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Richard Platt

As a child

I grew up in the suburbs of south London. My school was three-quarters of a mile away, and I walked there and back on my own. This gave me the chance to muck around and get into all kinds of mud and trouble each morning and evening. When I wasn’t at school I was usually on my bike playing “foot-down” with my friends in the quiet road where we lived. As far as I remember this game involved cycling as slowly as possible without actually falling off. Which I did. Often. I was always rubbish at sports, and the last to be picked for any team. At my secondary school I developed clever wheezes to avoid shivering on an icy rugby pitch, but always seemed to get caught and punished anyway.

As an adult

My dad was a civil engineer, and I thought I wanted to be one too – until I discovered that the project at the end of my first university year was to design a shed. This was too boring for words, so I changed my course and studied graphic design and photography instead. When I graduated I soon found that what I did better than all of these things was writing. I discovered a knack for explaining complicated facts in a way that everyone could understand. I started writing about photography: first magazine articles, then books. I got a job editing children’s books, then went on to write them.

As a writer

I’ve written more than 70 books, mostly factual books for children. My first children’s book was Incredible Cross Sections, which had fantastic illustrations by Stephen Biesty. One of the things I enjoy most about writing is that it gives me the chance to work with wonderful illustrators. When Chris Riddell drew the pictures for Castle Diary and Pirate Diary he managed to capture the characters of all the people in the stories exactly as I’d imagined them. I also love writing because people pay me to find out all this fascinating stuff about strange, wacky and obscure subjects. I spend far more time than I should trying to find amazing facts that bring a subject to life. I trawl through books at home (I’ve got 3000) and in dusty libraries.

Things you didn’t know about Richard Platt

  1. I was in the Boy Scouts, rising to the dizzying heights of patrol leader of the squirrel patrol
  2. When I was a student I was fined £75 for stealing shoes (I was innocent, but my lawyer was an idiot.)
  3. I was once Britain’s foremost expert on pinhole cameras
  4. I keep chickens in my back garden
  5. I always tell very bad jokes first thing in the morning
  6. I still hate playing or watching competitive sports …
  7. … but I still love cycling, and try and ride 8 or 9 miles every day
  8. I enjoy programming computers
  9. I can make string out of stinging nettles
  10. I love cooking, especially pizza, and chocolate ice-cream

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