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Chris Butterworth

As a child

When I was little we lived in two of the wild bits of England – near Land's End and then out on Dartmoor. I didn't have any brothers or sisters, so I spent hours by myself, poking around in rock pools and streams, lifting up stones to see what was underneath, and wondering what was twitching in the grass. I recently found one of my old school reports, and the teacher had written “She is interested in everything” and I was very pleased to read that. Every baby in the world is born curious, and I think it's really important to hang on to your curiosity - to stay nosy. Once I started school, we moved into a town, which I think was a bit of a shock – but having more friends made up for it. I spent years living in London, which has almost everything any curious person could want – but now I've come back to live in the wilds of far West Cornwall.

As an adult

I wrote stories all the way through school (in Plymouth) and then went to university to read more stories. I wanted to write after university, but (like many other writers) fell into teaching English and discovered to my surprise (because I didn't like school much) that I was quite good at it. I think this was because I'm bossy enough to want other people to be interested in what interests me, and I'm a bit of a show-off who loves an audience. When my two children were little, I loved reading picture books and stories to them, but (at the time) there were hardly any non-fiction books for younger children. So I started writing the kind of books I wanted them to be able to read.

As an artist

I've written over sixty non-fiction books on all sorts of things, from influenza to Antarctic exploration, and from giant squid to Ancient Egyptians. Writing a book about something is the best way to find out about it, and while I'm doing my research, I bore all my friends and family because I keep saying, "Did you know that…?" I love fiction (I think the words "Once upon a time…" are some of the most exciting words there are), but I believe that non-fiction can be just as mind-boggling as any story, because real life, and the animals, people and places in it, can be as weird and extraordinary as anything you could imagine.

Things you didn't know about Chris Butterworth

  1. Insects bite me and leave everyone else alone.
  2. I can talk cat – at least to my own two.
  3. I swim outdoors all year round, in a pond on Hampstead Heath. It’s the only brave thing I’ve ever done, and I love telling people about it because they look so impressed.
  4. I tried to learn tai chi (a slow, graceful kind of martial art) and I was absolutely rubbish at it.
  5. In my next life I want to sing and dance in musicals.
  6. If I had to choose which of my five senses I couldn’t bear to lose, it would be a tie between sight and smell.
  7. I like food – my daughter’s first word was "more", and my son’s was "cake". I think they might take after me.
  8. When I was still at school, my best friend and I went walking on Dartmoor, found a dead sheep, and cut it up to see what it was like inside. Luckily, no-one found us doing it.
  9. I like telling jokes and making people laugh – it’s the show-off part of me again.
  10. I love lying warm in bed listening to rain and wind lash against the windows.

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