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).
My website is: http://www.geraldinemccaughrean.co.uk
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