What made you want to be an author?
I’ve always enjoyed writing stories, but it wasn’t until I read Harry Potter that I knew I wanted to be an author.
I was one of those kids who just didn’t like reading. There were some books I liked, like The Hobbit and anything by Roald Dahl, but I would much rather run home and play on my PlayStation than dive into a book.
Once, when I had to give a presentation on a book at primary school, I tried to wing it completely and do the whole thing based on the blurb on the back cover. Needless to say it didn’t go very well.
Books just seemed so boring. They took too much time to get into. Then Harry Potter came along, and it changed everything. I devoured the first, second and third books in quick succession. It wasn’t just enjoyable reading them – it was thrilling.
I grew up with Harry and will always remember the painstaking wait for the postman to come to the door with the newest book, and the sheer joy at diving in and losing myself in the story for the rest of the day.
Reading those stories made me realise just how wonderful books could be. That’s why I wanted to be a writer – to try and give people the feeling that I had all those years ago, when I suddenly thought… wow.
Where do you get your ideas?
Stories can come from everywhere… go for a walk, read a book, watch some TV, play a game, and if you’re watching carefully and listening out, an idea might strike. It could be a word, or an object, or a thought. It might not make sense on its own, but once it’s in your notebook, it can bump into other fragments and spark a story. I keep a notebook with me wherever I go, and if I forget it, I’ve got the notes app on my phone. It’s really important to have something on you though, because ideas are like quicksilver: they slip and slide through your fingers, and if you’re not careful, you’ll forget them.
What’s your favourite book?
That’s a good question! I think I’ll have to say the first Harry Potter book, just because that’s the one that got me reading. If it wasn’t for that, I’d never have moved on to other books. A close second would be The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. It’s beautifully written and very atmospheric!
How long did it take to write Stonebird?
The first draft didn’t take very long at all. In fact, I probably wrote it in about three months. Because so much of it is based on real life, it kind of wrote itself. It took maybe six months after that to edit it, going back through to make it as good as I could, and bringing out all the story elements to their full potential. So around a year, all in all, from first word to last.
Why write about dementia in a children’s book?
Dementia is a very real, devastating issue that more and more people are having to deal with. Over 850,000 people suffer from it in the UK alone, and it results in 60,000 deaths per year. These are slow, haunting deaths, as the person you love is taken from you memory by memory. And it’s not just the sufferer who gets affected by it. It devastates families too; parents and children of all ages. I don’t feel that it’s discussed enough, and my hope is that Stonebird raises awareness about it and helps people come to terms with and deal with it.
How did you get into American football?
It’s a funny old sport to get into, but there really is nothing else like it.
I first discovered how fun it could be by playing Madden when I was 16. Then I saw the NFL on TV, and discovered that there was a local amateur team in Cambridge, and suddenly things started to snowball.
When I watched it, I realised there was a sort of graceful beauty about the game: watching passes soar and players duck and dodge was as exciting as the crunching tackles. I realised that it’s a game of teamwork, but also a game where individual athletes shine with spectacular highlight moves.
I was already in love when I went along to my first training session, and once I started playing, I never looked back. Since those blissful days, no other sport has compared!