These are a few of the questions I sometimes get asked...
Where were you born?
Dingwall in Scotland. I was christened there by a bishop who was a keen fisherman. When I was handed to him at the font, he held me for a moment and said ‘Eight and a half pounds’. He was quite right.
Where do you live now?
For more than twenty years now I’ve lived in a village in the Test valley in Hampshire. Some people like living in big towns but I’m a village person. I like walking down to the shop (there’s only one) and saying good morning to everyone I see. Do that in a town and they give you very funny looks.
What did you like best at school?
I didn’t like anything at school much. I didn’t like the lessons, the teachers, most of the other children… It was a long time before I realized this probably had more to do with me than the school.
Which authors and illustrators did you like best as a child?
I never found anything to match the seven Narnia books by C S Lewis. (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the most famous of them). I used to try and copy the pictures by Pauline Baines and I still re-read them all every few years, and find something new every time. I think I believed in Aslan before I believed in God.
What are your favourite books now?
Patrick O’Brian wrote an incredible series of stories about a sea captain in Nelson’s time. I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan as well. His books are the sort I have to buy in hardback because I can’t wait for the paperback version to come out.
How did you start writing?
I was thirty five years old and I went to a hypnotist to give up smoking. While I was very relaxed, she asked me what I really wanted to do in life. I said I wanted to be a writer (which came as something of a surprise) so I went away and did it. Well, it wasn’t quite that simple, but nearly…
Where do you get your ideas?
I think if you sit down long enough with the television off, you’re bound to think of something.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
Almost everything about being a writer is wonderful – if that’s what you want to do. I love getting up and knowing that the whole day is mine – that I don’t have a boss telling me what to do, and if I suddenly decide I want to go to the movies, I can. And when a new book arrives from the printers and it’s got my name on it… that’s a very good moment!
What is the thing you like least about being a writer?
The only bad thing about being a writer is looking at the calendar and realizing that the script you promised to deliver is due in tomorrow and it’s going to take you at least another month to finish.
What is your favourite book of the ones you’ve written?
My favourite at the moment (it varies!) is Bernard’s Watch. It never won any awards, and it was a bit of a struggle to write, but I was really pleased with the result. And I’m not always.