Home – About Me
A Brief History
My parents were cruel: my father made me slide down mountains (even when I had mumps — photo); and my mother trapped me in a dungeon full of old books. No, not really. Mum worked in a small children’s library where I’d go after school, which inspired my love of books; and Dad was a mountaineer and gave me a love of the outdoors. Significant books were Horton Hatches the Egg; The Crab with the Golden Claws; and The Hobbit. As a teen I loved reading sci-fi, especially Ray Bradbury stories.
My first adult jobs included work at the Christchurch City Mission, gardener, insect research assistant (aka bug counter); later a primary school teacher for 15 years; and now a full time writer and editor. I’ve always got a buzz from writing — I thank my Year 4 teacher, Mr Stedman, who praised a quirky report I wrote. Science is cool: I studied it at university and have written many short science books for children.
My wife Penelope Todd is a fine novelist, bold publisher and excellent editor and we have 3 lovely grown up children.
What were you like at school? A bit shy, a bit worried, but I had a sense of humour that made it a bit of fun.
What was your favourite/most hated subject at school? I loved English but found PE painful (I was always cold).
What was your most embarrassing moment? When a teacher dragged me off stage in our high school talent show; she said I was ‘showing off’. (I thought that was the point.)
Which person from the past would you most like to meet? Myself as a schoolboy: I’d tell me not to worry so much.
Who inspired you when you were little? Yes, he did: Doctor Who, that is. Black and white TV was wonderfully creepy.
What was the book you most loved as a child? Calico the Wonder Horse (The Saga of Stewy Stinker) by Virginia Lee Burton.
Who is your favourite children’s author now? Tove Jansson (Moomin books).
What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer? Worst is not enough time; best is when I first see a copy of my book arriving in the letterbox.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be? A film-maker. Favourite movie at the moment, Of Gods and Men (2010).
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Read great books. Write down your dreams (both sorts). Be very persistent; one day you will be published.
What is your favourite food? Honey from my bees, blackcurrants from my garden.
Do you have a nickname ? No, but I’ve been likened to comics characters: Tintin (it’s the hair) and Calvin’s dad (the bike helmet and glasses).
Here’s our scrappy dog: