Jeanne Willis was born in St Albans and trained as an advertising copywriter at Watford College. She worked for various agencies creating press adverts and TV, cinema and radio commercials. She is now a full-time writer and has published over 80 books. Her hobbies include gardening, reading (non-fiction), natural history and collecting caterpillars. Jeanne has also worked on scripts for TV, including POLLY POCKET and THE SLOW NORRIS, and a pilot TV series for DR XARGLE. She lives in North London with her husband and two children.
As a child;
“I remember crying with frustration when I was four because I couldn’t read, no matter how hard I stared at the book – the book in question was Huckleberry Hound. The day I realized I could read was a revelation. I was in the classroom at Wheatfields Infants School, and I suddenly found I could read a book called Farmer Small. When the teacher left the room, I sat in her chair and read it to the class. She was very surprised when she came back – I don’t think the class had ever been so quiet. I can even remember the last line of the book. It was “and so are the pigs!” Pity I can’t remember the rest of the story. Anyway, inspired by Farmer Small, I wrote my first book at the age of five, and my career began.”
As an artist;
“I have written books since I could hold a pencil – I still have them all, hand-sewn and illustrated. I work in a converted attic in North London, starting at 9.15am and working through until about 4pm. I do my research at night, or when I’m feeling less creative. I like having little icons around me for inspiration. For example, when I wrote a book called Rat Heaven, I wrote with my pet rat inside my jacket (let’s hope I don’t write one about an elephant!). Sometimes, ideas for books come to me in my dreams, (that is happening more and more frequently). Often, they come from conversations I’ve had with strangers on trains (not to be advised!), or from odd articles in newspapers. I once met a man on a train, who showed me two ferrets that he had stitched together – wait for that to appear in a novel!”
Things you didn’t know about Jeanne Willis;
I used to be a reptile vet’s assistant.
I once had a toad called Dave, who lived to the age of twenty-six!
I am terrified of flying, and the dark.
I once did the Playtex Marathon in a fluffy blue bra.
I used to sell cowboy boots in the King’s Road, Chelsea.
I saw the ghost of my great-grandmother when I had measles.
I can’t even kill a fly – I love insects. I’ve got some jungle nymph stick-insect skins on my desk.
I once had a garter snake called Betty.
I can’t sing and I can’t dance, but I can do cartwheels.
I love cats and chocolate
Have you read any Jeanne Willis books? Please tell us which you read and what you thought of them!