Where were you born?
In Madang, Papua New Guinea.
What was your favourite book as a kid?
I read SO many books as a kid that it’s hard to choose just one. I really loved Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, as well as the Trixie Belden books, and read every book in both of those series. I think this is where my love of adventure and mystery stories began.
Do you have any kids?
Yes, I have two boys, currently aged 15 and 18.
Do you have any pets?
Did you always want to become a writer?
No, I wanted to be a famous actor. But then I discovered that most actors spend a lot of their time waiting on tables, and I wasn’t a very good waiter. So I became a journalist instead.
Why did you become a writer?
I discovered it was the one thing I was really good at. Also, the one thing I like to do the most.
When did you start writing books?
I didn’t really start until I was in my mid-20s. I wrote things at school, and even had a poem about the ANZACS published in my local paper when I was 10, but I didn’t realise I could be an author for a long time. I thought it was something that other, much cleverer, people did. Then one day I decided to have a crack to see if I could.
What's your best adviCe for young writers?
Have a crack to see if you can. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. And remember that writing is fun. Don’t get so worried about getting it right that you lose sight of that!
When was your first book published?
Unfortunately, that’s a secret! My first book was ghost-written for someone else and I can’t tell you any more about it than that. I CAN tell you that my first novel for children was published in October 2014 and was called The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race To The End Of The World.
Do you have any new books coming out?
My latest novels are THE FIRE STAR (Maven & Reeve #1) and THE WOLF’S HOWL (Maven & Reeve #2). I hope to have news about some new works soon!
Where do you get your ideas from?
As a journalist, I’ve learned to listen hard to what people are talking about, to take note of things I read and to think hard about what I see. Ideas are all around us and writers are people who’ve trained themselves to see them.
Where dO you get YOUR IDEAS?
All of my books come from a question and a feeling. I’ve put a little overview below of how each of my series came to be…
THE MAPMAKER CHRONICLES
Both of my boys are fans of the ‘head-hurting’ question. We have long-and-involved conversations about where space ends, how high the stars are, whether there are any places in the world that remain unexplored, which dwarf from The Hobbit I would invite to a dinner party… you get the idea. Several of those chats, close together, led to an idea that made me tingle all over.
“How far does space go?” asked Mr12 (then nine), one night.
“Nobody knows,” I answered.
Then the next night, he asked: “How did they map the world?”
“Well, they had to go out there and find out,” I answered, distractedly.
“They must have been brave,” he said.
“They were,” I said, having a moment of Mum Inspiration. “They would have felt exactly the way we feel when we look out into space, not knowing how far it goes or what’s out there.”
And just like that, in my mind I saw a race to map the world, and a boy who really didn’t want to go.
THE ATEBAN CIPHER
This series was inspired by a tiny newspaper article about a mysterious old book that was found in an attic in Poland more than 100 years ago. It’s called The Voynich Manuscript and for 100+ years, people have been trying to work out what it’s all about because it’s all written in code…
So the question was: Why would you write a book that noone can read?
The feeling that inspired THE BOOK OF SECRETS was the one I experienced when I went all the way to Dublin, Ireland, to see The Book Of Kells, another very famous old book. It is so beautiful that I just wanted to take it home.
I really wanted that book.
But I didn’t think the guards would be very happy if I did that… so, many years later, I wrote about a very beautiful old book that EVERYONE wanted instead.
THE FIRE STAR (A Maven & Reeve Mystery)
The original idea for the Beech Circle, which is a secret society in THE FIRE STAR, came from another newspaper article, this time about a farmer in the UK who had discovered that what he’d thought was a rabbit hole in his field was actually the entrance to a whole underground cavern…
Which made me start to think about what kinds of people might need a secret place like that to meet.
The feeling for this story has been with me for a long time. I have always loved mystery stories, even as a kid, and I still do. There is nothing like trying to work out the answer to the mystery before it’s revealed by the author at the very end. I always liked to try to outsmart the author.
Now I’m the author, and I’m trying my best NOT to be outsmarted!
Where do you write?
I write in my study. I’m very lucky to live in the country, by a big, beautiful river, and have my own room for writing. But I have been known to write in my car, at the beach, watching my boys do swimming lessons… anywhere, really.
What do you use to write your books?
I write my novels on an Apple computer, using Microsoft Word and sometimes Google Docs. I also write on my phone and my iPad if I’m out and about, because sometimes you just need to get the idea down!
How do you write a book?
I usually try to avoid answering this question because the answer is so… dull. The truth is that the only way to write a book is to sit down and write one. You write and you write and you write. It takes a long time and a lot of practice to learn how to do it right.
Can you help me with my writing?
I don’t read manuscripts or stories but I can help you with your writing in other ways.
If you are aged 9-14, I have an online creative writing course just for you.
If you’d like to be a children’s author, you can find out some top tips here.
Join my online writing group for inspiration, information and motivation.
Or book a Creative Career Coaching spot to talk to me one-on-one via Zoom.