When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?At some point during school, I knew I wanted to be published, but I didn't immediately think of this as a job or career. I can't explain why that was. At university I got some bits published in newspapers and magazines, and I knew I wanted to do this much, much more, but I still didn't think of it as a career, though I did consider being a journalist. (Which sounds the same but isn't.) In my final year at uni, I decided, grandly, "I want to be A Novelist". (I wrote a letter to my parents saying this, and my father kept the letter!) I started trying straightaway, and 21 years later I succeeded...
As a kid, did you have a teacher or aunt or someone like that who continues to inspire you today?
No. No one ever, ever suggested that I become a writer. The people who inspire me now are the friends I've made as a writer, the readers who say nice things, and my husband who continues to allow me to earn a pathetic income doing what I want to do. When I was failing the get a novel published for so long, my mother-in-law was hugely supportive and used to get terribly annoyed on my behalf every time I failed again. She was dying in hospital when the news started to come through that my first novel might be published. I think she understood and knew before she died, and my first novel, Mondays are Red is dedicated to her. I wish she were here now to see what happened next.
Which novel or author has influenced you the most?
Reading Skellig by David Almoond is what made me decide to write for teenagers. I've never looked back. And now I know him!
What's your favourite kind of weather?
Warm (but not too hot) and breezy, with me sitting in the shade of a huge tree.
What thing would you use to describe yourself and why?
I think I'm quite like a cat. I can be aloof; I'm independent; you don't know what I'm thinking; some people are frightened of me but others like me (I hope).
Can you sing?Not well. A lot of people think that from my descriptions of Jess's feelings while she sings, I must be a singer. No. I used to sing in choirs, reasonably well, and was also in madrigal groups, which requires a fair amount of skill, but I was never good enough to be a soloist, and never confident enough. I never wanted to, either. And now my voice has gone - I'm pretty rubbish now!
What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?I have strong tastes in foods, so I love anchovies, strong stinky cheese, pickles, olives, and Brussels sprouts. Probably the oddest thing (to you) is that during the winter, when Brussels sprouts are in season, if my husband is away (because he hates them) I will have as my evening meal a plate of sprouts, doused with a little lemon juice, butter and black pepper, and then sprinkled with cheese!
If you could bring one character to life from one of your books, who would it be?
Jack, in Wasted. I'd tell him that he's a wonderful guy but that he mustn't think so much. I'd tell him he had nothing to feel guilty about. I'd tell him just to live his live.
If you joined the circus, what act would you perform?
Something on horseback. Except that I don't like animals in the circus. So, maybe fire-eating. Or juggling. Except that I can't juggle. Mind you, I can't fire-eat either.
Do you collect anything?
Shoes! And boots.
Did any of your characters give you a lot of trouble? i.e. did they just refuse to do what you wanted them to?The bad girls, the Kelly Gang, were difficult at first because I couldn't get what they looked like in my mind. In the end, I had to resort to looking at pictures on the internet, after googling the phrase "bad girls". I found some that looked just as I wanted, and then I was fine. But otherwise, no, my characters ALWAYS do what I tell them!
What is immediately to your right hand side at the moment?The computer mouse and a cup of coffee. As always.
Catdownunder, who is actually a cat, wants to ask some questions of Spike, the cat in Wasted. So, Spike will answer.
How do you feel about being such an important part of Wasted?Can't you hear me purring?
Was it a comfortable experience fitting in to a book?It was my idea to be in the book, because I am brave and inquisitive, but I found it strangely disconcerting how much I cared about Jess. I worried for her a lot, even though I kept telling myself she wasn't real. I admire the human for making it feel so real. [Spike, you are lovely. Have a sardine - NM.]
Did you have problems getting that human to understand you as a cat?The human is incredibly clever [thanks again, Spike] and really understood my feelings very well. I think she has known cats herself and she tuned in remarkably well, disconcertingly so, in fact. I tried to hide my feelings from her most of the time but it was impossible, so I decided just to relax and go with the flow.
Do you think it is difficult for humans to portray animals in books in this way?It is very annoying when humans make them wear clothes or speak in human language and so often we are portrayed as having human characteristics because humans are so narrow-minded and think the universe revolves around them. So, I think this human did a wonderful job [oh, Spike... NM] in not falling into that trap. I'd actually be quite happy to live with her. [Spike, that's a lovely idea but I'm terribly sorry: I currently have a ... ahem ... *whispers* ...dog with me, so I'm not sure you'd be happy.]
Spike turned away at this point and began washing himself, so we cut the interview short.
Thanks everyone for your questions. If you have any more, just add them here and I'll answer them another day.
WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY? Nowhere - I've finished! In real life I'm going to Dunbar this evening, to talk to a group of teenage readers about Deathwatch. I may also find a way to talk about Wasted...
Everyone, this has been such fun. We've come to the end of the main blog marathon, but, as I said the other day, I'll still blog here, just not every day. In fact, very soon I'm going to talk about something that a lot of people have been wrong about when they've talked about Wasted...
Come back every now and then for news and competitions. And when you read Wasted and have anything to ask or say, just say it! Add your reviews to the link on the reviews page above, and/or to Amazon.
Be bold in your lives. Don't be afraid of failure - next step: success. Good luck and take care but not too much care. Life is for living and it's yours to live.