Where did you grow up?
I was born in Walthamstow in East London.
What was your childhood like?
My parents were Irish and we were a very close family. My parents’ house was always filled with people, mostly Irish people who had come over to London to work and who were staying with us while they found somewhere to live. Some of them stayed for years. Nobody minded. It was nice having people around the house all the time.
Why did you become a writer?
Because of my mother. She was the sort of person who turned everything into a story. I used to follow her around the house when I was a child, listening to the tales she told me about relatives I’d never even met and the things they got up to back in Ireland.
Did you like school?
No I hated it! I was taught by nuns at my primary school and then by very scary priests called Jesuits. They were both extremely keen on using the cane.
What was your favourite subject at school?
English, but I also liked History and Latin. I especially liked Latin poetry and I still read it nowadays with great enjoyment.
Have you lived anywhere else, apart from London?
Yes. After leaving school I lived in Liverpool for three years. And I loved it. The people of Liverpool reminded me of my Irish relatives. They do say that practically everyone in Liverpool has some Irish blood in them and maybe it’s true.
How did you get your first book published?
I was working as an English teacher and there was a librarian in my school who was very keen on teenage fiction. She kept recommending books to me and once I’d started reading them, I was hooked. After a while I decided to have a go at writing one myself. It took me a long time to finish that first book but when it was finally ready, I sent it off to four publishers. Three of them rejected it but the fourth wrote back to say they wanted to publish it. My career as a writer had begun.
What’s it like being a writer?
Brilliant. I love what I do and, in my opinion, it’s very important. Without children’s authors there would be no new readers and the whole community of literature would slowly begin to collapse and die. That’s why writing for young people is one of the most important jobs on the planet.