I went to the most amazing author talk last night: the legendary KM Peyton in conversation with Meg Rosoff at a dinner organised by the North Norfolk Children's Book Group.
Meg is always very good value as a speaker being quite irreverent, refreshingly blunt and with an often wicked sense of humour. KM, or Kath as we learned to call her during the evening, is similarly spirited, even at the age of 83. Together they made a brilliant double act which had the audience hooting with laughter.
And what a life Kath has led. She was first published at the age of 15 when her father grudgingly asked a friend to show Kath's manuscript to his neighbour, the MD of A&C Black. She was paid a phenomenal £75 for that first story and has written a book a year ever since.
Married at 21 against her parents' wishes, to a freelance cartoonist, she often had to rely on her writing to make ends meet and confesses these books were 'potboilers'. Husband Mike would come up with the plot and she would compose the book - he is the 'M' in 'KM'.
Mike was obsessed with sailing and would often leave Kath at home with the children and her books while he went to 'research' his books and cartoons. Sometimes, though, the family went with him and on one occasion was 'shipwrecked' off Harwich. Kath had flashed an SOS message, against Mike's wishes, and they were picked up by an empty passenger ferry. The Daily Telegraph reported the incident, stating the Peyton boat was crewed by Hilary, aged 4, and Veronica, aged 3.
My early teenage years are brought clearly into focus with the mention of KM Peyton's name. I recall going to the library to borrow the Flambards books and am still able to picture scenes from the tv dramatisation. These fond and powerful associations have been magnified by seeing the author 'in the flesh'. Meg says that if you love a book, you are likely to love the writer. As she and Kath have become firm friends, she says she has proved this theory.