This is Willow, my dog. When she arrived as a puppy she totally messed up my life… in a good way.
Lots of my author friends have dogs or cats or other pets and we often put our favourites into a story. I think animals inject a magical energy into our writing. My Shapeshifter series features a boy who turns into a fox. My SWITCH series, for younger readers, is about twin brothers who keep getting switched into spiders and insects and then, later, amphibians and reptiles.
I’m fascinated by the way other creatures see the world we all share. I would love to understand their language. This is one of the reasons I wrote The Night Speakers series, where my main characters get to speak fluent animal.
Animal stories are always popular. I think it’s because nearly all of us have - or have had - an animal in our lives who has brought something emotional out of us.
The first pet I ever had, all to myself, was Dotty, the rat. Now don’t go‘EURGH’!Pet rats are brilliant and Dotty was like a little dog - always ready to play.
She’d sit on my shoulder and snuggle into my hair and make little chattering noises into my ear. I still miss her. She inspired my rat characters, Scratch and Sniff, in the SWITCH series.
Willow is now the four-footed love of my life. Love hurts. She has accidentally injured my fingers and my back and also left me with concussion when she and her pal Barnaby (another big labradoodle) knocked me off my feet.
But she is totally worth it. She’s going to star in a book out in 2022.
If you’re a writer, try a bit of animal magic and see where it takes you…
Favourite childhood book?
So very many of them! I will choose one today... another day it could be entirely different. Today it's... My Side Of The Mountain by Jean Craighead George. All about Sam Gribley who runs away to live on his wits in the mountains, with just a book on survival for company. It's got lots of brilliant info and little sketches and it's absolutely gripping. He builds a den in a hollow tree and captures a peregrine falcon chick and rears it, teaching it to hunt for him. My Shapeshifter series was really influenced by this story which was a class reader when I was about eight or nine.
Favourite book right now?
Trash by Andy Mulligan. It follows the life and death adventures of kids who work the rubbish tips in Brazil. They find a wallet - and in the wallet is something the authorities want to get back - at any cost. Brilliant, brilliant book!
Favourite lesson at school?
Art. I had a great Art teacher called Harry Tucker, who I used to talk to, while I painted or drew, about life, the universe and everything. He's written into my Shapeshifter series.
My labradoodle, Willow, of course. But in the wild, a fox. No question.
Wildlife presenter, author, photographer and film-maker Chris Packham. We went to the same school (although I'm quite a few years younger so not at the same time) and know each other from when we both worked in regional BBC broadcasting. Chris campaigns tirelessly for wildlife and the planet and he's also a really genuine, funny, decent bloke. And even though he's massively in demand these days, he still returns my occasional emails. He's written a foreword for one of my books and advised me on the life of foxes for my first series.