I’m always stumped by this question! Although I read lots of fiction as a child, I never once came across a character like me – who shared the joys and the worries and the responsibilities of being part of a single parent family. The book I do remember loving (and still have) is a huge, green Mitchell Beazley Family Encyclopedia of Nature. I was in primary school when I began researching every homework task in-depth – it seemed such an easy way to make my writing more interesting and to get good marks, I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t doing it!
It’s a picture book called Moth: An Evolution Story. I studied evolution, ecology and animal behaviour at university, and I had always wanted to explain evolution in a way that children (and grown-ups) of any age can understand. I began with The Misadventures of Charles Darwin for KS2 and was over the moon when I got the go-ahead to write Moth to explain natural selection to even younger children. Natural selection is like the ABC of biology – an essential foundation for answering children’s brilliant questions about living things.
I’ve written hundreds of books and articles, but I always remind people that I didn’t know ANY of the things I’ve written about until I read about them! Reading gives me VIP access to the ideas, discoveries and adventures of hundreds of thousands of other people. It’s like having a huge team helping me out! I love reading fiction to relax, but I’m not very good at reading stories in little chunks. I have to save fiction until holidays, when I can gobble up whole book in one greedy gulp.