I have had thirteen books published. Three of them are magic fantasy novels: Barkbelly, Snowbone and Wild Magic. Famous Me is also a fantasy, but set in a modern school. Zac and the Zombeards is a modern horror story. Jack's Diamond is a magical collection of short stories. Where Magic Hides is a another collection, with stories set in Wales. Jaco the Leek (now out of print) was an illustrated book for younger readers. Breathe and By Lantern Light are picture books for young children. Dream Adventures is my non-fiction book about adventurers.
My first published book was called Primary Playground Games. It was a manual for teachers. I was asked to write it because I was a real expert on the subject: I had spent ten years doing games workshops in schools around the UK.
My latest book is a best seller online! It's called Motorcycle Confidence For Women, and it's exactly what it sounds like - a book that helps women find their confidence when they start learning how to ride a motorbike. I started riding after the pandemic and have done 40,000 miles since then. I love it!
Have you ever heard the saying 'write what you know' ? It's a piece of advice that is always given to budding authors. Basically it means that it will be easier for you to write about something you are familiar with, because you already know how it works. If you love horse riding, for example, writing about tack and technique would be simple. You would be able to describe how it feels when there's a horse thundering beneath you, or how it feels to be thrown from the saddle. But for me, it would be guess work, and I would have to research even simple things, like what the bits of a saddle are called. And even if I managed to write it, a horse rider probably wouldn't find it very convincing.
Anyway, I am telling you all this because this is how I started writing Barkbelly - with the playground chapters! I didn't begin at the beginning, with the parrot and the flying ship. I started with what eventually became Chapter 13, though it was much longer then! I didn't want to stop myself or think too much. I simply wanted to get into the process of writing. So I pictured the playground in my head - like seeing it on a movie screen - and I wrote about what I could see. I described the playground in great detail. I explained the games the girls were playing. I wrote endless pages about conkers! All these things were cut later, because they were slowing down the story. But it didn't matter. That piece of advice - write what you know - had really worked for me. I had written thousands of words without even trying. It had been fun! It was so easy for me to picture the scene, because I knew exactly how playgrounds work. I knew how dangerous the game of Bulldog is... I had visited schools where children had broken bones because of it - usually because someone had knocked them down. So it was easy - and thrilling- for me to imagine what would happen if a boy made of solid wood was playing the most dangerous playground game of all...
By the way - you can still find Primary Playground Games for sale on Amazon from time to time, but it's very expensive. The last time I looked, there was just one copy for sale - and it was £400!!
You will also find one of my short stories in this book > Wow! 366
Writers were challenged to write a story in just 366 words. You'll find loads of famous authors here: Jeremy Strong, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Roald Dahl, Terry Jones, Charlie Higson...
Have a look in your school library - you might find a copy. It was a very successful book and I spot copies in schools all the time.