I write the Night School series of young adult thrillers set in boarding schools. But I haven’t always been a novelist. I’ve had a number of different lives so far.
In fact if, like a cat, I’m allowed nine lives, I’ve used up at least five or six so far.
I’d better be careful out there. I’m running low on lives.
I’ve already been a newspaper reporter, an editor, a travel writer, a government consultant and now an author.
And it’s not like I’m ANCIENT or anything. I’m just busy. And I get bored easily.
Anyway. Here are some things you might not know about me.
Did you know I’m from Texas?
I was born in Dallas and raised in Houston, so I’m Texan through and through. And yes, I do, in fact, own a cowboy hat.
I moved to England in 2000 to work as an editor in London. Then I kind of never left because the weather here is so awesome.
Just kidding. The weather here blows. But you have castles and I really like castles.
These days I feel more comfortable on this side of the Atlantic than that side. I mean, 14 years is a lifetime, right?
I miss getting free drink refills at restaurants, though. You guys need to work on that.
Did you know my first real job was as a crime reporter for an American newspaper?
It just so happened that the town where I worked, Savannah, Georgia, had a massive crime wave the year I started my first newspaper job. So, at 21 years old, I worked the night shift, racing in my beat-up old Ford from crime scene to crime scene – stabbing to shooting to murder to kidnapping – then back to the newsroom to file my news stories.
It was intense. Dangerous. Fascinating.
That year I learned how tough I really was.
I used to think I wasn’t brave because I was scared all the time. Crimes take place in crappy neighbourhoods. And, frankly, there are CRIMINALS involved. With guns.
It was a cop who told me everyone is scared. But being scared and then doing the job anyway? That’s bravery.
Did you know I’ve been arrested?
Night School begins with Allie Sheridan getting busted by the police when she’s caught spray-painting her school.
That scene when she has to face her parents afterwards was ripped from my own life.
I’ve so been there. And totally done that.
When I was seventeen I was arrested at a political protest in Texas. I wasn’t actually protesting. I was sitting on the hood of my car with my friend on the lookout for attractive, male protesters.
The police came over and harassed us. Apparently we were ‘loitering’. I explained to them (politely) that what we were doing was normally called ‘existing’.
They took me to jail.
My mother was NOT understanding about the injustice of this. Not understanding at all.
Did you know I used to work with spies?
Just before I started writing Night School, I took a job working for the Home Office. I was there to work with counter-terrorism specialists on communicating to the public digitally. In other words, I was there to teach spies how to use the internet.
I thought this was awesome. The spies did NOT think this was awesome.
Turns out spies aren’t really wild about the idea of telling you what they’re up to.
So I would explain Twitter and Facebook to them. And they would say, ‘NOPE.’
I would write brilliant copy for their new website. And they would say, ‘NO WAY’.
Still, I got to go to Parliament, the Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister’s office. I got to see spies train, and learned that they all look basically like your dad. With muscles.
And a secret life.
Did you know Number 10 is a Tardis?
The thing about Number 10 Downing Street is, from the outside, it looks like your granny’s house. It’s just a normal townhouse with a glossy black door. Three bedrooms. Four max.
Inside? It goes on FOREVER.
It takes up at least a city block, but I think it’s more. Stairs go in all directions, and people move around at such a rapid pace you can never get your bearings. They take your phone away when you walk in so you can’t even CALL FOR HELP.
It hooks up to other government buildings through tunnels and I don’t know if there’s actually an end to it. It’s the most Tardis-like building I’ve ever seen.
Also, if you have a meeting there, tea is served in bone china cups by butlers. Now THAT’S how you run a government, my friends.
Find out more
CONTEST: In Night School, Allie has been arrested three times. I’ll give a free, signed copy of Night School to the first person who guesses how many times I’VE been arrested in my life.