I write because I need to write. It's as simple as that. I write for the same reason why other people paint pictures, run marathons or climb mountains.
When I was eight years old, I wrote a play (I cringe when I think of it: I'll only say that witches came into it) that was staged at my junior school. That was when I got hooked. I loved English at school; the fact that I went on to study French instead had simply to do with the different quality of the teachers.
I am not one of those wonderfully disciplined writers who switch on their computer at eight every morning and write till lunch-time. When I'm out walking my dog or even lying in bed, I get an idea and I work on it in my head. I only write it down when I have a fair idea what I'm going to key in. Then the characters tend to take over, and the story may follow a certain twist because it simply wouldn't be right for them to act otherwise.
People ask me how much of my book is autobiographical. Let me say that I did not go through any of the trauma that Holly went through (Thank heavens!) but I store up pictures in my head which I draw on whenever I need to describe a place or create an atmosphere. I take care never to write about anyone I know: I don't want to lose any friends or make any enemies.
A common question from readers is: "Where do you get your ideas from?" The best answer to that comes from Sue Townsend, the author of the Adrian Mole books. She says: "I generally just go to the ideas counter at Tescos!"