'There is a line I once read: "listen and you'll hear the gods laughing". It could have been written for me, for after a childhood spent practising every trick, fibbing with the subtlety of a shunting engine in order to avoid going to school, what happens? I find myself back in the classroom teaching for 25 years and very surprised to be a bestselling author.
'Since first being able to hold a pencil I have scribbled stories; in fact the one thing I truly enjoyed throughout my own education was writing compositions. My mother was also a great teller of tales and ghost stories were her firm favourites. Many a night we would all huddle together in the air raid shelter and in the light of one candle listen to my mother telling a tale she would vow was true. They had us more scared than any of Hitler's bombs.
'When I was fifteen I left school with no qualifications and no inclinations other than to achieve a long-held dream: to 'walk the town'. This sounds as dreadful today as it did to me over fifty years ago, though in effect it was nothing more than a group of girls walking one way along Birmingham's streets and groups of lads walked in the opposite direction giving the odd wolf whistle as they passed. All so innocent, but oh so deliciously daring!
'The next few years I spent working in an engineering factory, then I married the love of my life. One blissful afternoon my mother agreed I could give school a miss and I went with my sister to Birmingham to meet her brother-in-law off the train. There, in all the romantic splendour of a grimy, smoke filled railway station, I met him. He was eighteen and on the way to join his Army unit, I was thirteen, and rapturous with my hours of reprieve, wanted no truck with a stranger whose Tyneside dialect I couldn't understand!
'Shortly after marrying my 'stranger with a dialect', my mother, who was a cripple, finally took to a wheelchair, and for the following fourteen years, a half hour of scribbling in the evening was all I could 'feed' to a writing appetite that never lessened. It was, I think, my parents dying in fairly quick succession that suddenly made me realise that I wanted more than working in a factory and running a home. So off I went to the local College of Commerce to study English literature. The biggest hurdle was being placed with a group of teenagers. Every morning they would troop in and start giggling at 'Methuselah's granny' sat at the front. There were times I wanted to run out and never go back.
'Salvation arrived in the shape of a proposed teacher training course. Three years later, teaching certificate in hand and dialect still on the tongue I was a teacher. My stories soon became a firm favourite with my classes. Each afternoon we would find time for a tale. I sometimes think that the words 'when I was a little girl' were the only reasons some of the little horrors turned up at all.
'Then one day I found myself retired and packing up to move to a new house. Out came sack after sack of stories. Long, fat, short, thin, love stories and horror stories all left too, into the rubbish bin! Some few months later, tearing my hair out of boredom, I came across a manuscript that had somehow slipped the net. Giving in to my husband's persuasion to 'ask somebody to look at it' I sent it to an agent and it sold. Nobody could have been more surprised than me, and no-one happier. Here at last I could write to my heart's content stories that breathed the smoky air of my own Black Country.'
Nine hardbacks, eight paperbacks and over a million readers later, the Meg Hutchinson story has only just begun.