I always loved reading and once, aged eight, went missing for a couple of hours, eventually to be found reading Black Beauty in a hay
field far away from the house. Owing to the war, I went to about eight
schools in all
and ended up at a boarding-school in
where the head was reputed to
have been engaged to Rupert Brooke. She wore a short ginger tweed
skirt, had shingled ginger hair and ginger eyes and kissed the whole
school good-night (I managed to dodge!). She was a terrifying woman, but she did
teach English Literature very well. Kent
I wrote a novel for children mainly in the holidays, but then put it aside and trained as a secretary in
. I hated
typing but loved the journalism course run by an historical novelist. He liked
my writing and even introduced me to his agent - who didn't sell anything!
After working at the Foreign Office and for a solicitor (ugh!), I went to work for
Constable, a publishing house, doing donkey work for Mrs. Grace
Hogarth and her assistant, Delia. I also had an interesting time working
as a secretary for AM Heath. I was paid ten shillings extra for reading a
manuscript in an evening, making a synopsis and saying whether I thought it
could go to one of the Elect Readers. All good practice! London
Later, when my son, aged two, was asleep (not often!) I wrote stories for the BBC Morning Story and was very excited when I got my first cheque – for £15! This encouraged me to send the children's story off to The Bodley Head – who liked the writing but not the story and asked me to write another. I did, and my first book was published and illustrated by Victor Ambrus. Margaret Clarke was a lovely editor of several more of my books. I also wrote for Gollancz and went to an amazing party stuffed with famous authors and presided over by Livia Gollancz, daughter of the founder of the company, Victor Gollancz.
Moving and having my daughter held things up a bit but somehow between school runs and part-time jobs I squeezed out more books, for Macmillan, Longmans, Pearsons, ending up with five books published by Andersen Press, with another lovely editor, Audrey Adams – now, sadly, dead before her time. By then I'd divorced, remarried, moved, acquired three step-children – and always a dog! I've had agents, the best being Laura Cecil, charming and clever.
I guess it was easier to get published in the past, and I have to admit I've found it hard lately. I have an Andersen book House of Spies on Kindle but all the others are sadly out of print except for two reading books which I wrote for Macmillan, selling the rights outright. I gather Clarence the Crocodile is still in schools after nearly forty years!
Highlights: talking to children in many schools in the
and abroad and having good reviews, especially one in the Independent not so
long ago, and also in the TLS. I've also enjoyed making new friends by
teaching creative writing – two of my pupils are now published authors. I've
been on long-lists for awards and came second in a Kelpie competition which led
to my story being broadcast. And it's good to find one of my latest
books published in UK ,
even if the jacket illustration looked like a mango swamp. Quite a few of my
books have also been published in Thailand , Holland etc. One was sold
to the States, but then the publisher went out of business! Germany
Recently, I decided to try self-publishing – hard work but fun – and I'm visiting schools and giving talks about my historical novel The Cuckoo's Daughter , which is also on Amazon. I've just finished a ghost story which is doing the rounds – so fingers crossed!