Geraldine McCaughrean

When the bells went down in the fire station next door, all the firemen slid down poles, leapt aboard their engines and roared away.  My Dad was one of them.  I watched them do target practice with hoses, then latch ladders to a high tower and climb up to ‘rescue’ dummies, practising to be heroes.  Mum taught at the school on the other side of the road – arts and crafts – and played jazz on the piano at home. Once a week she and I walked down to the town library – a dark, forbidding building with no toilets – and came home with armfuls of books (and sticky buns). I chose any book with horses on the cover.  The garden wall was my horse.  After school I changed into my fringed tunic and turned Apache till teatime.

Every summer holiday, Averil, Neil and I formed a club (of three). After the Writing Club, I discovered the joys of writing my own stories.  Neil got a book published when he was 14, but I did not have Neil’s talent and I never believed it would happen to me.

I became a secretary in TV (so many famous faces in the lift!) and went on writing for fun as I travelled to and from work. That’s how all my early books were written. Later, I trained to be a teacher, but I was just too shy.  (Lots of writers are, you know). Finally I got lucky – that’s all it ever is – and got published.  But I wouldn’t have stopped writing, anyway.  It’s my chance to climb inside a different world and be brave, chatty, resourceful, clever – whatever I choose.

As a girl I liked reading Greek myths and historical adventures.  Now I find myself writing them. Some books turn out to be for adults, most for children.  While my girl was young, I wrote for her, of course, and she is still the first to read a new manuscript.

She’s an actress now. So when I’m grown up, like her, I want to be a playwright.  We both like theatre better than anything; I have written a bit for stage and radio, but I want to learn the secret magic of it.

I have written 150 books now and yet sometimes I still forget how – usually in the middle of a novel.  Then I panic and think I must have stopped being a writer.  So I tuck myself up inside my head, where I have a whole imaginary world I never write about, like a secret garden all my own. After a while, the book either dies or gets better, and I can carry on with the adventure.

If I was a book, I suppose I would be a horse story – like The Silver Brumby  (my favourite when I was a child).  My front cover would be scarlet (lovely word) with a rearing horse throwing out its hooves, daring the reader to come any closer.


Geraldine McCaughrean's previous best-selling titles include Peter Pan in Scarlet, the only official sequel to Peter Pan, published in 2006; The Death Defying Pepper Roux (2009); and White Darkness (2008). She has won every major children's book prize: the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1989 for A Pack of Lies, and she is the only author to have won the Whitbread Award three times (1987 for A Little Lower than the Angels, 1994 for Gold Dust and 2004 for Not the End of the World).  

For Phoenix Yard Books she is writing the Monacello: The Little Monk series. The first, Monacello: The Little Monk, is available now and the second, The Wish-Bringer is out in September 2012.

My website is: