I live in Nottingham and I’ve had a compulsive need to write ever since I was a kid with an over-active imagination. My breakthrough came with a children’s story about a silly knight of the Round Table called Sir Gadabout. It was a long, rambling undisciplined attempt which had been rejected by about twelve publishers already, but luckily it tickled the funny bone of the senior editor at Orion. After patiently working with me for quite some time we knocked it into shape, and a 16k word novel became an 8k published book. I was particularly lucky in that it was illustrated by the brilliant Tony Ross. This led to a ten book series, and although it’s now finished I’m still very fond of my bumbling but well-meaning knight.
I found it very hard to come up with a new children’s character after life at Camelot, and in fact my next venture was a biography. History is my passion and when I was researching an idea for a children’s timeslip story I was drawn into the world of the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. He sounded like an interesting character, but my researches were frustrated in that there hadn’t been a recent biography on him – so I decided to write one myself. If I’d realised how much work would be involved and what a specialised area Arctic exploration is I’d have been too intimidated to have embarked on it, but now I look back on it as a fascinating and exciting time. And Franklin, who has always been portrayed as a bumbling fool, particularly by American writers who have a beef against the British Empire, became something of a hero of mine. I hope that in some small way the book has helped to redress the balance in the way that he is viewed by the reading public.
Since then, I’ve pursued a varied and perhaps almost erratic writing career, trying my hand at everything from picture book texts to the transcribed diaries of an apothecary-surgeon who was a distant relative of Franklin. Maybe from a commercial point of view I would have been better advised to stick to one particular niche – but I’ve enjoyed the variety and I wouldn’t change a thing!