About

Photo by Rowan Coleman

Photo by Rowan Coleman

I grew up in the western mountains of Maine, in a small town where the sulfur scent of the paper mill was called ‘the smell of money’. My house was just up the hill from the library, and I spent many hours walking up and down that hill, my nose in a book. I wanted to be a writer, and to have my book on the shelf of the Rumford Public Library.

I wrote my first novel at the age of 11. It was about a girl wizard and was more or less a genderflipped imitation of Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. I wrote it by hand in a spiral-bound notebook and included illustrations and maps.

I studied English Literature at Brown University in Rhode Island and Cambridge University in the UK, and then did an M.Phil. degree by research on fairies in Victorian and Edwardian children’s literature. As this had very few practical applications, I became a secondary school English teacher. It was about at this point that I realised that if I wanted to become a novelist, I should probably start writing novels.

At first, I failed. In my previous life I had always been pretty good at what I tried to do, so it was difficult when my novels kept getting rejected. I didn’t know then what I know now: that writing is a process of getting a good idea and then failing to execute it. The wrong words always come before the right ones.

I’ve kept writing and kept writing and eventually I’ve found some of the right words. My novels have been translated into fifteen languages and sold nearly a million copies worldwide. My book DEAR THING was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. My latest novel, TOGETHER, will be published by Orion in July 2017.

Photo by Rowan Coleman

Photo by Rowan Coleman

I teach creative writing workshops—for The Guardian, Literature Wales, and Writers’ Workshop, among others—and run my own fiction consultancy and mentoring business, with many of my clients going on to publication. Despite not being able to draw, I’m also the official cartoonist for the Sherlock Holmes Journal.

I live in Berkshire with my husband, who likes guitars, my son, who likes Minecraft, and my dog, who likes chasing squirrels. And every year I bring a copy of my latest book to the Rumford Public Library, and they put it on the shelf.

I am very proud to be Patron of local literacy charity ABC to Read, who help children in Berkshire primary schools learn to read.
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