What was your favourite childhood book and why?
The (original) alphabet book Ant and Bee by Angela Banner which I learnt off by heart when I was four and vividly remember reciting to my father as he lay tinkering under a car. He was deeply unimpressed. Later, I loved Heinrich Hoffman's terrifying Struwwelpeter. I'm not entirely sure why people being burnt to death or having the 'great, long, red-legg'd scissor-man' cutting off their (suck-a) thumbs appealed to me…but I still have this book today. I also loved all sorts of books that it is now acceptable to sneer at – particularly those by Enid Blyton. The Island of Adventure was my all-time favourite. Everything I learned about pace as a writer comes from Blyton's storytelling. I also read comics and cornflake packets. Reading is reading.
Which of your own published books is your favourite and why?
I always think that question is like asking a mother which of her children she prefers because, of course, we love all our books/children equally. But perhaps 'like' is not the same thing as love so, if you force me…I'd choose Feather Boy and The Survival Game. Feather Boy, because it was made into a BAFTA award winning film (so I went on the red carpet) and also commissioned for a musical (so I got to work with legendary lyricist Don Black and composer Debbie Wiseman), and The Survival Game partly because I think it's my best piece of writing to date but mainly because it's about subjects (climate change and migration) which I think will be really urgent for young people.
Why do you choose to read?
I think of reading as a passport. It takes you places. Places you could go to, but maybe haven't yet – the Arctic, China, Slough. Or places you might like to go to but actually can't – the past, the future, fairyland, Hogwarts. But, most importantly, it takes you into the head and heart of someone who isn't you. Yes. Just imagine! Every non-book day you get up and get dressed and spend the rest of the day locked inside your own brain. But, with your reading passport, off you go! You don't even have to pack. And there you are, adventuring the world as someone else, thinking their thoughts, feeling their feelings, seeing what they see. Wow! What's not to like? Beam me up, Scotty.