We are a writing partnership with over two hundred books to our name. We’ve written about gargoylz, dinosaurs, ghosts, football, ghosts playing football, Tudor spies, time-travelling pirates and pets from space! We also love writing for reading schemes.
We’re always being asked about our job, especially as there are two of us. First, a bit about ourselves:
I live in Essex, England. I’m married with two grown-up children. The first story I wrote was ‘Teddy goes for a swim’. It was five lines long and I still have it. I used to be a teacher but for over twenty years I’ve written children’s stories with Sara. And amazingly we’re still friends.
I live in London, England. I’m married with two grown-up children and a cat called Monster who lets us live in his house. I used to be a midwife. I’ve always loved reading and enjoy how books help you escape into another world. Writing books with Jan is the best job in the whole world.
Your questions answered!
How did you start writing stories together?
Jan – We were already friends when I took my small daughters to a museum. My two-year-old spotted a scary lionskin rug on the floor and shrieked, “Don’t like the flat lion!” I told Sara all about it and we both thought that ‘Flat Lion’ would make a good title for a children’s story. So we wrote it together.
Sara – We sent ‘Flat Lion’ off to several publishers but they didn’t want it. However, we didn’t give up. Then we won a competition for a short story which Michael Rosen read on the radio. Tony Bradman chose it for one of his anthologies and 200 stories later, we’re still going.
Which one of you does the illustrations?
Neither of us! Here is an example of our attempt at an illustration:
Here is the picture drawn by Tony Ross:
So you can see why we don’t do the illustrations!
Where do you get your ideas?
We get our ideas from all sorts of places – a tower block being blown down, a spooky old castle, snails attacking our vegetables. We love taking a fairy tale and changing it. For example, making Cinderella the baddie. Sometimes an editor has an idea and asks us to write a series. This is how Sam Silver came about. If one of us is stuck for an idea, the other comes up with something or makes a cup of tea. We drink a lot of tea.
How many books have you written?
Children at the schools we visit often ask us this. We have put all our titles on a scroll which we unwind while they count. It’s fun to see their surprise when the count comes to over 200. Now it’s 206 books and more to come.
Where do you write your books?
We write mostly in our homes, in front of our computers. We’re either together or we write separately, talking to each other on the internet. We have written in cafes, in gardens and once on top of a mountain! As you can see, we get a lot of help!
Do you ever argue?
Jan – no, never!
Sara – yes, always!
What are your favourite things about writing?
We enjoy escaping into a different world every day. One morning we could be at the court of King Henry VIII and in the afternoon we’re aboard a pirate ship. We very much enjoy doing the research for our stories. We’ve visited ancient galleons, royal palaces and gruesome prisons. It’s especially good if there’s a nice tea shop.
We love meeting our readers. During a recent Zoom meeting with a year five class, one of the boys said he didn’t used to like reading until he read our Spy Master story, ‘First Blood’. Showing someone that reading is fun is one of the best things we can do.
Why do you write so many books about football?
Seriously? You need to ask? We love football, even if we don’t agree about which team is the best. Sara’s favourite football joke. What is a snake’s favourite football team? Slitherpool! Is that a clue to which team she supports? Jan’s team used to be known as the Irons which is funny as she hates ironing!
So far we’ve written 15 stories about football. ‘Ghost Goalie’ was our first ever book in a bookshop. It was a very exciting moment when we saw it on the shelf in Waterstones.
How old are you?
A boy asked this question on a school visit and the teacher said it was rude to ask people’s ages. He thought for a moment and then asked how long we’d been writing together. We told him and he quickly asked, “How old were you then?” Full marks for ingenuity!
As you can see, we were born when everything was in black and white!