When I was 3 my parents bought a house on the outskirts of York and my dad’s parents bought a smallholding, which is a small farm, at the end of the lane and my other grandparents bought a bungalow round the corner. Soon, all my aunties and uncles and cousins were also living near us and, for a while, my entire extended family lived within half a mile of each other. We had the most amazing bonfire parties on the field at the back of my grandparents’ smallholding.
During the five years we lived there, both my grandfathers died. I remember them clearly. In the case of Granddad Hill, I drew on his death when I wrote the first chapter of Blaggers. Granny Hill shouted at him, `I wish you’d drop dead!’ And he did! Granny Hill was so distraught that she said, `I should be struck dumb for saying such a wicked thing.’ Several years later she had a stroke that robbed her of her speech. They always say you should be careful what you wish for!
Within a few years I was the Yorkshire U12 Breaststroke Champion and swimming completely took over my life. I trained three times a day in the pool as well as running, circuit training and weight training.
It paid off though because when I was 14 I was the English National Age Group Champion and when I was 16 I represented Great Britain in a junior international swimming match.
There was an innocence about village life in 1970s – local cricket matches, swimming in the beck, picking blackberries from the hedgerow and playing hide and seek in haylofts – and it was safe to walk the streets until all hours.
I’d got married straight after leaving college and when my first daughter was born I started writing children’s stories, thinking that was going to be my new career.
Wrong! It took me 23 years and more rejections than I can count before that happened.
I wondered why one of my teachers at school had thrown a book at me because my spelling was so bad!
I gave up teaching in 2000 and now split my time between writing and visiting schools. I live in east London with my husband.