When did you start writing?
I wrote my first picture book for Orion called The Little Nut Tree in 1993. It had more pictures in it than words, but the word that really struck a chord was the one written on the contract, and it said “Author.” I have been really lucky to have in my publishing life an editor, Judith Elliott, who believed The Little Nut Tree was only the start. And I’m delighted to say she was right.
Who were your favorite authors as a child and who are your favorite authors now?
Charles Dickens, E. Nesbit, [Rachel Compton,] Jane Austen. The first book I ever read was Wuthering Heights. I only started to read when I was fourteen due to severe dyslexia, so a lot of childhood books I only enjoyed later. One of my most favorite author/illustrators now, and has been since my teens, is Edward Gorey. Everything by him is just a slice of heaven. Also in the best beloved section: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Alain-Fournier.
What is the one book that has influenced you most throughout your life?
Great Expectations. I simply love it; it has light and dark in spades and is full of wonderful characters and lots more besides. And every time I read it, it feels as if I’m reading it for the first time.
What would you like young readers to learn from I, Coriander?
Oh, I don’t know. That is very hard. I hope they find it a good read. If you enjoy something, you learn without noticing it. I would love to be the kindling that sparks a child’s interest in history. It is very important for all of us to know and learn about the past, for it holds a key to our future.
Which of Coriander’s characteristics would you most like to have and why?
Her determination not to be put down, and her bravery for carrying on and standing up for herself no matter what.
What was your favorite book growing up?
A book about a frog that helped make Father Christmas better after a wicked witch had put a spell on him. Haven’t a clue what it was called; I just loved the pictures and the story. Then there is The Wind in the Willows. It was read to me when small, which is a very happy memory. After being able to read, I simply loved books. In fact I couldn’t get enough of them.
What are you reading now?
I have just finished reading Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, which I hugely enjoyed, and I’m about to start The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
Have you started working on your next book?
Not in the sitting down and click-clacking on the laptop sort of way. But in walking the dog on Hampstead Heath and thinking about it, most definitely.