How did you come up with the idea for your story?

It’s one of those frequently-asked questions that authors soon learn to come up with a pat answer to. I’ve only been asked it twice, to be completely honest, but just in case anyone out there is wondering, here’s the answer I’d give.

The second senior school I went to was a big comprehensive (over 1,100 students), although it only covered pupils aged 11 to 16. If you wanted to stay on after that you had to go to a different school for the last two years of education.

I would say that it was a ‘bog-standard’ rural comprehensive, but that isn’t quite true. For one thing, it’s one of the few schools in England that has its own farm, with cows, sheep, goats and chickens. I never got involved with the farm, as I didn’t join the school until the second year, and only the first year pupils had mandatory Rural Studies lessons. It’s something I rather regret, as I’m now living on a farm! But I digress…

The sparking point for The Roman and the Runaway came when I was in the last year of my time there. I was passing the office of the teacher who was the head of the fifth year. He was in charge of discipline for our year and there were a bunch of boys waiting outside to see him. I presumed they were in some sort of trouble and noticed, with interest, that one of them was the son of the teacher concerned.

I thought how strange it must be, to have an out-of-school relationship with someone who is in a position of authority over you like that. And how awkward for both of them when the son was in trouble at school. That was where the core of the story about Luke and Ned began. I began writing it in the November of that year, once I’d started at my new school, which involved a bus journey from the old one. That bus ride gave me time to think and to start writing.