I’ve said on my profile page that I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was seven, which sounds like the kind of thing all writers say, but I can say exactly how I first knew that, with sound, historical facts to prove it.
From a young age, I loved books. I can remember making up my own stories to the pictures in my Ladybird Fairy Tales before I could read the words. I remember getting gold stars for my story writing in school. I remember being fascinated by a book my mum was reading, a Catherine Cookson novel with the intriguing title Slinky Jane. I even got my first typewriter for Christmas when I was six. But I don’t count these vague, anecdotal memories. The real turning point came when I was seven, when I discovered Enid Blyton.
I can date it exactly, because in 1980, just after my seventh birthday, my family moved house. The previous owners of our new house had been a family with teenage sons – I remember viewing the room that was to be mine, which was decorated with a life sized skeleton. Knowing that young children were moving in, this family left behind a box of books which those teenage sons no longer wanted. There were a lot of Enid Blyton books, including a nearly full set of the Famous Five books, in well-read 1970s paperbacks. Being the precocious child that I was, I immediately began to read them. I remember being a bit confused during the first book I read – I knew that the Famous Five comprised of two boys and two girls, but I hadn’t understood that George was not a boy, and had somehow decided that Julian was a girl called Gillian! But I persevered, and read another (number eight, incidentally, Five get into Trouble. I never read them in order!), and that time, every fell into place. And I was hooked. I read my way through them all, delighting in the stories and also in my own ability to read these big, proper books so quickly. But more importantly, I read them with a growing consciousness of the process of creation behind the stories, an awareness of the author at work, an understanding that it had been someone’s job the write these books. And I knew then that I wanted to do that too. Part of me wanted to be one of the Famous Five, but another part of me wanted to be Enid Blyton.
And so I began. From that age on, I was forever scribbling stories, mostly Enid Blyton style adventures featuring myself and my school friends, often with illustrations too. I wish I still had some of those notebooks, but they are lost forever. But that desire to publish my own books, with my name on the cover, was never lost. I might have grown out my Famous Five obsession, but I never grew out of wanting to be a writer. Thank you, Enid Blyton. And thank you to the family that left that box of books.