For the Puffin Books website.
People often ask me “What inspired your amazingly funny and exciting book The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones?” Actually, no-one’s ever asked me that because it’s my first book and it’s only just been published, but when I am interviewing myself in the bath this is one of the first questions I pose. At this point my face takes on a wistful expression, and I reply: “It all began in the early 1980’s." This was when my dad told me - from memory - his own highly-abridged-for-bedtime version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I loved it!
A few years later, I came into possession of an illustrated copy for younger readers. There was a full page picture that showed The Hispaniola anchored off the coast of Treasure Island. In the rigging sat Israel Hands, the Coxswain. He was my favourite character: A drunken, murderous pirate, skilled in faking injury long before faking injury became fashionable among professional footballers.
I wanted to be him. Even though he got shot.
For this blogpost I was supposed to write about why pirate stories continue to capture children's imagination. But thinking about it, I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s great stories that capture children’s imagination and it just so happens that Treasure Island is one of the greatest stories ever written. It just happens to be about pirates.
After reading Treasure Island I swore a pirate oath to myself: As soon as I was old enough I would sail around the world and have an amazing pirate adventure. I’m much older now. I’ve never made it round the world, and the only adventures I’ve had are the normal ones everyone has. I think that was why I wrote The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones. If I wasn’t brave enough to go seeking treasure with a crew of bloodthirsty pirates then, by the ghost of Captain Flint, I’d invent someone who was!