I was born in Shillong, Assam, in 1937, and had a magical childhood. growing up in a thatched bungalow with wide verandas, and a view of the Himalayas in the far distance. My first school was Pinemount School in Shillong where apparently I told my teacher I was going to write books one day. All I can remember clearly of my early schooling were the hula monkeys whooping all day up in the trees surrounding the playground.
Then at aged nine, my family moved to Guernsey from India (my mother’s family are Channel Islanders). Immediately postwar, in the grip of the severe winter of 1947, the island was a cultural and physical shock. Scars of the German occupation were everywhere, rationing was still a part of life. After the freedom and colour of my childhood, Guernsey seemed at first a cheerless place, particularly as my parents returned to India for a final two years leaving me and my brother behind with an aunt.
I was educated at the Guernsey Ladies College and from there, with the secret aim of going on stage, went to St Anne's College, Oxford where I read English. Freedom at last! was my main feeling as I struggled alone by boat and train to Oxford for my first term. The Oxford theatre world was a heady place then: I worked with Dudley Moore, Ken Loach, Anthony Page, Don Taylor and many others later to become famous. But though I loved it all, I began to realize I wanted to write books, not act.
I spent a wonderful postgraduate year in Rome on an Italian Government Scholarship sponsored by the British Council, where I learned Italian and made life-long friends, as well as writing my first novel, Abraham's Legacy, which was published in 1963 after my return to London. I then worked as a script and research assistant for BBC TV, mainly with Paul Johnstone on Chronicle, before taking up a post as Senior Tutor at Padworth Sixth Form College, near Reading, where I taught English and made some more lifelong friends. My pupils encouraged me to write for teenagers; Please Don’t Go was the result, the first of many novels published by Bodley Head.
I gave up full time teaching when I married and had 3 lovely daughters, but I kept my writing going somehow (I remember correcting proofs standing up at a tall chest of drawers, to keep the pages away from clutching fingers). Nowadays I write full time, spending as many hours as I can at my computer. I gave up writing my books in longhand some years ago, but if I have something tricky or crucial to write, out comes my fountain pen.
On the Night
NON-FICTIONMozart, His Life and Times
Schubert, His Life and Times
Rise of the Raj, A History of the growth of Colonialism in British India, 1600-1859.
BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS
NovelsPlease Don't Go
See You Tomorrow
The Girl with a Voice
Love Me, Love Rome
Monster in our Midst
Out of the Sun
Blood and Mortar