Author Q&As

What are your favourite children's books and why?
The Sterkarm Handshake by Susan Price, The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, They Do Things Differently There by Jan Mark, The Devil on the Road by Robert Westall, Out of the Ordinary by Anne Dalton, A Pack of Lies by Geraldine McCaughrean, I Am the Great Horse by Katherine Roberts — I'd better stop there! I like them all for the same reason: mystery and magic plus humour and humanity.

Who are your favourite children's authors and why?
All of the above plus Russell Hoban, Peter Dickinson, Robin McKinley, Anne Fine, Allan Ahlberg . . . really the list is endless. There has never been a better time for children's writing and illustrating. My daughter, Rhiannon Lassiter, writes books for teenagers and she?s pretty good too.

Who or what was your biggest influence in deciding to become a writer?
The local public library I lived near as a child in Lavender Hill, Clapham Junction, where I went every Saturday with my father. It was shaped like a fairy castle with turrets and produced all the Mary Poppins and Doctor Dolittle books for me, which I adored as a child.

What inspired you to write Stravaganza: City of Masks?
A trip to Venice ten years ago with my husband and daughters when we took a gondola ride and the gondolier wasn't handsome enough. It started a train of daydreaming which eventually led to the Duchessa in City of Masks. The rest all followed from that day.

What is your favourite colour?
Green, but I also love terracotta and all shades of stone, beige and cream. I hate blue except in the sea and sky and flowers.

What is your favourite food and worst?
Indian food is the favourite. I am a vegetarian but apart from those limitations the only foods I dislike are beetroot, goats? cheese and pineapple. I love nuts!

Do you have a pet?
Yes, I have always had cats and couldn't manange without one. Currently we have three Burmese cats, who are very affectionate and lively.

What subject did you enjoy most as school.. and least?
English and sport!

What is your favourite film?
Fellini's 8 1/2. Casablanca and Jules et Jim. But I also love Peter Jackson?s Lord of the Rings films — and Zoolander!

What music do you like?
Anything I can sing.