My most moving experience as an author was visiting a book club in a men’s prison. The group of inmates had read my novel, Not Thomas, about a neglected five-year-old boy, and some told me the story reflected their own childhood. I sat in the prison library, along with the book club volunteers, as the readers confided that my novel had made them cry. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
I split my time between Wales and Ireland. I love the quiet Welsh coast of home, but I’m always longing to be in Dublin, enjoying the bookshops, cafés and theatres. I haven’t found a city to beat it!
I sometimes sense the supernatural. When I was writing Emmet and Me, I visited an old industrial school in Connemara with my husband, Simon. The place had been notorious for cruelty. As we walked along a wooded path to the children’s cemetery, a herd of black goats slowly emerged from the trees. They made me think of the Brothers that had once run the school. By the time we left the graveyard, they’d vanished. I mentioned to Simon how relieved I was the goats had gone, but he looked at me in amazement. He’d not seen even one.
I walk for an hour every day. My favourite place to do that is on the beach, a ten-minute drive from our home. It has seven miles of gloriously fine sand and is punctuated with dramatic shipwrecks. It’s beautiful in sunshine and atmospheric in rain ‒ the perfect place to unwind.
I’m red and green colour blind. While other people are enjoying a range of hues, I’m mostly seeing shades of grey. I’ve made more fashion faux pas than I care to remember!
I had to learn to be confident. When my first novel was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize, I was invited to the awards event in London. The other authors didn’t seem nervous at all, and I felt incredibly out-of-place. But as my husband and I mingled with the guests, I realised that confidence was a choice. It really was a life-changing revelation!
My love of books began way back. As a ten-year-old I caught a serious infection after an operation and missed a year of school. I developed insomnia and spent hours reading. I’m still a dreadful sleeper, but I’m certain I owe my love of books to those never-ending nights.
All my work has centred around children. As a teen, I worked on a toy stall and in a maternity store. Then, as an adult, I worked in a children’s library before becoming a primary school teacher. Now I write for and about children – a career I absolutely adore!
Lizards fascinated me as a child. One of my favourite childhood memories is of searching, with my sister, for the tiny creatures among headstones in the old graveyard behind our home.
I was runner-up in my hometown’s first ever Ladies Tennis Championship. That seems like an actual achievement ‒ until I add that only two of us entered!
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