Please tell us a little about yourself:
I was brought up in the countryside in a rambling old house with a big garden. At the bottom of a spinney of lilacs there was an Anderson shelter, where people used to take cover from air-raids during the war. My brother and I made dangerous concoctions there at the weekends.
I lived a life of den-building: I built dens in the hedgerows; dens up the trees; dens in the haystacks in the surrounding fields (they were the best dens of all); and when it grew dark, dens inside the house. I was also an expert at building bonfires, though one day I managed to set light to the railway embankment at the bottom of the garden by mistake, and all the trains had to be stopped while the fire brigade put out the blaze. I loved reading too, especially Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl.
At my first school I had lots of freedom. It was in the middle of nowhere and we were always going for nature walks in the woods and tearing around in the field opposite, collecting conkers in the autumn and making daisy-chains in the summer. There was a little church at the bottom of the field – my model for the church and graveyard in The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43.
I had a pretty good time at secondary school, too. We had some real characters as teachers: my German teacher used to scream if we forgot to put capital letters at the start of our nouns; my music teacher was convinced that we all hummed different notes in her classes and my geography teacher aimed bits of chalk at students she didn’t like and once smashed a classroom window with a window-pole!
I had my moments of mischief at school. One day I locked my music teacher in the cupboard as a dare and I used to pretend I was dangerously ill in science by sticking the thermometer under a hot tap. One morning I even ran away from school because a complete dragon of a teacher told me off for something I hadn’t done.
When I was thirteen I wrote a book with a friend called The Bungle-Bashers. It was about weird and wonderful monsters. We spent hours illustrating it…a very bad idea, since I am a terrible artist, and my friend wasn’t a lot better. Of course the book was never published, but it gave me a taste of things to come.
After school I read English Literature at Oxford, where I had a wild and wonderful time meeting loads of fantastic people, rowing on the river as the sun was coming up, going to endless parties as it was going down…and reading a few books. I also discovered I had a singing voice – and after I left Oxford I trained as a professional singer.
I now live in the middle of nowhere again with my husband and four children – and still seem to spend a lot of time building dens in the garden. Some weekends I sing concerts in halls and cathedrals, and the rest of the time I write my books in a special den all of my own at the top of the garden.
Please tell us about The Hex Factor and your inspiration for the book
The Hex Factor was inspired by the moment Susan Boyle “got her own back” at the judges on The X Factor. I thought to myself, “What if the contestants could stare out those judges and reverse all their bad expectations?”…and of course Susan Boyle opened her mouth and did exactly that! Two weeks later I was standing in the bathroom under a light bulb, waiting for my bath to run (I have since been told that it was a true “light bulb moment”) when I realised I had both a concept and a title for my third book: it would be called The Hex Factor, and it would be about a girl called Xanthe Fox who discovers she has special powers: as a True Witch she is able to reverse the evil doings of Hexing Witches – and accept her thirteen-year-old self in the process.
There are some great characters in the book, including Xanthe’s friends Grace and Saul, her arch-enemy Kelly and her somewhat unusual great-grandmother. The story is fast-paced and full of surprises.
What are you working on now?
I am working on the sequel to The Hex Factor…and enjoying it immensely!
Where is your favourite place to write?
Probably my writing shed at the top of the garden. It is very bare up there: it’s really just a big wooden garden shed with a desk and chair and a few candles to make things interesting. I can look down over the garden towards our cottage…and plot away.
What do you like to do outside of writing?
I have four lively children, so weekends are spent as a family, often walking on the Long Mynd (Shropshire Hills). Because I am a singer as well as a writer, I sometimes have concerts at the weekends, too. My husband is also a musician and all
the children are learning instruments now, so the house is often a very noisy place! I am always happier when I feel in good shape physically, so I keep fit by swimming. Other than that, I love reading, listening to music and lying in the bath just
staring into space.
Thanks Harriet! Look out for our review of The Hex Factor later this week.
The Hex Factor is available to buy now.