Answers the questions...
When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?
When I was fourteen, I won a Christmas story competition in my local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News, and I had a lucky break. A local writer called Joyce Stranger noticed the story, and passed it on to her agent, who got in touch with me. So, thank you Joyce Stranger... I was writing stories before then, and I've always had my fantasy worlds: but I expect that was the turning point.
What is your favourite place in the world?
The Lake District. I love my sister's house there, in Kentmere, and there's another cottage where we go to stay, I won't say exactly where. I'm also very fond of a certain magical holly wood, somewhere in Sussex, but I'm not telling you where it is.
What inspires you?
I get a lot of inspiration from other books and stories, films and tv, and from science news: but often it's an incident in my real life that starts me off: a strange place or situation. In real life, no weird adventure follows, but I write the story of what might have happened, to somebody different-
What do you read for pleasure?
I like popular science books, and classics; biographies and history. Because I read a lot of new science fiction books for review I don't have the time to read much other fiction. When I do, I'm relaxing, and I like thrillers, mysteries, but I never try to work out what's going on.
Do you have any pets at home?
We have a Tonkinese cat called Ginger, (cross between Burmese and Siamese), who is a slacker-cat: she falls off things and into things all timeThe first cat I've ever known who has no dignity, she's a clown. And her son Frank, who is big as a wild cat and very elegant. And two fish, called Jools and Vincent, and some more fish in the pond.
What is your favourite book?
My favourite book of all time is Marcel Proust's Remembrance Of Things Past. It's a huge book that has so much to say about life, and other people, and how our minds work, and what it means to be human, that I think I'll never get tired of it. I'm on my fifth reading at the moment.
What do you do to relax?
I climb mountains, I travel. If I can't get to a big mountain, a walk in the country or by the sea will always calm me down.
What is your favourite food?
There are so many... Chips. Marmite toast. Parmesan cheese. Pasta. Tomatoes. Rocket. Broccoli. Artichoke hearts, olives, bread... Basically, I just like food, as long as it's fresh and tasty, nothing too processed or packaged. Except avocadoes, and cold meat, and fat.
What was your favourite subject at school?
I had two, Biology and Geography.
Do you like sport?
I'm not good at anything sporty, if that's what you mean. I like kicking a ball around, playing baseball, and I like swimming. Also I keep fit, because it makes all the difference when you're rough walking, if you have muscle tone. Otherwise, it's Final Fantasy for me.
What do your children think of your books?
When he was younger I used to tell Gabriel stories, mostly about a Pirate captain called Shere Khan. He loved those. He's read most of the Ann Halam books and given me valuable feedback, but he's getting older now. I never used to ask him did he like the books (what's he going to say? I feed him! I have the money!). I just timed him. If he slowed down, I'd ask him why. If he couldn't stop, and wanted the next chapter before I'd finished it, I knew I was doing all right.