Jan and Sara's blog

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Samuel Squeaks' Diary
Thursday 01 June 2017

We're writing a new Fiction Express story!  A new chapter will appear each week - and the first episode is live on Friday 2nd June. If your school has signed up to Fiction Express you can follow the exciting adventures of the fearless rodent Samuel Squeaks as he braves the Great Fire of London and writes all about it in his diary. Most people have heard of the Great Fire of London. It happened in September 1666 after a very hot, dry summer. We think that the fire began at a bakery in Pudding Lane. Lots of the buildings in London were made of wood and there was no fire brigade in those days so the flames spread very quickly. We know a lot about the fire because a famous man called Samuel Pepys kept a diary at the time. That's a bit like doing a blog today. You might have heard of Samuel Pepys – but you won’t have heard of Samuel Squeaks. He was a London mouse who wrote a diary too. He thinks it’s much more exciting than Mr Pepys’s diary.

Gruesome research
Friday 19 May 2017

Some of our books have needed a lot of research. We try very hard to get our facts right. We use the internet and books but whenever possible we visit the places involved. We’ve had some great visits. The most gruesome was when we were writing Intrigue for the Lady Grace Mysteries. We went to the Clink Prison Museum on the south bank of the river Thames in London.

It was quite a business being a prisoner at the Clink. You even had to pay to have your shackles put on. Then you’d be thrown into a room stuffed with bodies, dead and alive. It was filthy although you might be lucky and get there just after the Thames had flooded, washing away all the muck. If you managed to survive your sentence, you had to pay to have your shackles taken off again!

When we came to write the scene where Lady Grace finds herself in the Clink, we were able to conjure up the sounds and sights of the filthy, deadly prison.

 The Clink is well worth a visit even if you’re not writing about a Tudor girl detective!

Do you do the illustrations?
Wednesday 03 May 2017

We are often asked if we do the illustrations for our books. It's a sensible question. There are two of us after all. Here's the simple answer. Take a look at our attempted illustration for our 'Tom, Dad and Colin' book for OUP Traditional Tales.

Now look at the real illustration for 'Tom, Dad and Colin' by the wonderful Tony Ross. Enough said!

How we write
Monday 24 April 2017


We are often asked about how we write together. First of all, we have to get the cat off the computer! 

When we started, more than twenty years ago, we didn't have a computer. We used to sit side by side and one of us wrote the words on paper in beautiful longhand. Then Sara got her first computer. It had a whole 4mb of memory! [Our present ones have more than a thousand times that and we think they’re a bit out of date!] But with Sara’s computer, we could print out our wonderful stories. However, most people didn’t have email so all our manuscripts had to be put in envelopes and posted. Editors got in touch with us by phone or by letter. One time we had a deadline to meet and Sara’s husband delivered the story on his bike. 

We get together most days to write, sitting side by side staring at the screen. The writing process includes a large percentage of chat but we sometimes get ideas from that. It also includes tea. Other days we work separately, taking a piece each and swapping frequently by email. That way we can edit each other. It cuts down on the chat too. 

Coming soon - why we don't do our own illustrations!!