Soon after I was old enough to walk and talk, my parents realised two things.
The first was that I had an incredibly vivid imagination. Unlike many small children, I was content to spend hours at a time amusing myself, inventing ever more dramatic games of kidnap, runaway orphans and wicked stepmothers. When I wasn’t playing, I could often be found listening to an audio book, Roald Dahl or my favourite Enid Blyton, becoming lost in the tales woven by others. Even as a child, I cherished a dream that one day I would be a writer myself.
The second thing which gradually became apparent to my parents was that there seemed to be something wrong with my sight. I was forever tripping over toys left lying around on the floor, or being chided for sitting too close to the television. It took several years of appointments with specialists, of brain scans and visual tests, but when I was five years old, experts diagnosed me as having Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative disease affecting the retina.
At school, my teachers did everything in their power to make life as easy for me as possible. However, as I approached my ninth birthday, my sight had deteriorated so severely that they no longer felt equipped to meet my needs. It was decided that I should transfer to a boarding school for the visually impaired. For me, this was a dream come true. Having devoured all the boarding school stories I could lay my hands on, from Billy Bunter to Mallory Towers, I couldn’t wait for my own adventure to begin.
Perhaps as a result of going away to school, spending more time in the company of my peers than my own family, I developed an intense interest in people. Everything about them fascinates me. I love to observe the ways in which they interact, their steadfast loyalty and tendency to hurt those closest to them, their capacity for both cruelty and kindness. Everything I’ve learned has gone into my novels to create flawed, believable characters who I hope will stay with readers long after they close the book.