When I was a little girl I dreamt of travelling to the wilds of Africa and becoming an animal doctor. I even started learning phrases in Swahili. Of course, at that stage I lived with my grandparents in a small seaside town, many miles from the wilds of anywhere – but that never stopped me from dreaming!

Grandma, Grandfather, and cousin Robert… the tiny chipmunk in the bottom corner is me.

My Granny Lillian who lived down the road was an avid reader and she had a great library of books crammed into her tiny house. There wasn’t much access to children’s books in those days, they were all handed down from Mum or Grandma and very precious indeed! So Granny read to me from her collection of Reader’s Digest – adventure stories, war stories, romantic stories, and stories about animal doctors in the wilds of Africa.

I became obsessed with the people and places that emerged from these mysterious dusty old books – daydreaming and making up my own little stories, and spending hours re-enacting them with my one-legged doll. It was always such a magical moment for me when Granny took one of her big old hard covers from the bookshelf, dusted it off, and turned to the first page.

Even after the passage of decades, I’ve never lost the excitement of opening the pages of a newly acquired book. And if I’d known back then that it was even possible for an ordinary person to become a writer of stories, I’d never have bothered doing anything else!