a pianist or even a musician, but because they want him to understand that music is something you can do, not just something you listen to. Well, he’s now 8 and in November I read him some of Spellbinder and after I left his Mum and Dad finished reading it to him. When it was finished he started to write his own book, something that had never occurred to him before. Now he understands that writing is also something that you can do. And that is really what it is all about, isn’t it?