My journey to becoming an author has been a roundabout one, taking in many other careers. I grew up on the edge of Epping Forest (Essex, UK) and was that dreamy kind of child who was always writing stories. After reading English at Cambridge, I decided to find out as much as I could about the wider world so joined the Foreign Office and served in Poland. My work as a diplomat took me from the high point of town twinning in the Tatra Mountains to the low of inspecting the bottom of a Silesian coal mine.
On leaving Poland, I exchanged diplomacy for academia and took a doctorate in the literature of the English Romantic Period at Oxford. I then joined Oxfam as a lobbyist on conflict issues, campaigning at the UN and with governments to lessen the impact of conflict on civilians living in war zones - a cause about which I still feel very passionate.
Married with three children, I now live in Oxford between two rivers, surrounded by gargoyles, beautiful sandstone buildings and ancient trees. I plan my books while walking our dog, Caspar, on Port Meadow by the Thames or Isis.
My first novel, 'The Diamond of Drury Lane', won the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2006 and the Nestle Children's Book Prize 2006 (formerly known as the Smarties Prize). I was also chosen by Waterstone's in 2007 as one of their 'Twenty-five authors for the future'. 'Empty Quarter' was longlisted for the Carnegie Award 2009; 'Wolf Cry' in 2010. In the US, 'Secret of the Sirens' won the honor book medal of the Green Earth Book Award.