Frequently Asked Questions
When and where were you born? 3rd Sept, 1961 in Melbourne, Australia.
Are you married and do you have children? Yes, I’m married to Jill—who is a book editor—and we have two daughters.
Do you have brothers and sisters? Yes, two younger sisters: Susan and Julie.
Do you have any pets? I have a one-eyed cat called Ruby. I used to have a dog called Sooty and a cat called Silky. (Sooty features in the Just Series and Silky in the Treehouse Series.)
What books did you like reading as a kid? Some of my special favourites were Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr Seuss, The Adventures of the Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I also loved sci-fi comics and MAD magazine.
How many books have you written? I’m very bad at counting, but you can see all the books I’ve written here.
What is your favourite book you have written? They’re ALL my favourites—I like them all for different reasons. To me each new book in the Treehouse series is really just a chapter in a much longer story.
What do you do when you’re not writing? I love reading, listening to music, watching comedy, running, cycling, swimming, and staring out the window.
Do you like writing? Yes, I love it—I’ve written all my life for my own amusement and to make my family and friends laugh. I was constantly filling up exercise books with stories, jokes, cartoons, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, bubblegum cards … anything that interested and/or excited me.
How did you become a writer? As an English teacher I wrote little stories to amuse my students. I collected a few together and made photocopied books, which I shared with my students and friends. People liked them and I was encouraged to make more books and eventually I started doing it full time.
What was the first book that you wrote? The first book I had published by a publisher—as opposed to little books I used to publish myself—was Just Tricking! in 1997.
How old were you when your first book was published? I was 35 years old.
Where do you get your ideas? The best story ideas come from a long slow process of thinking, reading, researching, experimenting, drafting, editing and lots and lots of re-working and re-writing. The ‘fuel’ for those ideas come from everywhere: from books I read, TV shows and movies I watch and, of course, all the things that happen in everyday life.
How long does it take you to write a book? Each book takes around 12 months: 3 months of planning, 3 months of writing and then 6 months of re-writing, editing and polishing.
What advice do you have for people who want to be writers? My best advice for how to become an author is to practise—that’s the best way to get better at anything, whether it’s learning a musical instrument, playing a sport or writing. And to read as much as you can!
Can you give me some writing tips? Get an exercise book and write in it every day… 5 minutes a day to start with, and gradually increase to at least 30 minutes a day. You get better at writing like you get better at everything else, through constant practice. A good idea is to write the sort of stories that you love to read because, without realising it, you know a lot about this particular type of story and how it is supposed to work.
How can I get my stories published? If you really want to be a writer I would suggest that you don’t worry so much about ‘being published’ and just enjoy writing for its own sake. You can keep a journal, write a blog, write letters, make cards for your family and friends, write articles for your school newsletter or magazine, make your own small books etc.
ABOUT THE TREEHOUSE BOOKS
How did you come up with the idea to write about a Treehouse? One day I asked Terry to draw a really big treehouse with lots of fun—but dangerous—levels. He drew a treehouse with 13 storeys and we thought it would be fun to write a book in which we imagined ourselves living in it and all the adventures we would have. We enjoyed writing the book so much we decided to do another one, maybe a series, and we decided to go up by 13 levels each time.
Do you really live in a treehouse? Yes, an imaginary one.
Are the characters in your books based on real people? Some of them are named after real people, for instance Andy, Jill and Terry, but they are comically exaggerated versions of the real-life Andy, Jill and Terry. Generally my characters are a mixture of traits from different people and different parts of myself.
How did you meet Jill? Jill was the editor of my very first children’s book Just Tricking! She has not only edited every book I’ve ever written but these days also helps me to write them. She particularly loves working on the rhymes.
Does Jill really love animals? Yes! She grew up in a house with many pets and liked to imagine that she could talk to them.
How did you meet Terry? A publisher suggested Terry and I should work together because she said we had a similar sense of humour and she thought we would get on well. She was right! His pictures give me lots of ideas for new stories and my stories give him lots of ideas for new pictures.
Is Terry really as silly in real life as he is in the books? Are you kidding? He’s even sillier!
How many books will you write in the Treehouse series? Well, we started with 13 levels and each book has 13 chapters and we add 13 new levels every year so perhaps 13 books would be the perfect number, finishing with The 169-Storey Treehouse.
Is Mr Big Nose real? No, thank goodness. The story of the three little pigs wouldn’t be nearly as exciting—or as much fun—if there wasn’t a big bad wolf huffing and puffing and threatening to blow their houses down. Mr Big Nose is like the big bad wolf, except that he huffs and puffs and threatens to send us back to the monkeyhouse if we don’t get our book written on time. In real life our publisher is a woman called Claire who doesn’t have a bad temper.
Will you ever make the Treehouse series into a TV show or a movie? I would be happy to have a Treehouse movie or TV series but, unlike books, these are really complicated to make and it’s not just my decision—a lot of people have to agree to go ahead before anything can happen—so all I can say is maybe one day, who knows?
Can you put me in your book? Unfortunately it’s just not possible to include everybody who would like to be in the books, but there’s nothing to stop you writing your own stories about you and your friends!
Are you going to write any more books? Yes, we write a new Treehouse book every year. In fact we’re working on the next Treehouse book right now!
When will the next Treehouse book be published? The 130-Storey Treehouse will be published in Australia very soon!
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE
If you want to know even more there are interviews and podcasts in the media section, here. I have also written a book about where ideas come from that has lots of suggestions for how you can have fun writing and drawing. It’s called Once Upon a Slime: 45 ways to get writing … FAST!).