Month: May 2016

We’re all equal. Really?

Yesterday I went to the House of Lords. Very swanky.


I was there to lobby MPs on behalf of other authors about rubbish contracts, meagre advances, closing libraries etc etc. The stuff that gets all of us writers ticking like clocks.

Because it was a lovely day, I decided to walk there from Marylebone Station and my route took me through Green Park and past Buckingham Palace. A garden party was about to take place and the Mall, Birdcage Walk – everywhere – was stiff with ladies in dresses, jackets and hats and men in suits, uniforms or some other form of best-bib-and-tucker. It was all very impressive. Then I walked past Horse Guards where there was a rehearsal going on for the Queen’s Birthday Parade. Even more impressive and I’ll be the first to admit that I do like a bit of pomp and circumstance. Finally I crossed Parliament Square and into the Lords to do my bit for my fellow authors. If you’re looking for pomp and circumstance, the Houses of Parliament is probably a go-to destination.

This was an official reception so there were speeches, lots of speeches, but one was particularly memorable. It was given by Floella Benjamin and she addressed the issue of diversity – or lack of it – in this world: a world where kids books are so often peopled by white kids and not black, Asian or Chinese; where it comes as a surprise to people that women can be airline pilots or brain surgeons;  where books written by black authors are in the ‘black and ethnic minority’ section of the book shop and not there on the same shelves as other novels; where men are supposed to go out to work and women look after the kids. Why is this?  Is it because the rest of us don’t stop and think that we are all basically the same – we’re all just human.

It is getting better, she told us. Hugely better. When she started on Playschool none of the stories were illustrated with anything  other than pictures of white kids… till she pointed it out. No one had noticed except her. Why? Because everyone else who worked on the programme was white.

There is still a long way to go – especially when I thought about the scenes I had witness on my way to the reception. How many of those attending the garden party had been white? Thinking back I don’t recall seeing anyone of colour in a posh get-up. And the soldiers on parade on Horse Guards? The same. Equality and diversity still have a long way to go in every field. This is supposed to be a multi-cultural country but Floella Benjamin’s thought provoking speech made me think that maybe it’s less multi-cultural if you’re on the other side of the fence looking in.


So – did you always aspire to be a writer…?



In order to promote my new book Civvy Street, I was asked to write a piece for We Heart Writing on this very subject, so here is a taster of my words of wisdom. If you’d like to read the full article the link is at the bottom

I never intended to be a writer, I went to the sort of school (all girls) where we wrote essays on meaty subjects and any creativity was discouraged. We were to a kid, swots; it was that sort of school. When I left school I was completely unprepared for survival in the wild – Latin, history, English, chemistry etc really don’t prepare you for looking after yourself. For some reason I really didn’t want to go to university, so I knew I needed a job that would feed, house, clothe as well as pay me and the army ticked all the boxes. When I discovered the ratio of men to women was 500:1, bearing in mind I’d been to an all-girls school, it was a no brainer.

Read more at:


Hedgehog Shenanigans


‘Come on, missus, you know you want to.’



‘Erm, no I don’t. And get your filthy paws off me.’




‘Would a slap on the arse make you feel differently… thought not. Worth a try though.’


‘There’s only so much rejection a bloke can take – I’m off.’



‘He’s gone? Oh… I didn’t mean it, honest. Wait for me.’



Publication Day



Today – 5th May 2016 – is the day my nineteenth book is published. Nineteen? How did I get to that number? Surely I can’t be old enough to have written so many because it seems an awfully large number. However, I am thrilled, as I always am, to welcome another creation into the world.

Before I wrote books I had kids. I had three in fact. I don’t know why I say ‘had’ because I still have them although they’re all out in the world, doing their thing, and not really bothering me very much. (This picture is 26 years old!)



But producing books or children have a remarkable number of similarities. For a start, from flash to bang (or in this case should it be bang to flash?) the process takes about nine months. At times it can be wearing, painful, your emotions are all over the place, your partner doesn’t have a clue what you’re experiencing and, although you know loads of other people have done it before you, it is very, very scary. As another author pointed out to me, with a book, the sleepless nights come before the birth, not after, but other than that, it’s all intrinsically the same.

Anyway, happy birthday Civvy Street.