Describe your new book.
Ever sensed that you have a special connection to animals? Maybe you should join Col and Connie as members of the Secret Society for the Protection of Mythical Creatures. You can read all about their adventures in the Society in my new series, The Companions Quartet. In the first book, Secret of the Sirens, you can find out how mythical creatures join forces with humans to save the world from both environmental destruction and the shape-shifter, Kullervo, who is bent on the extermination of humanity. Prepare to fly on dragons, meet the Storm Bird, and block your ears to the sirens' song!
What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
I would like to be friends with Lizzie Bennet from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a story written in the early nineteenth century, a time of muslin frocks and horse-drawn carriages, Napoleonic wars and mad kings. Lizzie has a wicked sense of humor and would never, ever be dull. I can imagine going to balls and parties with her and having a good gossip in the corner, laughing at the silly things people do. In my view, the best friend is always the one who makes you laugh.
If you could choose any story to live in, which story would it be? Why?
It would be amazing, but terrifying, to live in the world of The Lord of the Rings. What I love about Tolkien is the way he uses the best-loved features of the natural world and makes them magical: trees transform into Ents, mountains are full of giants and goblins, English villages become the Shire. I think I'd choose to live in Rivendell at a time of peace, as this home of Elves, as Frodo says, has a bit of everything, including poetry and music. LOTR is also a story I feel very close to, both because it is an old favorite and also because I live near where it was written (two or three streets away), and I draw a lot of inspiration from the fact that Oxford is a city of fantasy writers.
Describe your most memorable teacher.
This particular French teacher was an eccentric. He believed the best way to discipline a class was to keep you on edge by erratic behavior, on the grounds that if the teacher misbehaved, the children wouldn't. This translated to him, in our very first lesson at High School, running into the classroom in his habitual black cloak (think Snape in HP) and jumping on top of a filing cabinet. He crouched there like a bird of prey watching us all, before getting down to teach us some French.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not, I wanted to be an author, so for me getting books published now is a dream come true.
Why do you write books for kids?
I write because I want to tell stories. My first and most important audience is my family (I have three children and a very supportive husband). A new book is a big event in our house and bedtime stories for everyone (including husband) are me reading it chapter by chapter as I write it. This leads to interesting discussions when asked "What happens next?" because very often I really do not know!
Tell us about your pets.
We have two rabbits, Erin and Zoe, who spend their days digging holes in our lawn, as well as two goldfish. One of the fish has recently been re-named by the family "Goldamort" because he has grown so huge and looks a bit sinister. He spends all his time rooting through the gravel at the bottom of his tank, so we have decided he is looking for his lost horcrux which he knows he left there somewhere...
Who are your favorite characters in history?
My favorite heroes are two men who led the Abolition of the Slave Trade Movement in Great Britain 200 years ago: William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano. Wilberforce seems an all-around good guy, also worrying about the rights of the poor, factory workers and animals, to name but a few of the other causes with which he got involved. He had lots of pets who were allowed to wander around the house, and he gave himself unstintingly for what he believed in. Equiano was a former slave and great traveler whose life story really helped change people's minds about the trade in African slaves. He had to work hard and against the odds to get his freedom, and his dedication to then help others is inspiring.