How old were you when you first started writing?
6 or 7. I have an exercise book full of stories written when I was at primary school during the Second World War (which tells you that I am rather old).
You write in a wide variety of styles, including plays, novels and children books: do you have a favourite style to write in?
I like writing plays best, because you don’t have to have a narrator. All the characters speak for themselves, and the author can hide away and eat his chocolate.
What is the message of The Castle of Inside Out?
I don’t like it when stories deliver messages. I prefer it if readers simply enjoy the books and work out any lessons for themselves.
Out of every book for children you’ve ever written, which was your favourite and why?
Elephants Don’t Sit on Cars was the first book I wrote for children, and so it has a very special place for me. It took four years to find a publisher, and if it had never been published, I probably wouldn’t have written any more books for children.
Your two most well-known children’s series are Jeremy James and Superdog – did you have more fun writing one than the other, and if so, why?
The same really. It’s as much fun to think like a dog as it is to think like a little boy. One day I hope to think like a grown-up.
You have written many plays; have you ever starred in any of the performances of these?
I did a lot of acting when I was younger, and acted in many of my own short plays, especially when I ran a university theatre in Germany.
If you were to recommend one of your children’s books for a child to read, which would it be?
For younger children I’d recommend any of the Jeremy James books. For older children, The Castle of Inside Out. (Actually, I’d recommend ALL my books to EVERYBODY, because the more you buy, the more chocolate I can afford.)
What was your favourite book growing up as a child?
I used to love the Just William books by Richmal Crompton.
What is your favourite book now?
You can’t beat Shakespeare, and my favourite play is King Lear.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young writer, what would it be?
Write what you really enjoy writing about, and finish what you start. (That’s two pieces of advice for the price of one.)
Do you have a special place where you write?
My little study, which is right next to the kitchen, which contains the fridge, which contains… guess what.
The main character of The Castle of Inside Out is called Lorina: were you inspired by anyone in particular when creating her?
Lorina was the name of Alice Liddell’s older sister, and Alice Liddell was the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.