I was born in Stockton-on-Tees, just after midnight, in a thunderstorm. My father died when I was two, and my brother Ian and I were brought up my mother. I always wanted to write – when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to say “I’m going to be a writer” – very definite.
I’ve always loved reading, and I spent most of my childhood trying to make real life as much like a book as possible. My friends and I had a secret club like the Secret Seven, and when I was nine I got most of my hair cut off because I wanted to look like George in the Famous Five.
I was a real tomboy – I liked riding my bike, climbing trees and building dens in our garden. And I liked making up stories. I used to wander round my school playground at break, making up stories in my head.
I went to two secondary schools – a little Quaker school in North Yorkshire (where it was so cold that thick woolly jumpers were part of the school uniform) and a big comprehensive.
I was very lonely at the little school, but I made friends at the comprehensive and got on all right. I didn’t like being a teenager very much, though.
The rest of my time I spend writing stories and trying to believe my luck
After school, I got to be an adult, which was fantastic. I went and worked in a Red Cross Hospital in Japan and then travelled around Australia and New Zealand. I jumped off bridges and tall buildings, climbed Mount Doom, wore a kimono and went to see a ballet in the Sydney Opera House. Then I came back and did a degree in Philosophy and Literature at Warwick. In my third year, realising with some panic that I was now supposed to earn a living, I enrolled in a masters in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa. It was here that I wrote Ways to Live Forever. I also won the prize for the writer with most potential, through which I got my agent. Four months later, I had a publisher.
I now live in a small house in Oxford with my husband and little boy.