A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Who is my favourite childhood character? I didn’t have to think about this long. As soon as I asked myself the question, the answer popped straight into my head. Georgina, aka George, in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. I devoured every single one of those books. I would save up my pocket money and get the next in the series from the local bookshop, then wall myself up in my bedroom and read it in one sitting. I loved every word, and I especially loved George.
It’s only looking back now, decades later, that I can see what an influence George has had on my life and my psyche. I admired everything about her – her short cropped hair, the way she refused to act like a nice little girl, her spunk (you could use that word back then without flinching) and her intelligence. Growing up in the 1970s, there were still very traditional ideas about what girls could and couldn’t do. At school, we had to put up with needlework and ‘home economics’ – ie. cookery – while the boys got to do interesting stuff like woodwork and metalwork. I had to fight to study electronics. I was almost the only girl in our O-level physics class.
My home life wasn’t much different. The women in our family did the cooking and cleaning, though they also held down jobs. The men got to put their feet up, watch football or go fishing. If they picked up a tea towel and helped with the drying up, you could consider yourself lucky. George made me see very clearly that the way girls were treated just wasn’t fair, and there was no good reason for it. George made me rebellious, and George made me not care very much about what other people thought about that. I have a lot to thank her for.
So I think George had a large part to play in my proto-feminism. Certainly she turned me into a tomboy. Me and my best friend and next-door neighbour Joanna (aka Jo) used to roam around the local park and woods in anoraks and jeans, building camp fires and climbing trees and getting up to all sorts of things I’d probably better not mention here. It wasn’t that we wanted to be boys, per se, but we very much wanted the same freedoms and options as the boys around us, and like George, we weren’t going to let anyone tell us otherwise.
Jo in the funky trousers, me in the blue
Looking back, I now see I also inherited George’s love of dogs. I’ve had a series of my very own Timmy’s, and I wouldn’t be without them. And George is probably responsible for my as yet unfulfilled ambition to own an island. I’d love my very own Kirrin Island. I crave somewhere wild and uninhabited, hard to reach and entirely mine. I still dream of that island, though I accept it will almost certainly remain just a place in my head. Unless, of course, by some impossible fluke of good fortune, I end up selling as many books as Enid Blyton.
I grew up in West Sussex and after a stint au pairing in Paris and a half-hearted attempt to backpack across Europe, I did a degree in English and got a job as a journalist on a trade paper. Bored of writing about computers, I swapped to articles for national newspapers on everything from making compost to holidays in Sweden.
My first fiction was a picture book called Rainy Day. I also wrote books for schools about things like death, stress and drug abuse. Cheerful stuff! Now I write contemporary thrillers for YA readers – two coming out with Usborne in 2014. I love intriguing stories – whether in books, TV or the big screen – and that feeling of desperately needing to know what’s going on or what happens next.