AS A CHILD I was born and grew up in Gravesend, Kent, where I spent a lot of time up trees with a skipping rope tied around my waist, longing to turn into a monkey. The rest of my time was spent waging war against the cruelties of nature: I rescued stranded worms, mended snails’ shells with sellotape, righted beetles, and buried the birds that the cat brought home. I was mistaken for a boy right up until about the age of fourteen (possible as a result of my cropped hair and constantly scabby knees). On one traumatic occasion I was taken to see Santa in his grotto and he asked me, ‘What do you want for Christmas, sonny?”
AS AN ADULT I studied English Literature at university, and then worked in a bookshop (running the children’s section – lovely!), an arts centre (putting up soggy posters in the rain) and a zoo (where I spent a lot of time dressed up in a bear suit as Kevin the Teddy). At the zoo I met the extraordinary Punch and Judy Professor Rod Burnett. Reader, I married him. In 1992 I became a writer, administrator and performer for Storybox Theatre – the touring theatre company he’d set up. I now live in North Devon with my family, a ferocious Siamese cat, and an eternally optimistic Labrador called Hobson. The latest addition to the household is Sally – Hobson’s niece. She is an escapologist.
AS A WRITER I had no ambition to write a book until Waking Merlin popped into my head a few years ago, but now I’m completely addicted to it. I can’t let a day go by without writing something, and my head is constantly churning with strands of plots and images of characters. I love the fact that I’m now allowed to daydream – I was always in trouble for it at school!
10 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT ME
1. I used to have a pet pig called Tilly.
2. I can make a horse’s lower lip go floppy.
3. I always wanted to be a natural blonde and once bleached my hair banana yellow by mistake.
4. Later on I dyed it bright pink.
5. In years and years of PE lessons I never, ever managed to hit the rounders ball.
6. Or the tennis ball.
7. I used to hide in the toilets at school discos. The best thing about getting older is not feeling compelled to dance in public.
8. I am terrified of heights.
9. I know how to milk a goat.
10. I can make a tapir faint.