I was born in Wigan but moved many times as a child. I went to a dozen different schools, in locations including Merseyside, Cheshire and Berkshire, as well as East Lothian in Scotland and Rijswijk in Holland. No wonder my first novel – Old School Ties – was based around a school reunion. I had more classroom experience than most teachers!
I always loved reading – and writing. My childhood favourites included Roald Dahl, Susan Cooper, Helen Cresswell and especially Noel Streatfeild. When I was eight and nine, I spent quite a lot of time off sick from school and was soon devouring my mum’s Jean Plaidy’s and her She magazines (which taught me an awful lot about life, I can tell you!). My early works were nothing if not ambitious: as well as a fully illustrated rhyming story about a well-travelled rabbit, I had grand plans to write a musical about the history of Britain, and my first thriller was a four-part murder set in Paris…
After school, I wanted to find a job that would use my love of writing – though I never dreamed I’d write a novel. It wasn’t the kind of job the careers service could tell me much about. Instead I skipped university and went straight into journalism. First of all, I worked for a news agency, reporting mainly for the national tabloids, then moved to the BBC. I worked as a reporter in regional news in Bristol and Birmingham, before moving behind the camera as a producer on Newsround in London. Later I worked on Panorama and other investigative/consumer shows, using the same secret cameras used in the Secret Shopper books. My final job in TV involved coming up with new ideas for programmes – great fun!
Old School Ties was published in 2003 (To find out how I broke out of the slush pile in my Diary of an unpublished author…) and was picked for WH Smith Fresh Talent. In 2007, I left the BBC to write full-time. The Secret Shopper’s Revenge was nominated for the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance in 2009. My books have been published in a dozen countries, and my young adult trilogy, Soul Beach, is published in the UK, Germany, Netherlands and South Korea! My most recent contemporary fiction novel for adults is A Batch Made in Heaven, a romantic comedy story revolving around baking, match-matching and the recipe for love.
In 2012, I began trying intermittent fasting to help with weight loss, after watching a BBC Horizon about it. I lost two stone – and kept it off – and after surveying others trying different approaches to fasting, I wrote The 5:2 Diet Book and The Ultimate 5:2 Recipe Book – followed by a book broadening the approach to other parts of life, including relationships, fitness, work and happiness, in 5:2 Your Life and my most recent cookbook, 5:2 Good Food Kitchen, The dedicated site for the 5:2 approach is here.
I’ve written for national newspapers and magazines including the Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, Red and Cosmopolitan. I also teach creative writing and TV development in the UK and abroad, and do mentoring when time allows.
Apart from making up stories, I still love reading them. I also adore baking, singing, live comedy, the sea-side and making crafty stuff (I’ve never quite grown out of my Blue Peter stage). I live in Brighton, but also spend as much time as I can in Barcelona!