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1) As a child in the 60s, people called me a tomboy, because I preferred reading “boys’ books”, and I loved climbing trees. I’m sixty-one now, but I still like climbing trees. There’s a huge beech tree near where I live on Wimbledon Common, and I used to think it was unclimbable, but last summer I found a way up. I’ve climbed it many times since, and once I startled a fox that was trotting by underneath. I could see it thinking, What the hell is she doing up there?
2) I eat healthily, except when I don’t. About twice a year, I’ll buy a packet of Rich Tea biscuits and eat the lot in a single day. As my Belgian grandfather used to say, “Everything in moderation – including moderation”. That works for me.
3) Instead of a garden, I have a passageway beside my house. For years it only contained a few pots, but during lockdown I made a pond. It’s just a fibreglass container which I filled with rainwater and a few water plants from a specialist nursery, and I never expected much to happen, so I was astonished when a couple of months later, a pair of newts moved in. Since then I’ve watched them lay their eggs in the folded leaves of my water forget-me-nots. Their young are in there now, along with water snails and a toad. That pond has helped keep me sane during the pandemic.
4) I write my novels on a 23-year-old computer which has never even heard of the internet. I do have access to the internet, but via a separate computer in my spare room. The internet has its uses, but it’s the enemy of concentration, and when I’m writing I have a zero interruptions policy. Even my very “un-smart” little Nokia mobile phone is face-down and on silent.
5) I’ve never owned a car and I walk everywhere. Walking helps me stay fit, and gives me a fighting chance of keeping up with the youngsters on research trips, if it comes to strenuous stuff like hiking up glaciers. I also try to limit my carbon footprint. I’d give up short-haul flights, and for my last three books (which continued the WOLF BROTHER series), I made only two research trips. I know it’s a drop in the ocean, but if we all cut back a bit, it would make a difference.
6) I vastly prefer travelling alone, and I’ve done my research trips solo all over the Arctic. The exception is when I want to do something that really does need a guide: like finding my way into an ice cave, or tracking grizzly bears in Alaska. One of the best times was when I went snorkelling with wild killer whales in a fjord in Arctic Norway. Only the guide and I were in the water, and the current swiftly separated us, so I found myself alone. I was surrounded by whistling, echolocating killer whales, and I saw one swim directly beneath me. It was magical, and I drew on that memory when I came to write WOLFBANE.
7) I don’t believe in ghosts, but I don’t know for sure that they don’t exist, so I keep an open mind. And I do love a good ghost story. That’s why I’ve written three myself: DARK MATTER, THIN AIR and WAKENHYRST. Sadly, the only supernatural experience I’ve had was when I was a toddler, and I wasn’t even awake. My family were guests in an old house in South Africa, and my mother had put me to bed and gone downstairs when she heard heavy adult footsteps overhead, in the room where she’d left me. On going upstairs again, she found me fast asleep. It was only then that her host told her the house was haunted. The ghost was a woman who’d loved children, and often came to check on them.