My father was in the army, so as a child we moved house quite often and I ended up going to lots of different schools. One of them was a boarding school on a clifftop, where we had our lessons in what was once a magnificent Victorian house with a sweeping marble staircase and a huge collection of stuffed birds in glass cases. Maybe that's what gave me the idea to write stories set in an English country house. My recent blog post about a reunion weekend with some of my old school friends has pictures of the school as it is now.

 I studied English Literature at Bristol University before working in publishing and then eventually deciding to write my own books. I had over twenty books published for children before trying historical fiction and discovering I loved the process of research - mainly in the marvellous London Library, which has a collection of books, newspapers and magazines going back hundreds of years. I realized one day that a girl of fifteen in the late Victorian period would have lived through the most extraordinary period of history, including two world wars; just as my own grandmother had. And so the framework for the Swallowcliffe Hall series was born.

The photograph below shows my granny with her brother, my great-uncle Norman Wood, who was killed in the First World War. His photograph appears on the cover of Grace's Story. I wonder what they would have thought of that? 

Now I live in London with my husband, a dog, and occasional visits from our two grown-up sons. 

The photograph above shows the study where I write, most of the time. Our cat Rascal used to like sitting next to the keyboard while I typed: I think he liked the sound of the keys. Sadly we lost Rascal last year, and it feels very strange writing now without his rumbling purr as an accompaniment. I wrote a farewell to him on my blog here:

I also spend a lot of time in Dorset, where I'm lucky enough to have a writing shed in the garden. Our dog Monty finds the chair more comfortable than the cushion under the table where he's meant to sleep.