Category Archives: Books

Visit to Audley End House

Five members of ‘Histeria’ the London based group of writers of historical fiction for children, had a lovely day out at Audley End House in Essex on 21st August.  A wander round the beautiful grounds, a break for lunch, then a tour of the splendid Jacobean house.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the king’s bedroom (all ready for George 3rd who, sadly, never made it there) and the delicate and intricate Adam ceilings in the reception rooms downstairs.  We ended the day with tea and sponge cake at my house which is close by.



New series just out!

Very excited about my new series THE STONEKEEPER’S CHILD

Pic for website The call pic for website kalen!    

Book One: The Call 

Book Two: Kalen’s Revenge

This two-volume middle grade fantasy is based on the myths surrounding a vanished island. It is a thrilling, fast moving story of the collision of two worlds, the battle of good against evil and the growing friendship between two strong young characters, both misfits, as they fight to free the island’s people and overcome the evil Kalen and his dark forces.

Add to the mix an unreliable kelpie shapeshifter, seers, glyphs, powerful magic, a gnomic sword, the mystery of a banished stonekeeper and you have a tension filled and unusual series which will keep the reader guessing until the very end.

From Tots to Teens

Three children’s writers – Pippa Goodhart, Gillian McClure and myself – are offering a panel event where we talk about the importance of children’s literature from picture books for very young children, on to stories for the newly independent reader and through to subjects and plot lines that appeal to Young Adults.

We launched this event last week at Newmarket library where it was very well received.  We already have invitations to speak at a couple of upcoming literary festivals and are hoping to find an audience at conferences, teacher training establishments and at institutions teaching creative writing for children.

Troika flyer RGB


Talking about books on the other side of the world

Just back from a month in Australia.  Mostly holiday and an escape from the chilly English winter, but I also had a chance to showcase The Blue Eyed Aborigine and Forgotten Footprints, my two novels about survivors of 17th and 18th century shipwrecks off the Western Australian coast.  Here I am in Melbourne, talking to year 9 students at Albert Park High School and on another occasion signing books at Dymocks Bookshop.

Albert Park CollegeDymocks 2

I also had a meeting with Pictureco who have a film option on The Blue Eyed Aborigine.  I’ve now read a draft script and the next step is a pitch to industry to try and get backing to produce a feature length film.

UK Edition of Forgotten Footprints just published

Forgotten Footprints

The shiny new edition of my book Forgotten Footprints is just out with its beautiful new cover.  A version was published last year for the Australian market but the book is now available in the UK and I’m working with my publisher, Troika Books, to develop a promotional campaign for it.  It tells the story of a notorious shipwreck off the West Australian coast in 1712, from which we know their were survivors – and I have imagined what may have happened to these survivors, some of the earliest Europeans ever to set foot on the ‘Unknown Southland’.

A fast paced story of resilience against impossible odds, of courage and of love.



A bit of delay in announcing this as I’ve been in hospital, but my new YA book for Ransom was published a couple of weeks ago…

Called ‘Taken’ it is a story about loss, love and growing up.

Four years ago, Kelly’s dad disappeared, apparently having taken his own life.  His family are left devastated and are only just beginning to move on.  Then one day Kelly thinks she sees him again.  It is only a glimpse – and it can’t have been him – but it is enough to bring back all the painful memories.

Why did he kill himself? What was so terrible that he couldn’t go on?

The thoughts won’t leave her alone.  Kelly confides in her friend Jack and as they try to find out more about Dad’s past they unearth a confusing mass of inconsistencies and unanswered questions.

Gradually they are sucked into a murky world where nothing is as it seems.  They are out of their depth; someone is trying to stop them finding out more and they are in real danger.

Who is following them? Who can they trust? And why does Gran refuse to talk about Dad?


A straightforward mystery, this one, with none of the supernatural elements present in my last two books, ‘Loose Connections’ and ‘The Mark’.


Storm Doris Intervenes

It was all set up.  A panel discussion as part of a local literary festival all about – you’ve guessed – children’s books, past and present and why they are so important, why libraries are so important, why getting children to love reading is so important.

There was an enthusiastic take up for the event and, apart from me, the panelists were Isabel Thomas, James Nicol, Helen Moss and the chair was to be Candy Gourlay.

Should have been a great evening but then Storm Doris intervened.  Two panelists stuck in London and no trains running, trees all over the road and an electricity blackout so it all had to be cancelled.

Never mind, it will be reconvened and surely lightning (or storm) can’t strike twice – can it?!

Authors’ Lunch



A bright interlude at the end of a dreary January was an authors’ lunch held here.  Nine of us, all children’s writers and all Cambridge based, got together to discuss all things bookish – and a lot else, too, over a warming curry.

So good to be among like minded friends who understand the ups and downs of the life of a writer.  We spend a lot of time on our own so it is good to exchange stories of both success and failure.  None of us is immune to failure – it comes with the territory – but we all agree that we are doing something we love and there aren’t so many people out there who can say the same.

But there is no doubt that having a good dose of understanding companionship from time to time really lifts the spirit.

My Sister’s Perfect Husband



There’s always a lurch of excitement when a new book arrives in the post, all shiny, with your name on the cover.

‘My Sister’s Perfect Husband’ is part of the new series by Ransom Publishing called ‘Promises’ aimed at reluctant teen readers. The brief was to write a short story (around 3,000 words) on a subject which would engage teenagers but in language which they would find accessible.

Not easy!

I’ve written stories about young British Muslims in the past (‘Mixing It’ and ‘Payback’) and when I suggested writing about a Pashtun family living in Britain and trying to marry off their daughter Mina, the publishers were enthusiastic.

‘My Sister’s Perfect Husband’ is very light hearted. Mina’s parents have completely failed to find her a suitable husband, so her younger sister, Laila, decides to try. She and her best friend hatch a complicated and secret plot to bring Mina together with a boy they think would be ideal.

But their brilliant plan goes drastically wrong and the ending is VERY unexpected!

‘Promises’ is a series with an imaginative and varied collection of stories. Like me, most of the authors are used to writing much longer and more complex books for young people – authors such as Jo Cotterill, Miriam Halahmy, Kathryn White, Anne Rooney and Sue Purkiss – but they took up the challenge and the results are brilliant.

Here’s what Sue Purkiss says about the term reluctant readers.

‘I think ‘reluctant’ is actually a bit of a misnomer; they’re only reluctant because they find reading so hard – and so then they pretend to scorn it, because that’s what you do, isn’t it? If there’s a club you can’t join, you shrug your shoulders and say that you never wanted to belong to it anyway.’

Hopefully, these ‘reluctant’ readers will discover, through these stories, that books aren’t always daunting. They can even be fun!







How many times? Captain Cook was NOT the first European to set foot in Australia!

Back in the UK now, after a month long trip promoting my shipwreck books in Western Australia and taking part in the 400th anniversary celebrations of the landing of the Dutch mariner, Dirk Hartog, in Shark Bay, in October 2016.

My fascination with the 17th and 18th century Dutch shipwrecks began eight years ago when I visited the Shipwreck Galleries in Fremantle for the first time.

I was aware of the powerful Dutch East India Company (the VOC), its establishment of headquarters throughout Asian countries and, in particular, its hugely profitable trade in spices; but what I didn’t know was that, by 1617, its great ‘retourships’ were required to adopt the new Brouwer route, sailing South from the Cape in South Africa before turning West to pick up the ‘Roaring Forties’ winds and then North towards the East Indies, parallel with the coast of Western Australia or, as it was called at the time, ‘The Unknown Southland’.

As I stared at the great hull of the ship Batavia, at the replica stone blocks destined for the castle gate in Java and all the artifacts salvaged from the ship and read about the mutiny, the shipwreck, the massacre on the Abrolhos Islands, the eventual retribution and then the marooning of the two young mutineers, I was intrigued.

Why had I never heard of this appalling event in Australia’s history? What if those two young men, Pelgrom and Loos, had survived and integrated with the coastal aborigines? If they had, then they would have been the very first European settlers in Australia, nearly 150 years before Cook sailed into Botany Bay!

Since then, I’ve been on quite a journey. I have written two books about the early Dutch shipwrecks off the West Australian coast, ‘The Blue Eyed Aborigine’ and the new ‘Forgotten Footprints’, have visited the Abrolhos Islands where all the Batavia horrors occurred, toured schools in the Eastern States, flown over the Zuytdorp cliffs, travelled by boat parallel with Red Bluff, South of Kalbarri, from which so many early Dutch mariners took their bearings, given the Batavia lecture at the Maritime Museum and, most recently, had a wonderful trip from Yallingup up to Shark Bay, speaking to schools and other groups about my books and about the rich maritime history of the State.


And what a privilege it was to be part of the celebrations in Denham to mark the 400th anniversary of the landing of Dirk Hartog at Cape Inscription in October 1616, to attend the moving opening ceremony, watch the procession of cardboard boats, admire the costumes for the 17th century ball, crawl over the replica ship ‘Duyfken’ and travel across to Dirk Hartog Island and see the new commemorative plaques and the cleft in the rock into which the original post, plate attached, was rammed.


The day I left WA to return to the UK, I was able to fit in a visit to the newly opened exhibition at the Maritime Museum in Fremantle – ‘Travellers and Traders in the Indian Ocean’ and see the originals of both the Dirk Hartog plate and the Vlamingh plate and to learn that the very latest research will soon be available into whether Western European DNA found in some Aboriginal coastal tribes can be traced to pre-settlement days.


And yet, whenever I go into Australian schools and ask the question: ‘Who was the first European to set foot on Australian soil?’ nine times out of ten the answer is still ‘Captain Cook.’