This is actually harder to write than I expected! I always think that there’s not that many interesting things about me - that’s why I love developing alternative characters and plots so much as they are far more exciting. However, hopefully you will enjoy these little facts that go some way to revealing the person I am.
1. I’m addicted to Columbo.
One of the reasons why the central character in my book, Duckling, is so obsessed with Columbo is because of my own love of the Great Man. I grew up watching him every Sunday afternoon, curled up on the chair with my Dad. I used to love the way this unkempt and quirky guy used to outfox the criminals, and it’s a passion that’s never gone away. I think it’s also led to me liking quirky and unusual characters in my writing.
2. I’m one of 7 children
I come from a very large working-class family. Things weren’t always easy growing up. We struggled for money and I was often teased for having the wrong clothes, or bad hair, or tatty shoes. However, the love and unity my family has given me is something I value dearly. Books and writing were my refuge when times were hard, and the public library was a vital resource. I don’t think I would be the writer I am now without my upbringing.
I’m extremely proud of my working-class roots and now advocate for positive working-class representation. I also want some of the damaging tropes to be challenged. I wrote Duckling partly because I wanted to have a book that shows the value of working-class communities.
3. I wrote my first book aged 7 or 8 and sent it to Penguin!
I have been writing for as long as I can remember and aged around 7 or 8 I typed out my first ever story, Muddles the Mouse, on a clapped out old typewriter. I sent it to Penguin because it was a publisher named on the back of my books.
A few months later, I got a parcel in the post with some books enclosed and a lovely letter, telling me to never give up on my writing.
Well, I didn’t! And now many, many years later Duckling is being published by Penguin!
4. I’m an award-winning author for teens
Duckling is my adult debut, but I’m an award-winning author for teens and young readers. One of my books, 7 Days, was a bestseller in Poland and I appeared on their breakfast TV show. I have written 13 books on various themes, including real-life teen issues, a partly factual historical football series about the first ever female football team, and short-form books for reluctant readers.
I’m a big football fan too, which is why I often write about this subject! Sadly I can’t play it very well…
5. Like Lucy, I’m socially awkward and suspect I’m autistic.
My character in Duckling, Lucy, is quite introverted and used to shutting people away. I think that there is a lot of ‘me’ in her. Over the years I have been very good at putting on a mask and acting very extroverted and confident – but in reality I find it very draining and exhausting. I also find people and situations difficult to read and this has caused me great anxiety. It’s only since my daughters’ diagnosis, and talking to fellow professionals, that I’ve realised that I’m very likely to be autistic too.
I embrace this part of myself, but I am learning to be kind to myself and take time to rest when I need it.
6. I still work alongside writing.
I enjoy having a job outside of my writing. I think it helps me to keep the creative juices flowing. I have worked in safeguarding in education for many years now, which is why many serious themes tend to crop up in my stories. These are issues that are facing families daily. In Duckling I explore loneliness, poverty, toxic relationships and addiction, but I try to do it in a sensitive way, so that it isn’t too heavy for the reader.
7. My oldest brother encouraged me to write a book for adults.
He was the first one to read the idea. Sadly, he died of cancer before publication, but Duckling is more special because of it. He helped it come alive. I only wish he was here to see it now. I know that he will be very proud of me.