About Penny

Q When did you decide to be a writer?

I loved books as a child and I made up my own stories all the time so it’s not really a surprise to anyone that I am a writer now. I kept a diary from a very early age and wrote poetry and plays when I was at primary school. My friend Jane was a brilliant artist and we wrote books together – I did the words and she did the pictures. Later on I found myself wanting to write more and more and I have drawers and cupboards full or stories and notes and ideas all over the house. There wasn’t a particular occasion or moment in my life when I decided to be a writer, I just think that writers write and you can’t help it!

Q When did you start to write books?

I had my first idea for a picture book in 2002 when my daughter was little.  She wanted to be a tiger so I wrote a story for her and made her some tiger ears and a tail out of fake tiger fur to go with it which she wore all the time. Then I decided to make up stories for some other animals with tails and ears to go with them, and in the end I had 8 books; a tiger, monkey, mouse, pig, panda, bunny, pony and a hare with long floppy ears.

Q Where do you get your ideas?

Most of my ideas come from things people say, or things I see, that remind me about something in my childhood or my children’s childhoods …

Q How long does it take to write a book?

It all depends on the idea which can take quite a long time to take shape in my head.  Actual writing doesn’t usually take that long once the story is planned out, maybe a couple of weeks, but that’s whilst I am doing other things as well of course. But writing isn’t a quick thing; when I’ve got the basic story down I need to go away and think and then come back lots of times to change it and then it starts to get better and better until it’s finished.

Q Do you use a computer or write by hand?

I write my stories on the computer because I like the way I can change things easily and see how it’s taking shape.  I make up real little books with the right number of pages for a picture book as I go along and then I add my words and imagine what the pictures might be to make it a balanced story, even though I’m not doing the pictures myself.

Q Where do you write?

I write on a small desk in my study but I sometimes write in cafés if I feel like a change of scene, and when I'm out and about I always carry a little notebook with me so I can write down ideas I might have to ensure I don't forget them later.

Q How do you find an illustrator?

It’s up to the publisher to find the right illustrator for the story and it’s especially nice if we do more than one book together with the same characters. It’s important to trust the illustrator to interpret the story and characters themselves and one of the most exciting bits of the process for me is when I see my little characters illustrated for the first time.

Q Do you like being an author?

Yes I love it!  I love the moment when I know I have the story right in my head and I’m ready to write it. I don’t usually get stuck when I’m writing, but I can get stuck in the thinking and planning beforehand and wondering whether it will work. The hardest bit is editing, knowing that perhaps a character or an idea doesn’t quite fit and has to go, but I keep everything I write because you never know when you might get a chance to add it to a new different story in the future.

Q Which one of your books is your favourite?

That’s a hard question because I love them all!  Probably my favourite is my most recent book, Brave Little Owl, and that’s partly because the illustrator Sean has drawn her with stripey tights on.  She reminds me of my daughter as a little girl.

Q What books did you like in your childhood?

I loved Enid Blyton’s books especially the ones about boarding school.  The classics such as A Little Princess and The Secret Garden were also my favourites.  I write lots of books about animals but I loved books about children when I was little.

Q What else do you like to do?

I really like cooking and baking cakes. I love living near to the sea.  I love trees and hillsides, snow and singing and I really like meeting my friends for a cup of tea.

Q Do you have a favourite pet?

I was given a spaniel when I was six and we called her Mandy.  We grew up together and she was very soppy and patient - she was very lazy too so I put her in my toy pram and wheeled her everywhere!