Katharine Eccles Horn

About Katharine Eccles Horn

I was born at Clacton-on-Sea in Essex and have lived in East Anglia for most of my life. I'm an only child, which most people think must be fabulous because you never have to share with anyone! Actually, it can get quite lonely, but it did teach me how to entertain myself.

As a child I was always reading. My favourite authors were Nina Bawden, Penelope Lively, Jane Gardham, and Alan Garner, as well as the classics like Lewis Carroll, AA Milne and Tolkien. I especially liked stories with an element of magic or mystery and even as an adult I don't like to read boring things about everyday life. If you want everyday life there's enough of it all around! I want stories to take me to another world with different possibilities.

I went to school in Clacton where I most enjoyed learning English and foreign languages (French and German), though I do have a sneaky enthusiasm for maths as well… I have always loved acting and singing and I belonged to a youth theatre when I was a teenager. After A Levels I went to the University of Kent at Canterbury where I studied French and Drama. I loved it because I got to do plays all the time. I also got to spend a year living in France, not far from Paris. When I was a student I also travelled to America where I worked for three summers on a summer camp. I taught drama there as well as being a lifeguard. I loved it because I would rather be outdoors than indoors any day.

After university I worked a variety of jobs, including running a chain of charity shops! Eventually, I gave in and went back to university to train as a teacher. I taught French in a middle school for thirteen years, before moving to teach in primary schools.

As well as teaching and writing, I still act and sing. I sing with a rock band and with my local community choir. I play guitar and I love all styles of music. I still love to be out of doors and my favourite things to do there are skiing in the Alps or body surfing in Cornwall. I also love to potter around my garden, growing lots of flowers and things to eat. If I have to be indoors I like to bake: my nephew and nieces know me as Aunty Cake!

Writing

As a child I loved making up stories, but I didn't always write them down. For a long time as an adult I didn't find the time to write. Then in 2001 I did a master's degree and had to write a 25,000 word report. It seemed like a lot of words but once I started I discovered something: I really loved putting words on paper (or rather on screen: I always type because my handwriting is terrible!) So I tried writing a story. It was a novel for adults; it was 100,000 words long and it was terrible! I realised I did not want to write for adults. So I thought of an idea for a children's story and wrote that. It was terrible too! I was half way through a third story, probably terrible, when I got the idea for Dogs Can't Fly.

The idea came from my border terrier, Wilfred. He loves to chase all flying insects: bees, wasps, butterflies. We were walking through a field of cabbages and the air was full of Cabbage White butterflies. Wilfred kept jumping up to catch them (he always missed) and I was laughing at him. I told him: "You'll never catch them. Dogs can't fly!"
As soon as I had said it, I thought: that would make a great title for a story, and I began planning it there and then. First there were the 'What if..?' questions. (I think all writers start with 'What if..?' questions.) If dogs can't fly then what can? Dragons! So what if a child had a pet dragon and everyone thought it was a dog? By the time I got home I had the whole idea sketched out and I sat down straight away to write the first chapter.

Future plans

I am already working on a sequel for Dogs Can't Fly because I've got lots more ideas for adventures that Danny and Blink could have. I also have at least two other projects on the go, including the one I put on hold to write Dogs. Who knows, I may even take one of my terrible stories and see if I can make it less terrible!