I’m an author and humorist who writes books for children (and adults occasionally, if they’re well behaved). I love funny things and most of my books are a bit giggly, as you’ll find out if you read them. The questions and answers below will tell you a lot more about me.
- What kind of books do you write?
I write lots of different types of books, including these:
- Fun information books for children – these are full of facts, figures, lists and true stories.
- Books of things to do, again for kids – these include games, challenges, quizzes, ideas for things to try or make, plus fun things to read.
- Stories for children – I’ve written three novels for ages 7-12 including Prankenstein, my first fiction book.
- Poetry for children and adults – I like funny poems and wordplay best.
- Memoirs for adults – a memoir contains true stories from a writer’s life so it’s a bit like a biography but usually more entertaining. I’ve written a series of three of these about my days as a young teacher in the Yorkshire Dales.
- Non-fiction books for children – for example about The Winter Olympics, Animation and Track Cycling. These are aimed at schools.
- Jokes – I love writing jokes (although writing a good joke is one of the hardest things to do).
- What are your interests?
Right, OK, well I have lots of interests…
I like making things. At the moment I’m trying to build a summer house out of wood which sounds hard and is hard. It’s going slowwwwwly. Other things I have made include a robot arm, a working model of a sewage works (it’s a long story) and a giant sellotape dispenser.
I adore cheese. Cheese is one of the greatest things ever invented and I’d really love to write a book about it one day. One of my favourite cheeses is Roquefort, a French blue cheese made in caves from sheep’s milk. It’s stinky and strong and beyond delicious. My other main favourite cheese is mature farmhouse Cheddar – tangy, crunchy and divine…
Another interest is exploring wild and lovely places. I love the countryside and go for walks over hills and mountains as often as I can, even if I do sometimes end up in a gloopy bog or having to scramble up a steep rock face. My two favourite places in Britain are The Lake District and The Yorkshire Dales.
I am very keen on sport. I used to play football a lot and now play table tennis (which doesn’t involve so much running or getting kicked by a meathead centre back called Noz) and I sometimes play tennis. Andy Murray has never beaten me.
Other interests: I like gardening and reading. Gardening is good because you can grow things like yummy strawberries or comedy-shaped carrots, and reading is good because you can visit other worlds, enjoy amazing adventures and learn stuff which makes you clever (and have a laugh, of course).
- Where do you live?
Gloucestershire, England, in a village on the edge of the Forest of Dean (where scary wild boar roam).
- How long have you been a writer?
Since 2000 (AD, not BC).
- Where do you get your ideas from?
Ha, I knew you’d ask that question!
Ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. It’s actually quite hard to say sometimes (I mean, where do you get your ideas from?).
Occasionally an idea just pops into my head; from time to time I hear someone saying something interesting, maybe on the radio; and sometimes I see something which gives me an idea – I once saw a wasp grab a spider off its web and fly away with it, which gave me an idea for a short story.
But by far the best place to get ideas is by reading a lot. Reading (any kinds of books) will grow your imagination, help you to think and give you ideas for all sorts of things. That’s why every author reads a lot. Go on, try it.
- Can you tell me something interesting about yourself?
OK, here are some facts:
- I did lots of naughty pranks when I was young.
- I once genuinely slipped on a banana skin. I didn’t mean to – it was an accident (probably the funniest accident I’ve ever had).
- A long time ago I coached a boys’ football team which included three brothers who all became professional players.
- I have been on TV a few times including as a contestant on the legendary darts game show Bullseye.
- I have won over 100 caption competitions.
- What did you do before becoming a writer?
OK, well as a kid I used to spend a lot of time taking my toys apart and creating strange new inventions which usually made bad marks on the carpet or walls.
At school I was good at art and athletics but I did get told off a bit for being a scallywag. OK, a lot.
As a student at university I spent a lot of time getting up very late, playing five-a-side and laughing. I also read lots of books which made me cleverer.
After a few dodgy temporary jobs such as selling encyclopedias from door to door (really) and designing stickers saying ‘TOILET’ for Dan Air planes (really) I became a primary school teacher, which was excellent as I got to tell other people off for once.
- What is your favourite word?
Another good question. Like most authors I love words, and I have actually written a whole book all about them (The Silly Book of Weird and Wacky Words). Here are some of my tastiest words:
- strudel (although you have to say it in an Austrian accent to get the full benefit)
- Is it good being an author?
It’s the best job. And if you don’t believe me, here are the results of a survey carried out for the government in 2015. The question thousands of people were asked was, ‘What is your dream job?’
- Who inspired you?
Ah, well, now you’re talking!
I certainly didn’t dream of being a writer when I was younger. It was only when I started to read a lot that my writing improved and I realised that I was quite good at it.
The people who really inspired me the most are the authors I read first when I was a child and then those I read as an adult. There is almost nothing more inspiring than a good book. So, all of these people unknowingly helped me:
- Dr Seuss
- Clive King
- The writers of ‘Guinness World Records’
- The Beano cartoonists/writers
- John Steinbeck
- Harper Lee
- Roald Dahl
- Kate Atkinson
I think the author that inspired me the most when young lived around 3,000 years ago and is a very mysterious person. ‘Homer’ (no, not the D’oh one) wrote two of the greatest stories ever: The Iliad and The Odyssey – these two epic tales /Greek Myths are two of my favourite books ever.
Two authors I have met who have inspired me are the ace poet Wes Magee and the hilarious sports writer Harry Pearson.
- What do you get worked up about?
Ha, everyone gets worked up about something and I am no exception.
I care about lots of things but most of all I wish that the world was a fairer place – it seems to get more and more unequal each day.
Amazingly I actually think that books can make a difference to the world. A lot of problems that people face today stem from others not understanding them or not knowing about what life is like for others. It’s very hard to do this – to ‘step into other people’s shoes’ but I think it’s very important.
One of the best ways to understand people and know more about the world is by reading. Every book is different and every story or non-fiction book tells you something it’s helpful to know – books help you see things more deeply and become more aware of others (and other things such as animals or the environment).
Also when we read, our brains are exercised and our imaginations developed. Books make us clever! We become better at language (reading, writing and understanding) and we are able to express ourselves better (speaking and writing). It’s true!
So, one of the things that I care about more than anything else is getting people reading more, especially children. People who read for pleasure are usually smart people and caring and kind, I find.
The world would be a better place if more people read more books but unfortunately many people hardly ever read. More and more people stare at the TV, or mobile phones or iPads. The adverts shout at us, ‘Buy this and you will be happy!’
Staring at screens mostly does not make us clever or help us to understand other people and the world. The things in the adverts won’t make us happy either in my view.
It is easier to stare at a screen or play a video game than to get a book and find a quiet place and read but if you do, a whole amazing world will open up for you…
I have lots of ideas and successful ways for getting kids reading, so if you’re a teacher reading this – contact me and arrange a school visit so I can inspire your children to read for pleasure.