I’d love to tell a romantic story about being the sort of child who scribbled stories whenever I had a free moment and dreamt about being an author as I read books under the bedcovers. It’s true I did once win a storytelling competition at school – something to do with a disappearing elephant from what I remember – but to be honest that’s about all the romance I can summon. The truth is I first began to write mainly for practical reasons.
My background is in performance. I set up my first theatre company with a group of friends when I left university. At the time money was scarce. Paying royalties for scripts was expensive. The solution – write my own. Once the idea was in my head, however, I was excited by the prospect. My first script was a musical set on a farm. It was inspired, among other things, by David Wood’s children musical, The Plotter of Cabbage Patch Corner, which I’d been taken to as a child (I’m often inspired by childhood experiences). I started to write it on an aeroplane on my way to Cuba to distract me from my fear of flying! My second piece of writing was for a kids holiday club. I had the image of two cartoon children wearing brightly coloured clothes decorated with their names. Such mental impressions often inspire me and act as a starting point for writing. These two characters finally developed into the heroes of my book, although much changed over the years!
About ten scripts later I began to think that perhaps I should take this writing thing more seriously! By this time I had actually developed a romantic notion of being an author, so in 2008 I thought I’d give it a go. It’s now four years later and my first book has just been published.
Over the years, my appreciation of stories and storytelling has deepened. There’s something fundamentally human about imagining stories and I feel privileged to be able to explore this ancient art as a job! I love that writing is a reflective practice. It helps me learn about myself, understand my experience and share any wisdom I’ve stumbled across. I’m inspired by many things, things that provide flashes of inspiration or a deep sense of connection with myself, others, or the world around me: film, music, art, books, ancient places, particular atmospheres, the night sky, puppets, connection with the elements, walking, crazy projects with groups of artists, history, performances in forests, stories within stories, ideas and philosophies, coincidences, spirituality and journeys. I’m quite a reserved sort of person, so these things often stay locked away until I pick up a pen. I just hope that my son doesn’t wait as long as I have to realise the power each of us has as a storyteller. I hope he does hide at night with a book under the bedcovers, and as he travels to faraway places on the backs of dragons, I hope he dreams of one day being able to take others with him on his adventures.