Tell me what inspired you to write for children?
I did an adult book about football and went into schools. Children told me what they like to read and I gave those books a go and realised that was what excited me most.

How hard was it to get your first book published?
Very. 20 years of writing. First book rejected by 19 publishers before I got one. But that’s normal. Unless you’re a genius. And I’m not.

How long did it take to write?
A year. Partly due to lack of confidence and having another job.

How many publishers turned you down?    
All of them. Several times. But that’s okay. It made me raise my game.

What kind of reactions have you had to your books?
Really good overall, with the odd bit of hostility. The ones I like best are the emails at 10.30 p.m. from a parent saying their kid just finished a book on their own for the first time and it was one of mine. Wonderful.

How many children’s books have you published now?
About 50. Maybe 52.

What can you tell us about your next book? Which of course I’d be happy to read when ready for reviews.
It’s set in Cumbria. Again. Most of it takes place over 1000ft above sea level.

Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say waterstones website?
I do. Usually they’re great, but you can’t please all the people all the time.

Would you ever consider writing for adults?
Maybe again. I did a few. My main one was a short novel that was given to 2000 prisoners a few weeks before their release back to their family. It’s called Barcelona Away. SPCK.

What did you do before becoming a writer? Or indeed still do?
Worked at Waterstones in Leeds and Bradford, then in reader development for public libraries and the Reading Agency. Before that I was a milkman.

Which author inspires you?
Emily Bronte because she was from Yorkshire and made me think I could be a writer too. Rosemary Sutcliff because she nails history: you feel like you’re there.

Which authors do you buy immediately without checking blurbs etc?
None anymore. I have had writers I love, then they put out a book that’s disappointing. I’ll not name the main culprit. I check out reviews and social media first.

Which genres do you read yourself?
Historical fiction and non-fiction. Sport autobiographies. Fiction related to what I’m writing.

What is your biggest motivator?
I love writing. It makes me happy. I love that my books work for some readers. That’s good too. And I’d write for pleasure if I was loaded and not published. But I do work so hard at writing because it’s my job and I need the money to pay the bills. That is where the work rate comes from. Like anybody.

What will always distract you?
Family. But that’s okay. I can drop everything and pick it up again easily enough.

How much say do you have in your book covers? Your current book cover is so lovely!
Publishers ask my opinion at each stage, but I try to leave it to them as they know best. Unless there’s an issue that doesn’t feel right. But that’s rare.

As a child were you a great reader?
No. I really struggled, with reading.

Which book shop is your favourite?
Waterstones Bradford where I had my glory years as a bookseller. It’s an extraordinary building.

What can you not resist buying?
Coffee. Books. Cake.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?
Tea. Coffee. Coffee. Tea. Tea.

How many books in your own to be read pile? (Let’s have an honest count please)

What is your current read?
Haweswater by Sarah Hall. Visceral stuff.

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